The Republicans are ready for a rumble.
“We’ve got a great set of candidates,” said T.J. Barnes, the city’s GOP chairman, who make up a broad spectrum of the community.
“We’re looking for a spirited and heated discussion” of the issues with the Democrats in the months leading up to the November 3 municipal election, Barnes said Thursday.
The Republican leadership endorsed a slate of candidates that included newcomer John Gill as the party’s mayoral standard bearer and five other newcomers to political races.
For the city’s part-time treasurer’s position, the GOP endorsed Rose Parenti, a well-known party stalwart who hasn’t run for office before. She's president of Computer Development Systems in Bristol.
In the three City Council districts, the Republicans backed two incumbents, Ken Cockayne and Mike Rimcoski, and four hopefuls who haven’t sought election in the past.
In the 1st District, the party tapped Eldianne Bishop, a teacher and artisan, in addition to Rimcoski.
In the 2nd District, the GOP backed Cockayne and newcomer Richard Scarola.
In the 3rd District -- the only one with more candidates than slots -- town committee members bypassed Gary Lawton and endorsed Dave Mills and Derek Czenczelewski. Mills collected 12 votes from the committee while Czenczelewski got 11. Lawton trailed with three.
“The work is just beginning,” Czenczelewski said after the vote. He promised supporters “I’m definitely going to make it worth your while.”
Lawton said he’s a team player and won’t force a primary.
But, he said, he’s not happy the party brushed aside the suffering of so many “plain and simple and blue collar” residents in its rush to pick candidates who are “not going to change things.”
“The city deserves a lot more,” said Lawton.
Barnes said the slate as a whole presents “a different voice” to the community and will prove itself on the campaign trail.
Bishop, who eyed a Board of Education seat in the past but didn’t run, said this gives her the chance “to speak out” and “to put my body where my mouth is.”
She called herself “very conservative” on some issues and libertarian on others.
The GOP hasn’t held a majority at City Hall since the early 1990s, but it’s been competitive since Mayor Frank Nicastro stepped down in 2003.
Two of the six council members are Republicans and half the incumbent council Democrats are stepping down, both in the 3rd District, where the GOP would dearly love to pick up a seat or two.
They also want to hang on to the two seats they have and to boot out Ward, who’s seeking a second term in the city’s top job.
The Democrats pick their candidates Monday.
Gill launches campaign
Vowing “to take Bristol in a new direction,” Republican mayoral candidate John Gill launched his bid Thursday to snatch the city’s top job from veteran Democratic Mayor Art Ward.
Gill, 29, captured the Republican Party’s backing as its mayoral nominee without opposition. It doesn’t appear he will face a primary.
Gill, who has lived in the city for three years, said that Bristol's new direction needs to include taking greater advantage of the talents its citizens have and better marketing of the city.
He said Bristol has "a pretty good job base," nice parks and recreational facilities and more that could help draw new businesses and people to town.
"What we need to do is draw attention to the positives the city has," Gill said.
He said that one of the problems the city has is that "there's a lot of bickering" and infighting at City Hall.
One reason for that, he said, is "there's a lot of retreads" who have been there for a long time.
Too many of them are "afraid to take a step forward and let go of what was," Gill said.
Gill said he wants voters to know “they can talk to me. If they have an issue that’s important to them or to Bristol, they can talk. They have someone in me who will listen to what they say.”
He said that government “exists to express the will of the people.”
Gill said he's disturbed that so many projects, such as the Roberts property recreation complex, are debated but never finished.
Gill said he would impose "an organic and sustainable" plan to bring some of the projects to fruition.
"Everything has to be done in an orderly fashion," Gill said.
One way to make it happen, he said, is to draw on the talents of residents who have been left out for too long.
"People should have a voice. People need to be heard," Gill said.
Gill grew up in Southington and earned a bachelor’s degree from The George Washington University in 2002. He got his law degree from Suffolk University Law School in 2007.
Gill works for Lamorte Burns & Co.’s cargo claims and personal injury sections in Wilton.
While in law school, Gill received the American Jurisprudence award in corporate law and the CALI award in consumer law. He is a member of the American Bar Association, Connecticut Bar Association and the Maritime Law Association of the U.S.
Gill is engaged. He has no children.
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Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org