“The state GOP, led by Herbst college buddy J.R. Romano, is publicly challenging the Trumbull residency of the town’s top Democrat, Tom Kelly. It has raised questions about whether Kelly’s primary residence is in neighboring Stratford, which is a stipulation of his mortgage on his second home.
“‘None of them think the rules apply to them,’ Romano said.”
CT Dems’ Response:
“By ‘rules,’ does J.R. mean poking in the windows of a private citizen without a warrant? Or poring through the mortgage files of a political opponent because the First Selectman is afraid of being criticized? Or maybe he’s talking about making wildly inappropriate claims of corruption against solid corporate citizens in our state. Oh wait, that was Tim Herbst and the Republicans. Maybe it’s time for the GOP to do some soul searching.” – Connecticut Democratic Party spokesman Leigh Appleby
By Neil Vigdor | Updated 1:09 am, Thursday, October 15, 2015
The term “off-year” election — those held in odd-numbered years — is an oxymoron in the case of Trumbull’s Tim Herbst.
For the third straight year, the provocative Republican is on the ballot, this time as the hunted instead of the hunter. A year after narrowly losing the state treasurer’s race but burnishing his name recognition across Connecticut, Herbst is asking the voters of his community of 34,000 to elect him to a fourth term as the town’s top office holder.
Standing in the way is Democratic challenger Vicki Tesoro, the town council’s minority leader.
The offices may be different, but there are common threads for Herbst: strife and gamesmanship.
Take one recent morning when Democrats said they scrambled to keep the power turned on at their local campaign headquarters after a utility crew curiously showed up to turn the meter off.
“I do have my concerns that there’s something about that,” Tesoro said, stopping short of pointing a finger directly at Herbst. “That’s childish. We’re adults and we need to act like adults and talk about the issues that people want to hear about.”
Herbst was quick with a comeback.
“Well, they’re in the dark on a lot of things, perhaps in the dark on that as well,” Herbst said. “I am not a licensed electrician. I do not know how to turn power off.”
Digging up dirt
While Herbst has the power of incumbency and a 2-to-1 fundraising advantage in his favor, Trumbull remains a key theater of hostilities for both state parties.
The state GOP, led by Herbst college buddy J.R. Romano, is publicly challenging the Trumbull residency of the town’s top Democrat, Tom Kelly. It has raised questions about whether Kelly’s primary residence is in neighboring Stratford, which is a stipulation of his mortgage on his second home.
“None of them think the rules apply to them,” Romano said.
Democrats have accused Herbst of using public funds to hire a private investigator to dredge up dirt on Kelly, who maintains he’s a Trumbull resident.
“The incumbent first selectman needs to answer for why taxpayer dollars were used to investigate his chief political rival,” said Middletown Mayor Daniel Drew, chairman of the Connecticut Conference of Democratic Mayors.
Herbst has denied the allegation of Drew, who gave $1,500 from his political action committee to Tesoro.
Tesoro, 60, one of four Democrats on the 21-member town council, said she is trying to avoid the fray.
“All of this other nonsense that goes along with politicians is, frankly, sickening and people in this town are tired of it,” said Tesoro, a former PTSA president at Trumbull High School, Madison Middle School and Tashua Elementary School.
An unrelenting critic of Herbst on the town council, Tesoro has made taxes a focus of her candidacy. Since Herbst took office in 2010, she said, town spending has increased by $26 million and Trumbull’s mill rate is the highest it has been since 1989.
The town has the highest sewer tax mill rate of any community with more than 5,000 residents in the state, Tesoro said.
“People are tired of doling out money,” said the married mother of two. “We need to get control of our spending to stop that.”
An ‘Academy Award’
Herbst, 35, who captured 70 percent of Trumbull’s vote in 2013, said Tesoro has long advocated for bigger government and that he deserves credit for getting the town’s fiscal house in order.
Since taking office, the average annual tax increase has been 2 percent and the town has funded its pension liabilities, according to Herbst, who said his decision-making has been validated by the big three bond ratings agencies.
“I know that the Democratic Party nominated Mrs. Tesoro for first selectman, but they really should have nominated her for an Academy Award because it’s an absolutely gifted acting performance,” Herbst said.
Tesoro has made it no secret that a major part of her strategy is to show Herbst as biding his time until he runs for statewide office again.
“We know that Tim has higher aspirations,” Tesoro said. “That’s fine. But I think he needs to be honest with the people of Trumbull.”
Herbst said he is putting in 90 to 100 hours a week as first selectman and has knocked on over 2,000 doors.
“My plans are to serve the town of Trumbull for the next two years,” Herbst said. “Last year, I don’t think we would have come the closest of any Republican statewide if I didn’t have a good story to tell.”