Local Republican leaders have spent weeks pushing the strength of its slate for the November election — but that stance took a turn last weekend.

Bernie Simons, the mayoral appointed city sheriff and Republican Town Committee member, submitted more than the 91 required signatures to the Republican registrar of voters office Wednesday, Aug. 7, in hopes of forcing a primary and ultimately run in the fourth ward, where incumbents Jim Capra and Noreen McGorty are running for re-election.

What is odd about this situation is that Capra and McGorty both unanimously received the RTC endorsement — with 68 party members, including Mayor Mark Lauretti and RTC Chairman Anthony Simonetti voting in favor — at last month’s caucus without any opposition.

What is even more bizarre is the fact that Simons was also in attendance and voted in favor of, and expressed zero opposition in supporting the incumbents. Yet it was certain RTC officials, who after two weeks began pushing for Simons to primary, after they found out that Capra assisted Republican petitioning candidates.

According to Capra, those reported to have collected signatures on behalf of Simons included several city hall staffers, a few RTC members, and a Republican State Central committee member. Now, if the signatures are validated, Simons will run against the party’s endorsed candidates in a Sept. 10 primary.

“Information came to light that changed our perspective on this ward, and over the weekend a decision was made that (the RTC) needed to move in another direction,” said Simonetti, adding that Simons stepped up to run for an aldermen seat in that ward. “We needed a stronger person in the fourth ward.”

Simonetti would neither comment on whether it was one or both incumbents being targeted nor what “information” was uncovered to cause this change in course in only a few days.

The RTC’s shift comes as seven other GOP members have submitted signatures to force primaries — Mark Holden, Anne Gaydos and Tom Minotti, all incumbents, with the Board of Education; Greg Tetro and Peter Squitieri for third ward aldermen; Mike Gaydos for second ward alderman; and former Democrat-turned-Republican Chris Jones for Planning & Zoning. Now the RTC has added an eighth potential primary fight to an already crowded field.

“We have a very strong slate,” said Simonetti, adding that the RTC will be “campaigning for our people. The RTC is dedicated to these people. That is our mission, and we will not fail.”

Capra said he is unaware of this “information” but speculates that this challenge is nothing more than retribution for his helping Republican petitioning candidates.

“The timing of the primary challenge and my helping is not just a coincidence” Capra said.

Capra remains positive about campaigning to earn his Board of Aldermen seat back for another two years. Capra acknowledged that he is not a “rubber stamp” for Lauretti, instead he “makes his decisions based on what is in the best interest of the city of Shelton and the ward.

“I feel I have served the fourth ward very well in my time,” said Capra, adding that he has worked to keep taxes low as well as fighting to stop high density developments, such as Shelter Ridge, Booth Hill Road/Waverly Road and affordable housing on Huntington Street/Ripton Road, in truly suburban areas in the ward. “My heart is in the right place, and I encourage Republicans to come out and vote for me on primary day.”