It was another tough election for Greenwich Democrats who this year put up four candidates for the state General Assembly only to have all four lose.
As a result there was a contrast of moods in the two rooms at the Greenwich Senior Center where the Dems had gathered for the election night festivities on Tuesday: In the quieter "back" room where the results for the state races were being displayed on a large flat panel, candidates and their supporters stared practically blank-faced at the screen — but in the "front" room where the results for the Presidential race were being televised, there were jubilant outbursts of cheering and applause each time President Barack Obama's reelection campaign took another state.
By 9:30 p.m. it was abundantly clear: Republican State Sen. L. Scott Frantz (R-36th) had soundly defeated his Democratic challenger, Daniel Dauplaise, 15,684 votes to 8,420; incumbent Republican State Rep. Livvy Floren (R-149th) had defeated her Democratic challenger, John Blankley, 4,280 votes to 1,930; Republican State Rep. Fred Camillo (R-151st) had defeated his Democratic challenger, David Rafferty, 6,599 votes to 3,262; and Republican candidate Stephen Walko had convincingly defeated his opponent, Democrat Stephanie Paulmeno, 4,761 votes to 3,635, in the race for the 150th District seat being vacated by Republican Lile Gibbons.
Regardless, Democratic Town Committee Chairman Frank Farricker said he was proud of the fact that the Greenwich Dems had managed to put up four candidates for the state legislature this year — and that all four had fought hard.
"Every year we chip and we chip and we fight… and this year we have a lot to be proud of," Farricker said, pointing also to the reelection of Congressman Jim Himes (D-4th), who won convincingly over his Republican challenger, Steve Obsitnik, to earn a third term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
"Every year it just keeps getting better," Farricker said with Paulmeno, Blankley and Rafferty at his side (Dauplaise had already departed for Democratic HQ in Stamford). "These guys think I'm full of it, but I couldn't be more proud. I've gotten to know these three candidates throughout the campaign — and you'll never find anyone more committed, more engaged and eager to help their community."
"We do have a lot of positions of leadership in this town that we can win and I fully expect to see all three of these people doing some special things for the town coming up in the next few years," Farricker added.
Farricker said even though Paulmeno was in a very tight race with Walko she nevertheless found time during the past week to volunteer at the Red Cross shelter at Eastern Middle School for residents displaced by Hurricane Sandy.
Farricker also credited Blankley for running a "hard race" in his bid for the 149th District.
"John is going to be coming back to us very soon," Farricker said, indicating that Blankley, who last year ran for first selectman but lost to Republican incumbent Peter Tesei, may run again for town office. "He has too many skills to just leave on the table. He's given too much to this party and to this race not to be involved in town government…"
Farricker said Rafferty also "ran one hell of a race," considering it was his first political campaign.
"You really got out there and showed why people in Greenwich respect you…. and all the things you've done for Greenwich," Farricker told Rafferty, president of the Old Greenwich Association.
Farricker jokingly suggested the candidates to lock themselves "in a dark room tomorrow — I've lost a race or two, so I know what it feels like."
"But the most important thing is that — and this is not a cliche, this is backed up by facts — every year we move the bar closer and closer as Democrats in Greenwich," Farricker said. "And we continued to do that this year with these [four] candidates..."
In his concession speech, Blankley said although this was the second time he's run against a popular Republican incumbent and lost, "it's worthwhile — because as Frank said, each year we incrementally improve our position, and for all the right reasons... "
"I really do feel that our values are the best values — and the principles on which we run are the best," Blankley said.
Paulmeno said while she was very pleased with the amount of support she received "from every corner of this town... I really would have loved to have won this... because the 150th District is such a special District, in that it has almost all of our public housing, all of our affordable housing, all of our mental health housing ... it has a greatest diversity of people, socioeconomically, culturally, ethnically, and I think they need a voice that is going to speak for them."
Rafferty, a former sports and entertainment marketing executive, said he learned a lot about the people in town as a result of his first political campaign.
"Meeting people one-on-one, at their doors and at the events, there is an enormous difference in this town between the way the Republicans responded to me and the Democrats responded to me," he said. "It's the people who held us accountable — they wanted to know 'what are you going to do for me?' 'What is going on?' 'How is this going to work?'"
He thanked everyone in the room who helped arm him with the knowledge he needed in order to respond to the tough questions.
"The brainpower and trust in this room, I wouldn't trade for anything," he said. "You guys are the ones who make us think as candidates, who make us have plans, who make us have policies… "
"This is how were going to get things done [as a party] in Greenwich, is you guys going out there and constantly pushing, constantly saying 'we need to do things better and smarter'… that's what gets it done, not the status quo… ," Rafferty added. "All those people who challenged me and asked me for my opinions on things — maybe they didn't vote for me — but maybe they will in two years. Maybe this was just the first step…"