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Newtown GOP headed for September primary

July 26, 2017 GMT

NEWTOWN - Almost as soon as Republicans chose their candidate to replace retiring four-term First Selectman Pat Llodra, the GOP started making plans for a primary battle.

Two Republicans said Wednesday they are collecting signatures to force a Sept. 12 primary against Will Rodgers, a member of the Board of Selectmen who was nominated for first selectman at Monday’s Republican caucus.

The two challengers - Mary Ann Jacob, chairman of the Legislative Council, and Andrew Clure, a member of the Board of Education - both said a primary is more democratic than a caucus in choosing a candidate for the town’s highest elected office.

“Even though we did everything we could to get the word out, caucuses are unknown to most people,” Jacob said on Wednesday. “It was really a very close vote.”

Jacob was referring to Monday’s caucus results, where Rogers received 159 votes, Jacob 129, and Clure 11.

Clure said Wednesday that if he did not prevail in the primary, he would still consider running as an independent in the general election.

“My biggest reasons for being in this race are to make the town more transparent and to make a bigger effort about reducing the tax burden,” Clure said.

Rodgers’ running mate, Jeff Capeci, who is seeking a seat on the three-member Board of Selectmen, was also nominated at Monday’s GOP caucus.

Capeci faces a potential primary from Jacob’s running mate, Neil Chaudhary, a member of the Legislative Council, who is collecting signatures.

Capeci, the chairman of the Newtown Republican Town Committee, said the results of the caucus were definitive, and cautioned that a primary could weaken Republican unity going into the November election.

“As a candidate I would prefer not to have a primary, given that we have come out ahead,” Capeci said. “It has the potential to be damaging if the primary campaign goes negative.”

The challengers have 10 days from the date of the caucus - or until Aug. 9 - to collect signatures from at least 5 percent of registered Republican voters, or 263 signatures each.

Democrats, in contrast, are settled on their ticket.

Dan Rosenthal, whose father and grandfather have both been first selectman, was nominated for the office at the July 20 Democratic caucus.

“It’s an advantage not to have to worry about a primary, absolutely,” Rosenthal said. “But in a town like Newtown, campaigns are won and lost on face-to-face contact with voters, so we still have to get out and engage people.”

Rosenthal’s running mate, Maureen Crick Owen, is seeking the seat on the Board of Selectmen held by Rosenthal’s father, Herb, who is not seeking re-election.

rryser@newstimes.com; 203-731-3342