Photo: Helen Neafsey / Helen Neafsey
GREENWICH — Greenwich Republicans could have a primary on their hands for the Board of Estimate and Taxation.
Leslie Tarkington, who has spent more than 11 years on the town finance board, is seeking signatures for a petition to place her name on the November ballot.
Tarkington, along with BET incumbents James Lash and Art Norton, did not get the party’s nod last week during the Republican Town Committee’s nominating meeting. So far, Tarkington is the only one of the three to seek a place on the ballot via petition.
“I do not believe my work on the BET is complete yet,” Tarkington said Monday. “I feel my experience is very important to the town at this juncture.”
Unlike Board of Education elections, in which as many as four candidates from a party can run for two seats, the BET allows each party no more than six candidates for the six spots it can occupy on the board.
If there are more than six candidates, there has to be a primary election to winnow down the field to six. Sept. 12 is primary day throughout the state.
To qualify for the ballot, Tarkington would need signatures from at least 637 of the town’s registered Republicans — 5 percent of the 12,722 registered Republicans in town on July 25, the day of the RTC’s nominating meeting.
The deadline for petitions to the town clerk is 4 p.m. Aug. 9.
RTC Chairman Stephen Walko, who served with Tarkington on the BET, said this year has been a “more robust” election process than usual within the town Republicans.
In addition to the BET, the Republicans nominated only one of two incumbent Board of Education members for seats on the school board. Incumbent Peter Bernstein, who did not get his party’s nod, also is mounting a petition campaign to get on the ballot.
Since the Republicans nominated only two people for school board, Bernstein can get on the November ballot without a primary if he collects enough signatures.
“Leslie should be commended for her service to the town,” Walko said. “She is known to be a workaholic when it comes to the finance board. She really is a good person and good BET member. That being said, we have a process and people have a right to gain access to the ballot either by nomination or petition. We are proud of the slate we nominated and we respect the process.”
A member of the BET Budget Committee, Tarkington said her experience on the BET and in the financial industry, her close work with town departments and her positions on controlling town spending and tax increases were in line with the wishes of the voters.
“I think we have accomplished a lot as a board,” Tarkington said. “The decisions we have made on the BET have supported our schools and our town services. We have improved our buildings and our infrastructure while at the same time building up the town’s financial resources. But there’s a lot more to do.”
If Tarkington collects enough vetted signatures, she will face off against the RTC’s endorsed slate: incumbents Michael Mason, who is BET chairman, Bill Drake and Nancy Weissler, along with first-time candidates Deborah Hess, Andrew Duus and Karen Fassuliotis in the primary. The top six vote getters will be on the November ballot.
“We are at a critical time with important choices to make about policy, infrastructure and tax rates over the next two years,” Tarkington said. “I believe it’s vital that we have experienced Republican leadership committed to fiscal conservatism, financial planning and lower taxes.”
Tarkington got a start on her drive last weekend, seeking signatures at the Holly Hill Resource Recovery Facility on Saturday and Greenwich Point on Sunday during the annual Sandblast sandcastle building competition.
“The response has been very positive,” Tarkington said. “I think people are receptive to me and the type of work I have done. They understand I have focused on the goals of controlling the financial demands on Greenwich taxpayers while maintaining the town’s infrastructure and improving the quality of life in Greenwich.”
Norton ruled out a run last week, saying he did not want to force a primary. Lash said he would be out of the country during much of the signature gathering period and didn’t think he would be able to run a political campaign because of business commitments.
“Leslie Tarkington has given many years to the citizens of Greenwich and works diligently on behalf of all taxpayers of the town,” Tesei said on Monday. “She is hard working and should have the opportunity to present her credentials and service record to all Republican voters in a primary election.”
Toner said he believed Tarkington deserved to stay on the BET.
“We are heading into rocky waters with the state’s funding issues,” Toner said Tuesday. “We need someone with the experience Leslie has. She works tirelessly and relentlessly and has served us well.”