NORWALK, Conn. – Ernie Dumas stood on a South Norwalk sidewalk Tuesday, letting residents know about police programs to cut crime and assuring them that it wasn't a bad thing, that they would be fine.
His co-candidates in Tuesday night's election say that style of communication will continue. "One of the goals that we have is to educate everyone in our district, let them know what their rights are," Travis Simms said. "How each law will affect them and etcetera. That's never been done before in this district."
Simms, Dumas, Phaedral Bowman and Sandra Stokes won election to the Democratic Town Committee as part of the "A Better South Norwalk" ticket. It challenged the candidates endorsed during a January caucus of the Democratic Town Committee. They are now part of a seven-member District B contingent on the 35-member committee.
Only one of the five candidates of "A Better South Norwalk" did not win – Nabil Valencia, the only Hispanic candidate, who was running in her first election. Moderators at both polling places said turnout was high for that type of election.
"For people to come out it shows that people want change, and they are in tune to what's going on here. And they have their voices heard," said Simms, a former Common Council member. Simms wanted to run for re-election last fall but was not endorsed by the District B committee membership and failed to get enough signatures on a petition to force a primary.
Simms and Stokes said they reached out to every member of their diverse community, the white people, the Hispanic people, the blacks, the Haitians, the Creoles. "We included them all, got them all involved and that's what you see in the results of this election," Simms said.
Stokes said she is looking forward to being the "connection to the community." Simms said being on the committee means they will have a say in choosing representatives for the community. "It's a very powerful position in terms of local municipal politics," he said.
"I think if anything we'll be the nucleus to the community to engage them, educate them, educate our youth as well as all of the residents of South Norwalk," Stokes said. "It's just about community, it's about all of us getting together and sustaining South Norwalk."
Bowman also said she wants to be an advocate and implied dissatisfaction with Common Council president Carvin Hilliard, who came in seventh in the voting. "We'll put council people who will take action, speak up for our community, not just when it favors them," she said. "Hold them accountable."
Hilliard did not return a request for comment.
"I just want to see something done about the crime, see something done for our youth," Bowman said. "We don't have to raise everyone's property taxes 5 percent. We can raise it a little bit and then work with our own kids, tell them that they're going to school to learn. That will go very far in our education system."
Stokes said her neighbors in District B need educating. "It's not that people don't care, they just don't know. They don't know how they can contribute to sustaining their community," she said. "They don't think they can come out and vote or how their voice can make a difference. That's what we want to do; we want to make that connection. ... So we're going to be engaging all South Norwalk residents."