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Displaced East Lyme Democrat goes unaffiliated, gets Republican endorsement

East Lyme — A longtime selectwoman who was displaced on last week's Democratic slate for the November election has found a new spot on the Republican ticket.

Rose Ann Hardy, running as an unaffiliated selectman candidate, accepted the GOP endorsement at Monday night's Republican caucus. At the top of the slate is Kevin Seery, a retired state trooper vying for first selectman after almost 10 years as a selectman.

Two Republican-endorsed candidates for the Board of Education also have defected from the Democratic Party, with one running as a Republican and another running unaffiliated.

Hardy, who has been a member of the Board of Selectmen since 1985, failed to garner the Democratic Town Committee endorsement at its nominating meeting last Thursday.

She told The Day on Tuesday that it was a "very tough, very difficult" decision to campaign as unaffiliated. "I've been a lifelong Democrat," she said.

Hardy received the fewest votes out of four Democratic candidates for selectman, with endorsements going to Daniel Cunningham, Ann Cicchiello and Terence P. Donovan. Cunningham is an incumbent selectman, while Cicchiello is a finance board member and Donovan is on the Zoning Commission.

Democratic Town Committee Chairman Jason Deeble last week called Hardy a "legend" in East Lyme, both as a 36-year elected official and a 55-year teacher in the town's school system. Democratic First Selectman candidate Camille Alberti called Hardy's contributions "invaluable."

Hardy said she did not decide until the last minute how to proceed after what she called a "disappointing" finish among the Democrats. She thought about switching to the Independent Party, but decided she did not have enough time to research the group and its platform.

She described any party's vision as a main concern for her.

"I think Kevin has a positive vision of the town being a great place, and campaigning on what's right with the town," she said.

Another Democrat-turned-unaffiliated candidate is Candice Carlson, who spent 9 years on the Board of Education as a Democrat.

"I am moving forward as an unaffiliated candidate and voter in the hopes that it inspires others to have the courage to serve in a balanced non-partisan fashion," she said in an email. "With that said, I have given a lot of consideration to what type of leadership I want to see at the top of the ticket and have decided the best direction forward is with Kevin Seery's team leading the way."

Three school board candidates were endorsed uncontested by the Democrats, according to Deeble. He said Carlson emailed him prior to last week's nominating meeting to say she would not be participating.

Carlson said Seery has put "people over politics" throughout his career. "This is a message that I believe in and I'm excited to be a part of," she said.

Republican Board of Education candidate Alisa Bradley was a Democrat when she ran in 2009, losing in a close race that came down to a recount. She recently became a registered Republican.

The other candidate on the Republican ticket to recently turn unaffiliated is incumbent school board candidate Leigh McNamara Gianakos, who was appointed early in 2017 and then elected later that year as a Republican.

Republican Town Committee Chairman John Kleinhans, a Board of Education member not running for reelection, said none of the positions was contested and all were approved unanimously.

"When Rose Ann Hardy walked into the room, she received a standing ovation," he said.

He said the enthusiasm and energy for the bipartisan ticket was overwhelming. "I've done this for a long time and I've never seen anything like it," he said of more than 10 years as a political operative.

Alberti, the Democratic candidate for first selectman, responded to a request for comment with this message: "I think it is fortuitous that the RTC had a Board of Selectman vacancy on their municipal slate of candidates and I am pleased Ms. Hardy will have another opportunity to run."

According to a list of offices filed with the state Office of the Secretary of the State, each party may nominate up to 26 people total to fill 29 positions.

The Republicans put up 24 candidates. Because of the minority representation rules in the town charter, the Democrats could only put up 16 candidates, Deeble said.

Neither current Republican selectmen Paul Dagle, who was first appointed in 2017, or Marc Salerno, appointed in 2015, is running for reelection.

Seery in a phone interview Tuesday said the ticket brings together a variety of voices. "This is a group of people who have always worked in a bipartisan, collaborative effort," he said.

Seery described Hardy as an example of someone who has always put the interests of the town above any political platform. "She was a career educator, and she's reached out and touched the lives of generations of young people who are now probably not so young anymore," he said.

For her part, Hardy said being a social studies teacher is at the core of her public service. "My heart is really in teaching, but I always try to model for the students what it means to be a good citizen," she said.

Republicans endorsed Kevin Seery for first selectman; Rose Ann Hardy, Anne Santoro and Bill Weber for Board of Selectmen; incumbent John Birmingham, Denise Hall and Paul Maxfield for Board of Finance; Alisha Bradley, incumbent Candice Carlson, Larry Fitzgerald and incumbent Leigh McNamara Gianakos for Board of Education; incumbent Norm Peck, Jim Liska and Terry Granatek for Zoning Commission; Dave Schmidt and Frank Stanford for Zoning Commission alternate; incumbent Tom Fitting, Don Phimister and Kirk Scott for Planning Commission; Olivia Fairchild and Tim Laducer for Planning Commission alternate; Kim Kalajainen for Board of Assessment Appeals; incumbent Karen Galbo for town clerk; incumbent Scott Fraser for town treasurer; and incumbent John McCulloch for tax collector.

e.regan@theday.com

 

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