George Crouse, a longtime teacher and coach in Stonington, may have lost the election for first selectman Tuesday, but he provided a lesson in civics.
Crouse, a Democrat, agreed to go up against the guy who collected more votes than he did in the previous election — when Crouse was the incumbent first selectman. That’s a tough history to try to reverse.
Rob Simmons, a Republican, was running as the incumbent this time, and as a former Congressman he has plenty of political experience. He also has deep roots in town and a personality and energy level that would make any politician envious. When Simmons is in the room, you know it.
Simmons also has had a pretty good run as first selectman these past two years, getting buy-in from many sectors on town budgets that keep taxes in check while the state gushes red ink but comes up dry when it comes to municipal aid.
It couldn’t have been easy for Crouse to agree to accept the party’s nomination. He was largely quiet after the 2015 loss until a few weeks before this latest election. And he is the polar opposite of Simmons in character — you might miss him when he’s in the room. He’s the consummate “nice guy” who leaves his ego not just at the door but tucked away somewhere deep at the house.
That was evident in our photos of Crouse and Simmons smiling, shoulder-to-shoulder, outside the Pawcatuck Fire Department polling site Tuesday morning. And in our shot of Crouse giving Heidi Simmons a big hug with a bigger smile after results read at Town Hall indicated her husband had won.
Above all else, Crouse is Stonington proud and bleeds brown and white for his beloved Stonington Bears, from his dominant tennis teams to every other sport at the high school. And he’s a Democrat in a town where Democrats make up about 60 percent of registered voters. In his post-election comments he referred to Simmons as a seasoned politician with a better game than his. And he acknowledged that Simmons had done a good job for the town in his two years at the helm.
The coach gave voters a competition, and he gave those who vote party lines no matter what a solid choice. His candidacy forced Simmons to debate the issues — though Simmons never needs an invitation to debate anything — and conduct a campaign. And he let voters be engaged in the election at his own expense. You might say he took one for the team.