December 9, 2019

Smith Uncontested for 12th First Selectman Term, Democratic Caucus Nominates Angus McDonald Jr. Over Russ Marth for Selectman

DEEP RIVER— Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith will be uncontested by town Republicans for a record 12th term, but an upset vote at the July 20 Democratic caucus has set the stage for a possible Democratic primary to determine Smith’s running-mate for board of selectmen.

The caucus nominated Angus McDonald Jr., a member of the planning and zoning commission who was the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for first selectman of Westbrook in 1999, over former Selectman Russell Marth on an 18-15 paper ballot vote. Marth, who served on the board of selectmen from 2007-2009 after winning election on the Deep River Independent Party ticket that challenged Smith in the 2007 election, had been recommended for the selectman position by the Deep River Democratic Town Committee.

McDonald, who is on the town committee, had also been interviewed by the town committee’s nominating committee. McDonald, who was nominated at the caucus by board of finance vice-chairman and former Speaker of the House Richard Balducci, said he was urged by some town Democrats to bring his candidacy to the caucus. “Some people thought it was appropriate,” he said.

McDonald, a partner and land surveyor in the Old Saybrook-based McDonald-Sharpe Associates engineering firm that was founded by his father, Angus McDonald Sr., moved from Westbrook to Deep River in 2005.

Smith said Thursday he has no objections to McDonald as his Democratic running-mate. Smith and Arthur Thompson, the current Democratic selectman who is also Democratic town chairman, said they do not expect Marth to force a primary for the selectman nomination, while acknowledging he has the right to challenge the caucus endorsement. Marth could not be reached for comment. To force a Sept. 13 Democratic primary, Marth would have to file petitions signed by five percent of the town’s Democratic voters by an Aug. 10 deadline.

The contest at the caucus between McDonald and Marth may be one of the few contests in this year’s town election. Town Republicans, meeting in caucus Monday, did not nominate a challenger for first selectman. Republicans nominated incumbent Republican Selectman David Oliveria for a second term on the board of selectmen.

Republicans did not nominate a candidate for tax collector to challenge first term Democratic Tax Collector Lisa Bibbiani. Democratic did not nominate candidates to challenge long-time Republican Town Treasurer Thomas Lindner, or first term Republican Town Clerk Amy Winchell. Winchell won the town clerk seat in 2009, defeating Democratic candidate Nancy Talbot by two votes.

Democrats did not nominate candidates for board of finance because the party already holds four of the six seats on the board. Republicans nominated incumbent board Chairman John Bauer for a new six-year term, along with William Ballsieper.
Democrats nominated incumbent Duane Gates for a new term on the Region 4 Board of Education. Gates had been elected in 2005 as an unaffiliated voter with Republican support, but later joined the Democratic Party. Republicans nominated Lauri Wichtowski, a former member of the elementary school board of education, to contest Gates for the Region 4 seat.

Democrats nominated incumbents Christine Daniels and David Berardis and new candidate Miriam Morrissey for the Deep River Board of Education. Republicans nominated incumbent James Olson and Julia Grabowski for the local board of education.

Republicans nominated Darlene Pollock for a new term on the board of assessment appeals. Democrats nominated Patricia Risnit for library board of trustees, with Republicans nominating Louise Cowen and Rolf Peterson for full terms on the library board of trustees, and Donald Routh for a two-year vacancy term.