Tom Brockett, the Democratic minority leader on the Representative Town Meeting, has filed to run for first selectman. Also filing for the Board of Selectman is Ray Dunbar, who currently sits on the Board.
Current first selectman Jamie Cosgrove has not formally announced he is seeking re-election after running unopposed 2 years ago, but is expected to.
While the filings are new, recent letters to the editor of various newspapers give insight on the campaign they are looking to run: make a local race as national as possible, and on local matters, sell fear and misinformation as a new Democratic Town Committee Chair takes charge of the 2021 election.
A relatively new resident to town, Kevin Coughlin, has already been named as the chair of the Branford Democratic Town Committee and has a career as a political operative, working for the Senate Democrats in Hartford. As such, one of his first public political moves is to push national issues, as the Democratic leader on the Representative Town Meeting pushed a partisan resolution to denounce the attack on the nations capitol on January 6.
Republicans leaders, rightfully so, rejected the resolution, which serves no local purpose and has no place on a legislative body focused on Branford. The Cosgrove administration has focused on local issues, and has a strong track record of not letting political rhetoric cloud the overall goals of the town.
But Coughlin and the Democrats wasted no time in working to make the next local election as national as possible.
In a letter to the New Haven Register, Coughlin states that “A simple, nonpartisan statement to denounce violence and stand up for our democracy was rejected,” by the Republicans. What he failed to mention is the resolution was nowhere close to bipartisan, it was initiated by the Dems, posted all over their social media accounts, and has nothing to do with local issues. Republicans rejected it for the same reason most logical people would: don’t let national rhetoric and politics become a factor in running a town.
But Coughlin, who works in politics, knows well that this is what he must do. Branford is extremely well run, and leadership includes Republicans (like Cosgrove, RTM majority Leader Ray Ingraham) and Democrats (like Joe Mooney, chair of the Board of Finance) who have consistently put the town needs ahead of partisan politics to have a town that is in many ways the envy of many others in the state. A good balance of development and open space has led to a high quality of living, a mill rate in check (even decreased last year), and major new projects like a senior center community house and a new Walsh School.
Coughlin and the local Democrats know well a simple fact: they can’t win running on local issues when the town is in such strong shape and the first selectman is so non-partisan. So he has to pivot to national.
But even as Coughlin works to make the local election national, some local Democrats have taken to baseless attacks on property owners to try to garner political points.
Democratic RTM leader Tom Brockett, a retired attorney, and RTM member Tracy Everson, a real estate agent, took to a letter to the Sound to attack a property where the former Atlantic Wharf building once stood, alleging potential contamination from the site. They imply the first selectman has not done anything about the situation.
However, the first selectman does not have the authority to force the landowners to do anything; in the very letter Brockett and Everson admit they have no testing on the site, and state that efforts undertaken by the property owners, one of whom owns a environmental remediation company, did nothing.
An elected official has a responsibility to get their facts straight before slandering a private property owner. With no testing or evidence, Brockett and Everson use fear and conjecture to attack the town and a private property owner, one of whom works in the environmental remediation industry.
Meanwhile, the current town leaders seem to be as bi-partisan as it gets. Cosgrove actively rejects attempts by politicos on all sides to engage on national issues, and works extremely well with Mooney and the state Democratic delegation. The town has been a state leader on environmental issues, even initiating news laws that were championed by state senator Christine Cohen in funding for coastal resilience; a significant increase in town trails, parks and solar farms, and creating new working committees to address energy conservation.
When combined with the strong bond ratings, the massive infrastructure improvements, and an actual decrease in the mill rate, Cosgrove presents a major issue for Brockett: Cosgrove has significant bi-partisan support, and Brocketts track record in his limited time on the RTM is littered with false statements and now public attacks on private property without evidence to support his claims.