Democrat wins Fairfield first selectman race after rowdy recount

Democrats will take over Fairfield’s first selectman seat after a Tuesday recount where tempers flared.
In the final tally, Democrat Bill Gerber defeated Republican incumbent Brenda Kupchick by a razor-thin 37-vote margin.
"We are grateful to everyone who came out to make their voices heard on Election Day, as we intend to create a government that works for and is inclusive of all citizens," Gerber said in a statement Tuesday night. "I also want to thank First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick for her dedication and service to the people of Fairfield."
RAUCOUS RECOUNT
Even before the first ballots were counted, the accusations started flying. Democrats and Republicans got in shouting matches over everything from cameras in the ballot-counting area to where observers were allowed to sit.
“Any party representative shall be put in the position where they can observe each ballot and the marking on each ballot,” said Connecticut Republican Party chair Ben Proto. “These observers cannot view that.”
Democrats fired back.
“There's no rule in statute of how many feet separation,” said Steven Sheinberg, Fairfield’s Democratic Town Committee chair. “I think there was about 3 to 4 feet separation between the observers and the checkers.”
HIGH STAKES, HIGH DRAMA
As a closely watched swing district, Fairfield is a top prize for both political parties.
Tensions were already high before Tuesday’s recount. Last week, police were called to a possible break-in at a ballot storage building. Turns out that it was just a torn window screen.
“The reason for the state police to take over the investigation was to maintain the integrity of the democratic process,” Fairfield Police Lt. Ed Nook told News 12 Connecticut on Friday.
Fairfield’s Republican voter registrar first notified authorities, according to Kupchick. The town’s two registrars have been engaged in an ongoing feud that even led to a police report and State Elections Enforcement Commission complaints last year.
Proto said he just wanted the recount to be fair.
“We really don't want Fairfield to become Bridgeport,” he said. “And unfortunately, the Democrat moderator and the Democrat registrar seem to be taking Fairfield toward the Bridgeport model.”
Sheinberg called it fear-mongering.
“Because the Republicans are losing or have lost in the initial count, they want to sow doubt in this process,” he said.