Photo: Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media
STRATFORD — Stephanie Philips, the Democratic Town Committee chairwoman who has had her hands full with a party that was chockablock with dissent, is seeing tranquil waters ahead.
At the annual Democratic caucus Wednesday — open to all 12,342 registered Democrats in town — the slate of Philips-friendly candidates for the DTC convincingly prevailed, winning all 83 seats.
The win means that Philips and her inner circle will pretty much have their way in picking and choosing candidates running for elected offices in town, the primary function of the political town committees. It also seems unlikely there will be a primary challenge to the winning slate, owing to the convincing win.
But the new DTC won’t be seated until March and there’s a big election coming soon that needs immediate attention — the 120th House seat in the Legislature, vacated on Jan. 2 by Mayor Laura Hoydick, a Republican.
Hoydick made a campaign promise last fall that she would leave her seat in Hartford to devote her energies to the mayor’s office, although she was not legally required to resign the 120th.
The special election will take place Feb. 27, it was announced Friday by the state officials in Hartford.
The Republicans already agreed on the name that they will put on the ballot. He’s Bill Cabral, an old hand at town politics and a former town council and school board chairman.
There are two Democrats interested in the seat — former Town Council member Phil Young and Therese A. Lefever, a political unknown. Philips said the DTC — the “old” one — will meet at the Baldwin Center on Thursday, Jan. 18, at 7 p.m. to pick one or the other.
Both sides won’t have much time to cobble a campaign together, which will mostly involve the North End.
Because this is a special election for an unexpired term, there is no opportunity for a primary, officials said. And the winner won’t have much time to relax because state house elections will take place this fall.
“Therese has been working very hard,” Philips said of Lefever. “She’s never run for office but she’s very dynamic and she’d held a number of positions with nonprofits. They’re both good candidates.”
“This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a bit,” Young said. “House seats don’t come up very often. I believe (state Rep.) Joe Gresko (who represents that 120th) is doing a great job and I’d be happy to join him as a Democrat representing Stratford.”
Lefever, said that her extensive background in nonprofits makes her well-suited for the job.
“I have always been involved in community issues,” she said.
Philips was an unsuccessful candidate for mayor in November. Hoydick received 5,738 votes. Philips had a count of 5,126 and petitioning candidate Sandra Zalik received 688.
There is still no lack of rancor amongst active Democrats.
“What we saw Wednesday night was the Stratford Democratic Town Committee’s continued slide into irrelevance,” said former Town Council Chairwoman Beth Daponte, who has been the unofficial commander of the anti-Stephanie forces. She, as with a number of other prominent Democrats, was ousted from the DTC Wednesday night.