Three-way Republican race for town clerk nomination comes to a head in Greenwich

GREENWICH — Greenwich Republicans know who will be leading their ticket in the fall election, but candidates for several other local positions will be determined this week.

On Tuesday night, the Greenwich Republican Town Committee will meet to formally nominate a ticket headed by First Selectman Fred Camillo and Selectwoman Lauren Rabin, who are seeking reelection. Several spots on the ballot have not yet been announced, including for seats on the Board of Education and the Board of Estimate and Taxation.

But many eyes are on the race for town clerk, a position that is open for the first time in decades. Last month, Republican Town Clerk Carmella Budkins, who has been in office for 30 years, said she would not seek another term.

Three candidates have thrown their hats in the ring for the Republican nomination. And on Tuesday, one of them must persuade a majority of the 63 voting members of the RTC to back them.

Town Republican Registrar of Voters Fred DeCaro, Board of Estimate and Taxation Chair Karen Fassuliotis and Jackie Budkins, a longtime RTC official and the daughter of Carmella Budkins, are seeking the nomination.

Under the current rules, the three clerk candidates will not deliver remarks to the RTC on Tuesday. Nominating and seconding speeches will be made on their behalf in hopes of persuading the members to vote for them.

Jackie Budkins got a boost toward the nomination when the RTC’s Executive Committee voted to recommend her to the full body Tuesday night. While not an official endorsement, it was something that all three candidates said they had been seeking.

Budkins received a majority of the 17 votes on the executive committee, according to RTC Chair Dan Quigley, who called the race “highly competitive.”

“It feels good,” Budkins said Friday. “I feel really good to have so much support, especially moving forward into Tuesday.”

DeCaro acknowledged that it would likely be a close vote.

“I have worked hard to contact all of the individual delegates,” he said. “The individual districts were split very evenly, and it was only a few of the officers who made the difference. I’m very confident that the full vote will look different.”

DeCaro said he was keeping up steady communications with RTC members, speaking to them about his credentials and why he believes he is the best candidate after 12 years as registrar and previous service on the Representative Town Meeting.

“This isn’t a leap for me,” he said. “It’s the next logical step in a path of public service. Over the past few weeks, I’ve worked hard to demonstrate to the RTC delegates the same things I hope to educate all voters about.”

DeCaro said he has taken town clerk certification classes offered by the Connecticut Town Clerks Association, has become a Certified Connecticut Municipal Official and has a 12-year track record of running an award-winning department.

“I have the tools and techniques to reach out to voters with a positive message,” he said. “I’ve received amazing endorsements by some of the largest users of town clerk services. I understand how to reach out to voters with a positive message of continuous improvement, building on the technological changes happening all around us.”

The town clerk works closely with the RTM, publishing the call and overseeing all the counting of votes. DeCaro has been endorsed by RTM Moderator Tom Byrne.

Fassuliotis was officially voted in as chair of the BET this past week with bipartisan support. An attorney and former member of the RTM, she has said she will also continue to seek reelection to a new term on the BET even as she runs for town clerk. She said she was pushing on despite the executive committee’s decision.

“I’m telling them what my credentials are and why I’m the best candidate,” Fassuliotis said. “I know I have the support of many on the RTC. We’ll see if I have enough support at this point.”

She pointed to her long resume in town government, including her recent elevation to BET chair after serving as vice chair since the end of 2019, and said she knows the town departments and processes. She also highlighted her legal training.

“The laws governing the town clerk’s responsibilities have only grown and become more complex,” Fassuliotis said. “Being an attorney, I know the law.”

Her previous experience as a director of regulatory affairs for private companies also has shown her “the language of regulations,” she said.

Budkins, a Realtor, said she would continue to make her case through outreach to the members. She is vice chair of the RTC and has been a key figure in municipal Republican campaigns over the past 15 years, including for Peter Tesei, John Toner, Lauren Rabin and, currently, state Senate candidate Ryan Fazio.

“I’m honored to be able to try and build upon not just (Carmella Budkins’) success but her office’s successes,” Budkins said. “My professional background with clients who entrust me with their real estate purchases is also an asset. I have a very good reputation in town and that can help advance my candidacy. People know they can trust me as someone who works hard, as someone who can lead and can multitask.

“I grew up in Greenwich and went through the Greenwich Public Schools. I’ve made lifelong friends and relationships here that I think will give me a base of support I can rely on when running for this office,” she said.

Democrats nominated their town clerk candidate on Wednesday without any opposition. Molly Saleeby, a member of the RTM who unsuccessfully ran in 2019, is running again.

Tuesday’s GOP meeting, which will be held both via Zoom and in person at Town Hall, will begin at 7 p.m.

But the RTC election might not be the final word. A candidate who does not receive the nomination could force a primary election to get on the ballot by collecting enough signatures on a petition.

On Friday, all three left the door open.

“It would depend on the level of support shown,” DeCaro said. “I would not want to disappoint the people who voted for me if it was close because I believe there is far more out there then just the 63 people on the RTC.”

“Right now I am focused on Tuesday night and I will weigh my options after the vote,” Budkins said.

Fassuliotis offered a similar sentiment, saying she “hasn’t ruled it out. Anything is possible at this point. I’m going to reassess after the vote on Tuesday.”

Quigley said he hoped Tuesday’s results would be acceptable to everybody.

“I am very hopeful that once the nominating process is completed, that the party will coalesce behind the nominee and unite behind our shared goal of winning every race in November,” he said.