NORWALK, Conn. – District D Democrat Bruce Kimmel, who has not caucused with his fellow Democrats for more than a year since winning re-election to the Norwalk Common Council, publicly switched caucuses last week and will spend his time with Republicans.
Kimmel said he will continue to be a Democrat but had grown tired of what he called an “obstructionist posture” by members of his party. He announced the move during the first council meeting of the year.
“After a year of attending most committee meetings, I was impressed by how Republican council members addressed the issues facing the city,” Kimmel said of his reason for switching caucuses. “They dug in, worked with staff and tried to come up with reasonable solutions. Unfortunately, there were often no Democratic caucus members at these meetings. I still have no idea where they were, why they were not attending.”
He continued, “Moreover, before the full Council, it seemed to me that the Democratic caucus members had consciously adopted an obstructionist posture, more concerned with the next election than governing the city. I believe all elected officials, whether in the majority or the minority, have a responsibility to govern.”
Council President Doug Hempstead, a Republican, said Kimmel approached him and other Republicans about joining their caucus “after Thanksgiving,” and no one had a problem with it.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with Bruce,” Hempstead said. “I think he was pleasantly surprised at how we try to talk things out.”
Over the past few years, Hempstead said both parties have at times taken on a “defensive mode” as it relates to governing and a certain level of “viciousness” has crept into the public discourse.
“In some ways, we seem to be moving toward how Congress behaves,” Kimmel said, adding that he has approached council Minority Leader Warren Peña about everyone trying to remain civil.
But Democratic leaders do not support Kimmel’s move.
Peña said he believes Kimmel’s move was partially designed to help Mayor Richard Moccia control Democrats by giving him a super majority.
“I more than anyone reached out to Bruce in the past year,” said Peña. “I kept him in the loop with our discussions, asked him numerous times to join the caucus, to add value and perspective as I thought we Democrats could benefit from his experience. He refused because of past experiences with the party and a blowout after the 2011 November election.”
Members of the District D Democratic Committee signed a letter that took Kimmel to task for his switch.
“This time around, maybe Bruce Kimmel can find a home in the Moccia administration,” the committee wrote. “We have some advice for our republican colleagues, watch when Bruce is holding the ball. He may take it home with him when he doesn’t get his way.”