Some high-powered Democrats visited Shelton Sunday, Aug. 25, to put their political muscle behind their local counterparts' push to unseat Republican Mayor Mark Lauretti, who is seeking his 15th term.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz stopped by the Shelton Democratic Town Committee’s Meet the Candidates event at the home of Elaine Matto - who is running for Planning & Zoning herself — to back mayoral candidate John Harmon and the Shelton Democratic ticket.

“You have a wonderful candidate for mayor in John Harmon,” said Bysiewicz. “It is not often you have an opportunity to have someone want to lead a town who has worked for two Fortune 500 companies, who has been a very successful business executive, who is very community-spirited and who has the vision to move Shelton forward.

“I can’t for the life of me understand why this city has been stuck in reverse for 28 years,” added Bysiewicz, “but we have the opportunity, not only with John’s leadership but also with this amazing team of people who want to be part of a new administration.”

Bysiewicz asked the large gathering to get the word out to their network of friends and colleagues “so that we can get new leadership here. This town really deserves it.”

Blumenthal called Harmon competent, energetic and committed with the necessary business and nonprofit experience to bring real change to Shelton leadership.

“I’m not going to say anything bad about Mark Lauretti,” said Blumenthal, “because I do not think I have to. He has demonstrated that he is interested in other jobs, and I think he should be interested in other jobs. The people of Shelton, I think, will decide they are going to bless him with their approval to seek other jobs because John Harmon is not only an alternative, but he is a good alternative.”

Blumenthal was referring to Lauretti’s recent failed attempts to run for governor as well as his often-suggested consideration of running for mayor of Bridgeport.

"I’m looking forward to coming back and working for (Harmon), and I’m looking forward to coming back for a great big victory party,” added Blumenthal.

Harmon thanked the pair for their support, agreeing that it was time for a change in City Hall.

"(Lauretti) has been in this office for 28 years, and he is convinced that his signal issue message on taxes is enough for the voters,” said Harmon. “But when I see the Board of Education sued by the city, with taxpayer money paying the attorney’s fees, that makes me angry."

Harmon also said he was disappointed that Lauretti has turned the Board of Apportionment & Taxation and Board of Aldermen into “token players” in the budget process, with the mayor truly controlling the final numbers. Harmon said he has the vision to change this approach.

"When you only talk about taxes, you don’t have to have a vision,” said Harmon, “but Shelton, as good as it is, can be better. Its schools can be better. Its parks, recreation facilities and public buildings can be better. Its downtown can be better. There is no plan around that right now … no vision for we want Shelton to be. It’s all year to year.”

Harmon said, if elected, he would establish open, transparent government operations, with performance rules for city government and measures to aid in understanding if goals has been met. He also plans to establish a better working relationship with the Board of Education.

“We think our message is right, and we think the time is right,” said Harmon, who has already been walking the streets with soon-to-be 18-year-old Matt McGee and Kevin Kosty, aldermen candidates in the third and second wards, respectively, with the goal of knocking on 10,000 doors by Election Day in November.

DTC Chairman David Gioiello said, even though he is a political rookie, Harmon has shown the passion needed to develop a strong following among residents.

“People always seem to think if you elect Democrats, they raise taxes,” said Gioiello. “You don’t need to raise taxes, you need to manage money better. That's where John’s business background, his strategic planning experience come in. Holding department heads accountable with their budget — that's what needs to be done. There is no strategic plan for the city. We have a 10-year growth plan that I’m not sure anyone follows. I think John will bring that.

“We get his message out, and if we all knock on enough doors, maybe we surprise everybody,” added Gioiello.

Along with Harmon at the top of the ticket, the Democrats also tabbed four for aldermen seats - recently retired Assistant School Superintendent Lorraine Rossner (first ward), Kosty (second ward), present Board of Education member Jose Goncalves (third ward) and McGee (third ward).

For the Board of Education, the DTC selected incumbents Gioiello and Amanda Kilmartin and newcomers Wayne Bragg, Diana Meyer and Patti Moonan. Incumbent Board of Education member Kate Kutash, who was passed over by the DTC, gathered enough signatures to be placed on the ballot as a Democrat come November.

Democrats also nominated Robert Lally for treasurer; Matto, Nancy Dickal and Quinn Weber for Planning & Zoning; John Uysal for Planning & Zoning alternate; and incumbents Steve Guralnick, Joe Knapik and Michelle Laubin for Board of Apportionment & Taxation.

“This is a big event for us,” said Gioiello. “Having the senator and lieutenant governor here shows how important Shelton is to the party in general.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com