Independent Party of Newtown Selectman Bill Furrier readily admits that the oddsmakers have incumbent Pat Llodra the favorite to win this year's first selectman race.
"My winning is a longshot," Furrier said of his candidacy for first selectman.
But his reason for running, Furrier said during an interview at IPN's first public event of the election season on Saturday, was to take a stand on issues and see whether the community agreed with him.
"By running, I could elevate the issues," he said. "Somebody has to step up and raise the issues. Members of the IPN asked me to run and deep down, I knew I wanted to."
With the postponement of the Labor Day parade throwing a wrench into the start of the election season, political parties have had to come up with their own separate events to introduce their candidates to the public.
The and held their own separate kickoff events a few weeks ago while the Independent Party of Newtown hosted its first one Sat., Oct. 1 at Demitasse Cafe.
Furrier is campaigning on a pledge to cut the town budget by 5-percent. He said he believes there is support for such a cut in the community. He maintains the town can do a better job of "tracking and scoring" projects to determine the true cost of services and use that information to determine whether they are necessary.
He said he has specifically targeted the town budget, because that falls under the purview of the first selectman's office, as opposed to the school budget, which falls to the Board of Education and with which he said he has little control over.
"I would still support that we spend less," Furrier said.
At the same time, he said he believes residents value tax dollars going to education.
"There's strong support for education," Furrier said, adding that barring keeping roads in good shape and plowed during snowdays and support for sports activities, "I don't see any evidence of support for town spending. There's no evidence of it being of a higher priority."
In his first term as selectman, Furrier has generally supported budget proposals Llodra has put forward. He did not speak up during those deliberations and propose cuts because he said he did not want to be seen as "obstructing" Llodra and Republican Selectman Will Rodgers in their fiscal management of the town.
"It was their budget," Furrier said. "That was my way of being collaborative."
Other candidates at Saturday's event, included Carol Bosko Walsh, who is running for Board of Finance. She said she was supportive of Furrier's call for a 5-percent cut. Walsh, who moved to town from New Jersey about six years ago, works at Unilever – also Furrier's employer – where she said she manages a unit with a $7 million budget and has had to deal with making cuts.
"I feel like I'm an extremely honest person," she said. "I work hard and I'm reliable...I'm not going to take stances if it's not in the best interest of the town."
Her husband is James Walsh, a former Verizon field technician who is running for the Police Commission, a group he is familiar with particularly in his advocacy of traffic calming measures in the area around Key Rock Road. Prior to being a candidate, James Walsh successfully lobbied the commission to agree to install speed tables on Key Rock Road. Walsh said from that experience, he decided to run for a seat on the commission.
Also running on the IPN ticket is Randy Young, a Legislative Council candidate for the second district. He moved to Newtown from Texas nearly four years ago and works selling 9-1-1 public safety equipment to municipalities. He said he has checked with his company on whether there would be a conflict of interest with his running for public office in Newtown but because sales of the equipment in Connecticut is made strictly at the state level, Young said he was told a conflict does not exist.
Young, who listed Fairfield Hills and tax money being spent on the campus as one of the issues he was concerned with, said having a new voice on the council would be beneficial to the town.
"Someone coming in new brings fresh perspective," he said.
Robert Duero is another IPN candidate for the council in the third district. Most recently, he served on the Charter Review Commission and held the distinction of being one of the only members to support splitting the annual budget referendum into two separate votes, one for education expenses and the other for town spending – also known as bifurcation.
"We want people's voices to be heard," Duero said. "We want the people to vote on what they want."
On the slate for the Board of Education is Laura Main, a registered Democrat who said she wanted to maintain her party affiliation in order to vote in the primaries for national office, though she said felt more aligned with the IPN on local issues.
"I have never felt connected with our local Democratic party," she said.
Main, who is working toward her doctorate and has many years of experience in education, including as a teacher, said she grew up in Ridgefield and moved to Newtown in 1996.
"In a lot of ways, Rdigefield went through 20 to 30 years ago what we are going through now," she said of Newtown.
Main said she believes better communication with parents and the public is among one of the areas the education board needs to improve.
"That whole dialogue needs to open up," she said. "I feel like now is the time for me to step up."
Other candidates on the IPN ticket include Po Murray for selectman; Kevin Fitzgerald, Bruce Walczak and Jasper Ress for Legislative Council; Neil Randle and Philip Cruz for Police Commission; and Rudy Magnan for Board of Finance.
Clarification: Bill Furrier said he believes there is support for town spending on sports activities. This article has been updated to reflect that.