Democrat won’t attempt primary challenge
GREENWICH — A former leader of the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee reversed his decision and won’t attempt to force a primary for a seat in the State House, stopping a showdown within the party.
But Frank Farricker said he will not back down from his insistence that current DTC Chair Tony Turner should resign, something Turner has said he will not do. Farricker, who had been considering a challenge to the DTC-nominated candidate Stephen Meskers for the Democratic spot on the ballot to run for the 150th House District, said Turner had attempted to “blackmail” him into not running.
In the interests of party unity, though, Farricker said he will not collect signatures in an attempt to force a Democratic primary in August.
“My goal as a Democrat is to advance important issues for Greenwich and beyond,” Farricker said Friday. “Elections should be about the big picture, and not the actions of misguided party bosses. I will not let this unfortunate experience become the issue this fall. So in the interests of our party I will not submit my signatures to primary the 150th District. I will support Steve Meskers and do what I can to ensure his election as the best choice for Greenwich.”
On Friday, Turner said again he would “absolutely not” resign and said Greenwich Democrats had already put the matter behind them and were focused on issues for the upcoming elections.
Farricker, who was head of the DTC from 2010 to 2016, had initially sought the party’s endorsement to run in the 150th District and challenge incumbent Republican state Rep. Michael Bocchino. When the party instead endorsed Meskers, Farricker began exploring the possibility of circulating a petition to collect enough signatures to force an August primary.
That is when Farricker said he received a letter from Turner that discouraged him from running, something Farricker said was blackmail. In the letter, dated May 25, Turner cited several allegations of business improprieties in Farricker’s work as a real estate broker for the Wall Street Theater in Norwalk and running the state lottery.
“I’m sure you recognize the DTC has principles and values,” Turner wrote in the May 25 letter. “Having an individual pursue signatures to primary in August that did not pass the background check for reasons stated above will not be tolerated. If you proceed with the signature-gathering effort, we will have no choice but to give this information from public sources to the press right away.”
Turner, who was elected as DTC chair in March, later said that the letter was not meant to be a threat and that Farricker misinterpreted it. He said the letter was meant to represent the view of the DTC’s candidate search committee, which had unanimously supported Meskers. On Thursday, he sent an email to the DTC seeking to clarify the issue.
“The DTC has not and will not block anyone who wants to run for office from doing so,” Turner wrote on Thursday. “In my haste to provide the information that Mr. Farricker requested, get the letter written, vetted and to Mr. Farricker, I used a poor choice of words. I hope this clears up any misunderstanding.”
Farricker’s announcement Friday came as he faced a looming deadline: He had needed to collect only 150 signatures from registered Democrats in the 150th District, but they had to be delivered to the Secretary of the State’s office by June 12.
Several prominent Greenwich Democrats, including Selectman Sandy Litvavck, have said Farricker should be allowed to run. Litvack urged Turner and Farricker to clear the air so the party could focus on the upcoming election.
Even though Farricker is no longer considering a candidacy, hard feelings clearly still exist.
“(Turner’s) words and actions were not a mere dispute between me and him, as characterized by Sandy Litvack, or an unfortunate turn of phrase, as Turner himself claims,” Farricker said Friday. “It was instead a person of power expecting his bullying and blackmail to get him his way. I reiterate my call for his resignation, and if not I fully predict he will look to attack and attempt to destroy others if he does not get his way in the future.”
Meskers was another Democrat who said that Farricker should be able to run and that the primary could be good for Democrats because it would raise the profile of the candidates and bring the issues to the voters.
On Friday, Meskers said he had received a letter from Farricker saying he wouldn’t run and that he appreciated that. Meskers said he was sorry that what was a “probably typical family feud” in a political party got so much attention.
“Personally I remain focused on the policy issues that confront us here in in Connecticut and hope that I can have a positive impact in Hartford,” Meskers said. He said he is focused on issues such as infrastructure and the condition of Interstate 95.
Meskers will now face the challenge of running against Bocchino, one of the four Republican incumbents on the ballot in November for Greenwich’s state legislature seats.
Bocchino, who is seeking his third term, said Friday he had no opinion on the Farricker/Turner dispute. He said he was “continuing to represent the people of the 150th District” and was awaiting a possible special legislative session to consider overrides to several of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s recent vetoes.