Milford Independent Party leader Rocco Frank said the endorsements represent a desire for change.
The city’s Democratic Town Committee chairman, however, said the endorsements are really only the opinion of a small group of residents.
The Independent Party line on the ballot in November will include cross-endorsements for Republican Matt Gaynor, who is running for state Senate in the 14th district against incumbent Democrat Gayle Slossberg; Ray Vitali, who is running for state representative in the 118th district against incumbent Democrat Kim Rose, and Pam Staneski, who is running for state representative in the 119th district against incumbent Democrat James Maroney.
Republican Charles Ferraro, who is running for state representative in the 117th district against incumbent Democrat Paul Davis, will also be on the Independent ballot line.
“The endorsement by the Independent Party is given to candidates that exemplify the ideals of honest people for honest government and are supported by the registered members of the Independent Party,” said Milford Independent Party Chairman Rocco Frank.
He said both Democrats and Republicans are invited to seek their endorsement.
Democratic Town Committee Chairman Rich Smith said local Democrats did not seek the party’s support this year.
“Although invited, we decided not to seek any endorsement of the Milford Independent Party at this time,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, many confuse this party for a broader Independent Party, which it is not. Instead, this is a small group led by Rocco Frank, the same Rocco Frank who admittedly tried to sell nominations of this party a few years back in exchange for a paid job for himself.
“We have decided, until the leadership of this group changes, we would prefer to keep a healthy distance,” Smith said.
Frank responded to Smith’s comments, arguing that in 2011 when he was running for mayor, he had a discussion with the Republicans and Democrats because he wanted to guarantee his party members representation in city government, and that his proposal was not unethical.
“Without going into a big ‘cabal’ about this, the final conclusion of this false accusation ended up being exactly that I did nothing wrong and the press got a great story,” Frank said.
The Milford Independent Party numbers about 200 people, Frank said, adding that about 30 people voted at the party’s caucus this year.
In past years Milford’s Independent Party has endorsed Democrats, but Frank said this year swung clearly Republican because of displeasure with the state of affairs in Connecticut.
“A lot of them aren’t feeling very good about the state right now,” Frank said.
He said the GOP candidates have promised to push for change.
Republican Town Committee Chairman Paul Beckwith did not pooh-pooh the Independent Party endorsements and agreed with Frank they are a sign that people want change.
“My Democratic colleague has a short memory,” Beckwith said. “It was only a few short years ago that Democrats in Milford received the same endorsement from the Milford Independent Party; endorsements they were more than happy to accept. Now, when they made no attempt to seek the Independent Party’s endorsement, they want to try to diminish its impact.”