Simsbury Democrats rally around Mackstutis for First Selectman
Slate also includes three new Board of Selectmen candidates
By Paul Palmer
SIMSBURY – In the end, it was celebration and unity, not division and infighting, as the Simsbury Democratic Caucus finalized its slate of candidates for November in the shadows of what had become a nasty fight. First Selectman Wendy Mackstutis won the party’s endorsement for re-election but will be running with three new Democrats looking to serve on the Board of Selectman.
“We face challenges,” said Mackstutis of the Democratic team, “ but we will find out how to work together.” Joining her on the ticket are Curtis Looney, Diana Yeisley, and Steve Antonio. They take the place of incumbents Eric Wellman, Amber Abbuhl, and Chris Peterson.
Wellman, Abbuhl, and Peterson told the Simsbury Democratic Nominating Committee they would not run this November if Mackstutis were endorsed for First Selectman. They cited what they said were communication, interpersonal and management issues. That nominating committee had selected Wellman for First Selectman, Abbuhl, Peterson, and Yeisley as their choices. At a June 21 meeting of the Simsbury Democratic Committee, all four candidates were asked to give their side of the story and faced questions and, in some cases, criticism from DTC members. It was clear at that meeting that Mackstutis had a large number of supporters and Wellman (who had gotten the nod for First Selectman) and Peterson, and Abbuhl were facing an uphill climb to make what they said were necessary changes in the ticket. All three renewed their pledge to not serve if Mackstutis was nominated and Wellman went as far as resigning from the Democratic Party.
When the Democrats subsequently gathered at their caucus at Simsbury High School on July 19, Mackstutis led the new slate with Antonio, Looney, and Yeisley.
Retired state representative John Hampton put Mackstutis’ name forward citing her experience and ability to lead.
“She always rises to the top to do her job with honor and dignity. You have restored the voice to the people of Simsbury,” Hampton said.
The Democrat were then asked if there were any other nominees, and there were not, then anyone who wanted to speak in opposition was given the floor. “I think the town can do better than this candidate,” said Daniel Diodato, the only person who rose in opposition to speak. He said the community is upset with infrastructure programs in Simsbury but said he would not provide any specifics. When the vote was taken among the 70 or more voters gathered, there was 6 opposed, and 11 people abstained.
The next nominations and vote was for the Board for Selectman and there were no other candidates nominated and no one rose in opposition to the three chosen candidates before they were voted as candidates.
“I think I am running with the idea of trying to help people,” said Looney, a native of Simsbury. As for any possible blowback he might get from voters concerned about what has transpired, Looney said he will simply talk to people. “I’m good at communicating and I think this is a good chance to maybe change the opinion some may have of the Board.”
Before the caucus closed, Mackstutis thanked her husband, her supporters and Democratic Party Chair Erin Leavitt-Smith for their support as well as welcoming her fellow candidates for Board of Selectmen. “We make a great team and are all Team Simsbury,” she said.
This story will be expanded for the Aug. 4 edition of The Valley Press.