As many of you may know, a grassroots movement called "Reform Stamford" toppled many establishment party Democrats last election cycle, winning 8 of 40 seats on the Board of Representatives in November of 2017. In conjunction with the then 8 (now 9) Republican members of the Board, these Representatives formed a sizable minority on the Board which was vocally unhappy with the direction Mayor Martin was taking the city.
As we commented on these pages back in July, after Rep. Graziosi (R-13) switched parties to run for state representative, "Stamford wants Republican governance. They just don't want to elect Republicans to office."
Now, more or less a full year into the tenure of the 30th Board of Representatives of the City of Stamford, we can evaluate: First, did the Board in fact vote as Republicans? And second, have the Reform Stamford members of the Board maintained an independent voice, or have they fallen in line behind the Democratic party and Mayor Martin?
On the first question, I'm calling it a "no contest" for reasons I will explain below. As to the second, the jury is in, and Reform Stamford has decidedly voted independently of what the party and Mayor would like.
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Below is a chart showing how frequently each of the Representatives has voted with the Mayor's preferences on the major issues in 2018 (you can find the link to our vote tracker identifying significant votes on our website site here, or be brought straight to the tracker here). Red is for Republicans, blue is for Democrats, and purple is for Democrats who affiliated themselves with Reform Stamford.
The visual speaks for itself (unless it's too small--press "Ctrl" and "+" at the same time to zoom in on your computer screen).
A few things stand out from these results:
- Reform Stamford provides 5 of the most 7 common, and 7 of the most 16 common opponents to what Mayor Martin would prefer. The only member of Reform Stamford to vote with the Mayor more often than not is Rep. Figueroa (D-8), which is interesting for two reasons: First, she shares a district with Rep. Sherwood (D-8), the ostensible leader of Reform Stamford; and second, she is the only member of Reform Stamford to have been an incumbent Representative when she joined Reform (correction: Rep. McGarry (D-12) writes in to mention that she was also an incumbent when she joined Reform). If Reform Stamford decides she toes the Mayor's line too often, however, Rep. Figueroa probably need not worry about her ability to be re-elected: she out-polled Sherwood by 15% in 2017 (495 to 430).
- Reps. McGarry (D-12) and Cottrell (D-4), both Reform, have the distinct honor of not once voting with the Mayor on the 8 votes we've identified as significant (they were not even in favor of the plastic bag ban, which was nearly unanimous) (update: Rep. Cottrell writes in to note she was in favor of the plastic bag ban, and cosponsored the legislation, but was unable to make the final vote. I'm also informed that the Mayor was originally opposed to the plastic bag ban, but ultimately acquiesced after the Board was persistent in pursuing the ban).
- In some districts, the Representatives vote more or less lockstep (such as Districts 1, 6, 9, 11, and 15). In others, they are far apart, even if they are members of the same party. Amusingly, District 12 boasts the most pro-Mayor Representative, Rep. Jacobson (D), and the least pro-Mayor Representative, Rep. McGarry (D). In North Stamford's District 19, Rep. Lion (D) is a general ally of the Mayor, while Reform Rep. Matherne (D) rarely is.
- Shippan's District 1 Republicans Watkins and Michelson are the most "pro-Mayor" Republicans, having voted with the Mayor on 5 of 8 significant votes this year. However, any Republicans upset with Reps. Michelson and Watkins would be wise to remember that they are the only two to actually win a contested election as Republicans in 2017 by defeating two other Democrats (Reps. Pia and McMullen both also defeated a single Democratic candidate in their District 18; had the Democrats simply ran two candidates in each district in 2017, they may have taken as many as 36 seats on the Board). The other Republicans are on the Board primarily by virtue of running unopposed.
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So, the evidence seems fairly clear that Reform Stamford Democrats have been often opponents of our Democratic Mayor. Does that then mean, therefore, that they and the Board are governing as Republicans?
Not quite. As discussed in a previous post, local politics isn't partisan the way state or federal politics are. I still haven't figured out what the orthodox "Republican" view on the proper scope of municipal services is, or what the "Democratic" view on zoning and development is. In many cases, neighborhood is more predictive of how a Rep votes than party affiliation.
Therefore, we'll hold off on passing judgement as to what kind of governance Stamford voters actually want. For now, it seems the most we can say is that they are comfortable with a Board of Reps that is a pain in our Mayor's side.