The traffic outside Stonington’s polling sites will probably be pretty heavy on Tuesday, election day, as voters weigh in on the race between incumbent Stonington First Selectman Ed Haberek and his colleague on the three-member Board of Selectmen, Glee McAnanly, who wants the top job. Incumbent selectman George Crouse and challenger Bill Brown, a former first selectman, also are running for seats on the board.
Turnout for two recent candidate forums was high, and this is the first time there has been two forums scheduled. I moderated Wednesday’s question-and-answer session at the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center and the room was packed even though the start of the Red Sox game was on everyone’s mind. The bulk of the questions submitted by readers had to do with Planning and Zoning Commission issues. A few were pointed specifically at one candidate or the other, and based on the format, they weren’t really appropriate for inclusion. The questions ran the gamut, however, from police coverage to the proposed closure of West Broad Street School and management styles.
From what I heard Wednesday night and from all that I have read, Haberek and McAnanly largely feel the same about a number of issues, but they would probably differ greatly in how each manages.
Haberek, who has taken a good deal of flack during his tenure for making unilateral decisions and taking on more authority and responsibility than perhaps is called for, admitted Wednesday that he has a certain style of management that may turn some off. McAnanly indicated she would be more inclusive in her decision-making process.
Many people I’ve spoken with feel Haberek has done a good job of running things and that the town is in good shape for the most part, whether the topic is finances or infrastructure. Many people I’ve spoken with feel McAnanly is up to the job and would do just fine. She’s completing her second term on the board, so she has a taste of town government, the various departments and personnel involved, and the issues.
But few talk long about finances or infrastructure.
If it’s Stonington and it’s Haberek, it’s the Tracy Swain case. This ugly case, involving the Pawcatuck woman’s allegation that Haberek sent her a photo of his genitals from his town-issued Blackberry have been the talk of the town for the two years since the filing of the case. He of course denies it and talks of a countersuit. When I asked him Wednesday night how concerned he was about the potential for the suit to cost him the election, he answered by denying the allegation again and thanking his family and friends for sticking by him. He said the case hasn’t stopped him from performing his duties as the town’s CEO.
I asked McAnanly if the case had interfered with the day-to-day operations of the town and she responded by saying she is disappointed that the town’s attorney was brought into a personal case. She also said she is a woman of faith who is capable of forgiveness and who believes in redemption.
As for the voters, there are two distinct camps, those who say the case needs to be kept out of all conversations involving Haberek’s evaluation as first selectman and those who feel he can only be evaluated based on his personal behavior. More than recent elections in Stonington, this one undoubtedly will be close, with the winner claiming victory by a slim margin.
David Tranchida is the editor of The Sun.