Aug. 12 Primary: McGorty faces challenger with top officials' support

Rep. Ben McGorty of Shelton.

Rep. Ben McGorty of Shelton.

Ben McGorty recently became the state representative from the 122nd State Assembly District to complete the term of Larry Miller, who resigned the seat shortly before passing away in May. Now, just three weeks after winning the seat, McGorty faces a primary challenge for the same seat in November’s election — from Mike Vickerelli who has the formal support of the top elected officials from the three towns in the district.

When Republican Miller resigned his seat, party delegates from the three towns selected McGorty of Shelton to run in the special election to complete Miller’s term.

Almost simultaneous to getting the nod to run in the special election to complete Miller’s term, McGorty was selected by a three-person Republican delegate “vacancy committee” to run for the 122nd seat in the regular November election.

For the Republican spot on the November ballot for the 122nd seat McGorty faces Vickerelli of Stratford.

The state Republican Party does not endorse a candidate when two Republicans face each other in a primary. McGorty got the earlier nod of the vacancy committee, but Vickerelli now boasts the endorsement from each of the top elected officials in the towns represented by the 122nd Assembly seat — Stratford Mayor John Harkins, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti and Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst and also from the widow of Larry Miller. (For letters of support for either candidate click here.)

Views on endorsements

Regarding the support of the district’s Republican leaders, McGorty said he has the support of the Shelton RTC and elected officials, “just not the (Shelton) mayor.”

“I don’t know why he is not supporting me,” McGorty said of Lauretti.

“I can understand Mayor Harkins backing Vickerelli,” McGorty said. “He is his man, and I respect that. You gotta stand by your man.”

Mike Vickerelli of Stratford is running for the seat in the 122nd District.

Mike Vickerelli of Stratford is running for the seat in the 122nd District.

So far as Herbst is concerned McGorty said, “I really don’t know the man very well.”

“I don’t have the three CEOs, but I have the voters’ support,” said McGorty, “and that’s all I need.” He cited his winning the special election with 75% of the vote.

Vickerelli said that he received the endorsements from Harkins, Lauretti and Herbst “because I worked with them” on regional government relations and transportation committees and on economic development.

“They know me and my work ethic, and they know Larry Miller was grooming me for the seat,” Vickerelli said.

He said that he feels that the Shelton delegation, which had the majority on the original group that selected Shelton’s McGorty for the special election and on the vacancy committee, “wanted someone from Shelton this time around.”

Vickerelli said that he believes that he sees people being sent to Washington and Hartford “not based on qualifications, but by money
and popularity.”

“That motivated me even more,” to run for office.

Now McGorty has the advantage of name recognition from running in the July 28 election, according to Vickerelli. “Out of loyalty to the party, we did not campaign” against McGorty until he, the Republican, won the race. 

Stratford Republican Town Committee Chairman Lou DeCilio said that McGorty is a “hand-picked candidate” so another state representative from Shelton, Jason Perillo (R-113), can get the minority leader seat in the Assembly. Some contend that there is a divide in Shelton Republican politics between supporters of Perillo and Lauretti.

“Clearly it speaks volumes that all the top elected officials all believe that Mike is more qualified than Ben McGorty,” DeCilio said.

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