Wednesday, October 27, 2021

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With High Turnout, Newcomers Rout Establishment in Guilford GOP Primary


The Sept. 14 GOP Board of Education primary results. Photo by Ben Rayner/The Courier

The Sept. 14 GOP Board of Education primary results. (Photo by Ben Rayner/The Courier)

The Republican primary for the town’s Board of Education (BOE) held Sept. 14 delivered a jolt to town politics as the Row A candidates trounced their establishment Republican challengers, including three BOE incumbents.

The issue became contentious earlier this year when a group of political newcomers who disagreed with the schools’ race and equity teachings decided to run its own slate of candidates and prevailed at a Republican caucus in July. Three incumbent Republicans, joined by two seasoned GOP candidates, successfully petitioned for the primary.

While the caucus selections were made by fewer than 200 of Guilford’s roughly 3,500 registered Republicans, the primary drew 47 percent, an unusually high turnout and one that featured larger margins of victory than the caucus votes.

The caucus-endorsed candidates, first campaigning under the Truth in Education banner and now alternately as Parents for Guilford Students, Row A, and 5 Reasons Why, were hoping to form a coalition to counter what they said was a racist and unfair indoctrination of their children by the current curriculum standards.

The establishment Republicans who challenged the caucus candidates ran under the Republicans for Education banner said the newcomers’ unsupported claim that Critical Race Theory is taught in Guilford schools is a false narrative and promised to continue the BOE’s current work that has made Guilford one of the state’s top school districts.

The Row A candidates won with the following vote totals: Timothy E. Chamberlain, 1,275; Nick Cusano, 1,273; Bill Maisano, 1,269; Aly Passarelli, 1,271; and Danielle Scarpellino, 1,265. The unsuccessful challengers garnered the following vote totals: Joseph Golino, 460; Bill Mulligan, 453; James F. O’Keefe, 453; Ted Sands, 432; and Amy Sullivan, 468.

“I just feel grateful to all the people of Guilford. I love everyone in this town no matter how they voted. We are really enthused by this vote. I congratulate my opponents who all worked very hard,” said Maisano. “My pledge to all of Guilford is to be open to anything anyone has to say. I promise to listen and not disregard anyone’s opinion and I mean that sincerely.”

Scarpellino, who was a main spokesperson for the 5 Reasons Why candidates, said she was grateful of the support all of the candidates received from the Guilford community.

“I am happy but humbled. Our second victory proves that our first one wasn’t a stroke of luck or a fluke. Our victory was a 3-1 margin and almost a 50 percent voter turnout,” she said. “These are the voices that have been silenced by the woke population in Guilford including the sitting BOE and the superintendent. This political ideology belongs nowhere in our public schools. These victories are just another layer of armor that will protect our public schools from this divisive, political, theoretical, and unproven ideology of Critical Race Theory. The next step is [to] continue to expose the truth and build a political-free school zone by winning the four seats this November.”

Cusano said that his slate would now seek to address other issues of concern.

“The five of us candidates feel as if we’ve been vindicated. The results of the July caucus were truly representative of how this town feels,” said Cusano.

The turnout for this primary, at 47 percent, is a staggering increase from normal primaries and even general elections, which often see only a high 20- or low 30-percent turnout, according to recent town election data.

Row A spokesperson Mary Beeman issued a statement late Sept. 14, which read in part, “This Republican team for the Board of Education wants to maintain the high standard of education we’ve achieved in Guilford. That means focusing on basics, emphasizing STEM, and continuing to serve our gifted and special needs students. We will continue to support the outstanding performing arts programs and remain big fans of our student athletes.”

Asked what is next for the GOP candidates, Cusano said, “It is time to regroup and work on messaging for November. I think we will be freer to speak on more issues. The primary was really focused on one issue, but we can now expand upon that. Now we’re getting ready for November.”

The battle for the BOE is not over. Five of the BOE’s nine seats are up for election on Nov. 2. The board, which now features five Democrats and four Republicans, will retain three Democrats and one Republican whose terms end in 2023. It cannot have more than five majority party members. The effect of that rule is that no more than two Democrats can be elected in November.

In response to the caucus victory of the then-Truth in Education candidates, the Independent Party put forward its own alternate slate of candidates to offer voters an option to electing the GOP newcomers. The three Independent candidates are Kristy Faulkner, Noel Petra, and Jennifer Baldwin; the Independent party also cross-endorsed BOE incumbent Moira Rader and Arnold Skretta, the two Democratic candidates on the 2021 ballot, giving voters a full slate option to voting for the 5 Reasons Why candidates.

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