Voters in most Connecticut communities face a traditional choice between Democrats and Republicans on Election Day, but in West Hartford the town council race features four political parties and a petitioning candidate.
The outcome could be as few as two parties sharing power, and but theoretically could end up with an unprecedented five-way split: Democrats, Republicans, A Connecticut Party members, a Libertarian and an unaffiliated councilor.
Fifteen people are vying for the nine town council seats, and the Election Day outcome could leave the winners trying to put together a coalition government for the next two years.
Democrats have held control of the council for the past 21 years, and are the only party that could come out in this years election with a majority: Theyre running six candidates. If five or more win, the party keeps power.
Republicans are fielding just three candidates, and the A Connecticut Party ticket has only four.
Because theyre not running full slates, neither the GOP nor the ACP could win a council majority. That means even if one of them wins on Nov. 2, theyll still have to work with another party and possibly two to pass anything on the council.
The possibilities become even more complex because of two contenders who are running alone: petitioning candidate Aaron Sarwar and Libertarian David Dehaas.
If Sarwar or Dehaas wins, for example, while Democrats, Republicans and the ACP each get only two to three seats each, the major-party winners might need cooperation from Sarwar or Dehaas to pass controversial measures after they take office.
And on matters where the charter requires a super-majority - six votes - for approval, the negotiations could get even more complex.
In all, this years ballot will have the second most council candidates in more than half a century. In 1979, Republicans and Democrats each fielded six while, and six more people ran on the Independent line, said Town Clerk Essie Labrot.
This is the first time from 1969 to present that we have had two major parties, two minor parties and one petitioning candidate on the same ballot for town council, Lebrot reported.
Only one petitioning candidate won in that time: Barbara Carpenter, whod previously been elected to the council as a Republican.
Among the new councils first tasks will be choosing a new mayor; traditionally the dominant party makes that decision, but this time around it could be very different.
Most of the complexity this year results from a huge fracture within the local Republican Party in the spring. At the time, Democrats held a 6-3 majority, the largest any party is allowed.
Minority Leader Lee Gold, the top voter-getter from the Republicans ballot in 2019, announced he was leaving the GOP along with party Chairman Mark Merritt and residents Rick Bush and Roni Rodman.
They said the national Republican Party had swung too far right, and declared theyd resurrect the dormant A Connecticut Party - founded by Lowell Weicker 31 years earlier. All four renounced their GOP registration, and are running on the ACP line.
Local Republicans leaders claimed Gold had sided too often with tax increases and spending measures, and the party produced a more conservative slate for this fall. Incumbent Mary Fay along with Mark Zydanowicz, a school board member, and Al Cortes, who previously ran in 2019, are running on the GOP line.
Democrats are running Mayor Shari Cantor and incumbents Liam Sweeney, Ben Wenograd, Leon Davidoff and Carol Blanks along with Adrienne Billings-Smith.
Labrot is encouraging residents who vote by absentee ballot to carefully check that theyve voted for no more than six candidates in the council race. Ballots with too many selections are disqualified.
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