One Shelton election guarantee: A vacancy on the P&Z

It’s uncertain what the impact will be of a decision by Shelton Democratic Party leadership to run two candidates for four-year terms on the Planning and Zoning Commission and no candidates for two-year terms on the P&Z.

The races for P&Z are complicated this year in Shelton because the city is phasing in four-year terms for the zoning board, so there are contests for both four-year and two-year slots in 2013. In the future, races for P&Z will be staggered and all members will run for four-year terms but not in the same election.

This year’s ballot also includes a race for P&Z alternate. There are two alternates on the commission.

The P&Z has six regular members, and three people will be elected this year to four-year terms and three people to two-year terms.

Will be a two-year term vacancy

Instead of running one candidate for the four-year and one candidate for the two-year term, Democratic Town Committee Chairman David Gioiello decided to run two Democrats for the four-year term.

Because the Republicans are expected to do well this year with GOP Mayor Mark Lauretti at the top of the ticket, it’s likely only one Democrat will win a four-year term and, due to the lack of having a candidate, no Democrat will win a two-year term.

This means a vacancy for a P&Z two-term term will be created by the election results, leading to the need to fill that vacant seat.

However, state law guarantees minority-party representation on land-use boards, so a majority party can only have four P&Z members in Shelton at one time. So the two-year term that may be vacant cannot be filled by a Republican. (Editor's note: An earlier version of this story had mistakenly said "...cannot be filled by a Democrat.")

Gioiello: ‘Guaranteed two seats’

Gioiello, who also is the Democratic Party candidate for mayor, said his party “is guaranteed two seats” on the P&Z no matter what the election outcome, due to the state law.

In Shelton, a vacancy on the P&Z is filled by a vote of the remaining members of that same political party. The decision is usually based on a recommendation by the Democratic Town Committee or Republican Town Committee.

This would mean the one Democrat elected to the P&Z for a four-year term would be able to name the person who would be appointed to serve the vacant two-year term.

But that process usually involves replacing a person serving on the commission who resigns or dies, not a vacancy created by an election result. Plus a minority-guaranteed seat wouldn’t have to be filled by a Democrat, but just by someone who is not registered as a Republican (this could be an unaffiliated voter or member of a minor party).

Gioiello thinks the vacant P&Z seat will be filled by a Democrat, based on past precedent, but realizes the process could become complicated and ultimately be decided by state election officials. “One [political] party probably won’t be happy,” he said.

Some wonder about the approach

If the Democrats had run one candidate for both the four-year term and two-year term, both of these Democrats would have been guaranteed of victory.

Gioiello’s decision not to do so has led to second-guessing by some other Democrats, although in the end if may not matter and both seats could be filled by Democrats.

“I don’t understand his rationale, so ask him,” a leading Shelton Democrat said of Gioiello’s thinking.

Who are the candidates?

For the four-year P&Z term, the candidates are: Republicans Ruth M. Parkins and Anthony S. Pogoda, and Democrats Nancy E. Dickal and Jimmy Tickey.

People can vote for any three candidates, and the top three vote-getters will be elected.

For the two-year term, the candidates are: Republicans Virginia M. Harger and Thomas P. McGorty. There are no Democratic candidates. There are openings for three P&Z members with two-year terms, so Harger and McGorty are guaranteed of victory and the third two-year seat will be vacant after the election.

For P&Z alternate, the candidates are Republican Ned Miller and Democrat Frank M. Osak. Both Miller and Osak are guaranteed of election.