The Republican primary election in Ansonia Aug. 14 includes a race that usually goes uncontested — registrar of voters.
Political upstart David Papcin — the chairman of the local Republican Town Committee at the age of 20 — is challenging Nancy Valentine, the longtime GOP registrar and a former two-term mayor.
This week the Valley Indy sent a list of five questions to each candidate. Papcin’s responses are below. Click here to read Valentine’s answers.
First, basic background info . . .
I am 20 years old, an Ansonia native, born at Griffin Hospital. I am currently in my junior year at Quinnipiac University’s School of Nursing, with an intention to pursue a graduate degree in either law or nursing.
Why are you running for registrar of voters?
I am running for Registrar of Voters because I see potential. I look at the office and I think it can be more than just a four hour per week position and that if more time is invested into the office, we can offer new perspectives and solutions for increasing our currently low turnout rate (28 percent eligible voter turnout rate) and improving our resident’s voting experience. I am an aggressive, task-oriented person and if I see that there is room for improvement, I want to address that head-on. I have done similar as a member of the tax board and will do the same if elected to be the next Republican Registrar of Voters.
What about your background makes you a good candidate?
I have a diverse and expansive background. I have been invested in the private sector since 13, where I served as an office assistant for an environmental engineering firm in Bridgeport, completing many different business-oriented tasks from sales, to shipping, to accounting. Throughout high school, I led many different, award-winning start-up entrepreneurial projects, which helped develop my leadership qualities. As a nursing student, I understand privacy protection and data management.
In Ansonia, I have served on the Board of Apportionment and Taxation, becoming Ansonia’s historically youngest board member at 18 years old upon appointment. Despite some resistance about my age, I made a smooth transition in my new role with the City of Ansonia, managing two city budgets, resulting in a lowered tax rate and a stable tax rate. Mayor Cassetti was confident in my ability and he believed in me and I have not let him down.
Lately, my involvement in political campaigns, such as Mayor Lauretti’s primary bid for governor, and now with David Stemerman’s campaign, I have run many of the data and voter coordination operations. I am offering a broad perspective of both private and public Sector experience, an amount that I think is unprecedented at my age, but experience that I am proud to transition to the office if I am elected.
What steps or initiatives will you take to encourage voter turnout?
I would like to explore more interpersonal relationships between the Registrar’s Office and the voters. I think an election notification system would be beneficial in increasing turnout. Increasing the office’s accessibility would provide Voters with more opportunity to get involved and get informed. The Registrar’s office has the potential to become the election information headquarters, where residents could come to learn which candidates are on the ballot, when the election is, when deadlines are, etc. These things are not outlined currently.
How many political wards should the city have and why?
The argument is that from a financial perspective, reducing the number of wards makes sense, however, this will result in a glaring deficiency for our voters. It is interesting to note, that a reduction in wards will reduce the amount of work for the Registrar’s Office, and our current Registrars are all in favor, but that is not their role. Their role is to serve the voters, and accessibility and location are key.
We need more voters. That seems like backwards thinking. We need to increase access, not decrease access. I did some research and found that over 10,000 people voted in 1969 and 1971. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be there. In 2013 and 2015 election only 4,200 people voted. That’s unacceptable. I am in favor of the current model of seven wards, which increases voter representation on the Board of Alderman, and retains the current polling stations, so that voters may have increased access to the polls, not decreased. We need to be focusing on what’s best for Voters. Reducing the number of wards and polling locations is not.
Primaries for registrars of voters are unusual. Republican critics of Mayor Cassetti’s administration have said Mr. Papcin is backed by the mayor, and Mrs. Valentine is being targeted — Alderman Phil Tripp said “It’s called kiss the ring or get the boot” in a comment on Facebook. How would you respond to that perception?
I am a full supporter of Mayor David S. Cassetti and judging by the last election so are over 70% of the voters. It’s important to be on the same page. The voters expect that the Mayor and his team are on the same page. I think it’s also time for a fresh perspective in the office. One of the reasons I decided to jump into the race was because of the inefficiencies I experienced being chair of the Ansonia Republican Town Committee. The parties cannot communicate with their constituents if the information in the voter database is inaccurate, as I have found from making calls and knocking on doors. This race to me represents change. Do we want to stick with the status quo, or elect a new generation of leadership with a broader perspective on how the office can operate?
I am proud to have received Mayor Cassetti’s endorsement, as well as the endorsement of the Ansonia Republican Town Committee because I fully believe they also want to see a fresh face elected to the office to bring a new sense of excitement, energy, and innovation.
Mr. Tripp’s comments are quite bold for someone who did not show up at the nominating convention to cast a vote for either myself or Ms. Valentine.