Lyme’s Democratic values play out in election
Lyme ― Newcomer Gavin Lodge, a Democrat, unseated eight-year incumbent Republican Mary Powell-St. Louis on the Region 18 Board of Education by a decisive margin in a race he said came down to the values of Lyme.
Unofficial results from the Office of the Secretary of the State show Lodge brought in 587 votes, or 63% of the vote, to Powell-St. Louis’ 347 votes, or 37%.
The only contested race in town, it was shaped by a controversy earlier this year when a group of community members attempted unsuccessfully to strip two sex education books from the young adult section of the neighboring Old Lyme Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library.
Lodge on Wednesday described Lyme, where he moved full-time from New York City amid the pandemic, as independently minded, expressive and welcoming.
“It’s a town with a lot of extra personality, and I think that commitment means it’s a town that would push back on any politics that would get in the way of free speech, free circulation of books and ideas and, what I kept saying on the trail, the nonsensical corrosive politics coming from outside,” he said.
Lodge, 48, and his partner have two children in the school system, where he volunteers in the kids’ classrooms. He is chairman of Lyme’s Sustainable CT committee. After a 20-year career on stage and screen in New York City, he now serves as executive director of the national arts advocacy group 4A Arts.
“My commitment to kids, my priorities in life and my values really did win out,” he said.
Powell-St. Louis, 57, and her husband raised three sons in the Lyme-Old Lyme school system. She is a research physician at Pfizer Inc. with master’s degrees in public health and business administration.
She did not immediately return a call for comment.
Democratic Town Committee Chairman John Kiker, who won his third term as selectman in an uncontested race, in a statement Tuesday night thanked residents for electing the party’s full slate.
“We are particularly excited about the addition of Gavin Lodge to the Board of Education, which will help ensure the school board understands and reflects our values,” Kiker said.
Kiker is joined on the Board of Selectpeople by Democrat Kristina White under the leadership of Republican David Lahm as first selectman. The three incumbent candidates were uncontested. White ran as a petitioning candidate because state election law precludes the major parties from putting up more than one candidate for the two selectman seats in town.
There has been criticism of the lack of choice on the Lyme ballot going back several election cycles.
Lahm on Tuesday touted the town’s 33.9% voter turnout as evidence that “democracy is alive and well in Lyme.”
Voter turnout statewide averaged 34.1%, according to the Office of the Secretary of the State.
Expressing disappointment with Powell-St. Louis’ loss, Lahm chalked it up to voter registration numbers in a town where Democrats outnumber any other category.
“Sometimes demographics is destiny, as they say,” he said.
The statistics show the town’s 1,905 registered voters as of Oct. 31 consisted of 718 Democrats compared to 453 Republicans. There were 709 voters with no affiliation and 25 registered with a third party.
Powell-St. Louis ran unopposed in her previous two elections.
Lahm described the values of Lyme this way: “I think we’re a rural town with neighbors who all want to get along and act as a community.”
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