Rep. Graziosi has announced he is leaving the Democratic party to run as a Republican for state representative against Matt Blumenthal in state house district 147.
We at Team Stamford will refrain from commentating on the state legislative race (we remain focused on city government only). However, Rep. Graziosi's party switch means he will now caucus with the Republicans on the Board of Representatives, bringing the balance of power there to a still-resounding 31-8 Democratic advantage (former Rep. DeLuca's seat remains open pending approval of a Republican successor).
Josh Fedeli, the chairman of the Democratic City Committee (DCC), is understandably upset at the switch, and suggests that Graziosi resign his Board of Reps seat. Graziosi “has duped his constituents - running as a Democrat to get elected, leveraging the power of our party and its electoral prowess, and then turning his back on those voters,” Fedeli said.
[It is very interesting to note that Martin Levine, one of the two DCC members in Rep. Graziosi's district 13, would have been involved in voting to nominate Graziosi as the Democratic nominee. Levine is a longtime friend and advisor to Mayor Martin, and Graziosi is perhaps the Mayor's most vocal critic in elected office. Reading between the lines, it appears Fedeli believes Graziosi was not entirely forthright about his views on city government when seeking the party's nomination. Levine (who I have never met but has significant experience in city government, and is a very thoughtful commentator on many Advocate articles) is unlikely to have intentionally supported a candidate (Graziosi) who so often has opposed Mayor Martin. So something doesn't quite add up here...]
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The squeaky wheel gets the grease, as they say, and Graziosi has certainly been squeaky in his brief but memorable time in office. Fedeli leaves little doubt what he thinks about Graziosi. But Fedeli should have larger concerns than just one "rogue" Democrat standing up against Mayor Martin.
This past legislative session, there were three major votes we've identified that were contested and material: (1) Ernie Orgera's reappointment as Director of Operations; (2) the vote to cut $2.8 million from the Mayor's operating budget; and (3) the subsequent vote to cut $1.4 million from the Mayor's operating budget. Rep. Graziosi voted against the Mayor all three times.
But so did five other Democrats, all of whom ran under the Reform Stamford banner, including Reps. Shaftic, Cotrell, Sherwood, McGarry, and Aquila (you can see our vote tracking chart here). While not as vocally opposed to the Mayor as Graziosi has been, these independent-minded Democrats indicate Fedeli's problem is not limited to one exceptional case. In other words, the problem seems to be that aspects of the Mayor's agenda are unpopular with elected officials from his own party.
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If you listened to the debates and public posturing during the last mayoral election, you would have heard something interesting: both candidates professed to be fiscally conservative stewards of the taxpayers' money. Unlike many liberal mayors across the country, I strain to remember a "big government" proposal from Mayor Martin, like a public works program or other government-led initiatives of the sort Republicans always argue is better left to the private sector.
One moment that stood out in particular was during the mayoral debate at UCONN-Stamford. Barry Michelson challenged Martin's use of overtime for paying police officers, arguing it demonstrated a lack of fiscal discipline. Martin replied that it was just the opposite; by paying police officers overtime, you avoided adding healthcare and pension benefits to the city's obligations for new employees, so money is actually saved by driving up overtime costs. I found myself nodding my head in agreement with this explanation.
So, what are we to make of a city where the legislative body is nearly 80% Democratic, we have a two-term sitting Democratic mayor, voter registration is something along the lines of 2-1 in favor of Democrats, yet the Mayor strives to paint himself as a fiscal conservative and Democrats in office are the largest opposition force to the Mayor of their same party?
Stamford wants Republican governance. They just don't want to elect Republicans to office.
The Republican brand in Stamford has seen better days. Since November of 2016 in particular, it has been difficult to align oneself as a Republican in Fairfield County (I get no originality points for making this observation). However, no one should be fooled into thinking the absence of Republicans from elected office means Stamford's residents want to live in under a tax-and-spend government. They don't. And they are leaving it up to Democrats to keep the government in check.