Democrats come out on top in Kent races: ‘Speaks to the validity of our message and our work’

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From left, Kent First Selectman Jean Speck with Pam White, vice chairman of the Kent Democratic Town Committee

From left, Kent First Selectman Jean Speck with Pam White, vice chairman of the Kent Democratic Town Committee

Melissa Roth Cherniske

KENT — From the top of the ticket all the way down, Democrats won most of the boards and commissions in town, according to unofficial results from Tuesday’s municipal election.

Incumbent Democrat First Selectman Jean Speck was reelected for a second term after she captured 42 percent of the votes, while petitioning candidate Rufus de Rham took 36 percent. In unofficial results updated with hand count totals as of 9:15 p.m. Tuesday, Speck earned 469 votes while de Rham earned 404 votes.

Speck also defeated Republican Selectman Ed Matson, who received 202 votes and petitioning candidate James Rundall, who received 47 votes.

Patricia Oris, chairman of the Kent Democratic Town Committee, said she was very pleased with election results overall.

“The Democrats put up 17 candidates in this municipal election for all sorts of seats and boards and commissions — and all 17 of them won their seats,” she said. “I think that is significant. I am proud of our candidates. I always have been from when we first endorsed them. I’m proud of my committee and the fact that we were able to get all 17 of our candidates elected, to me, speaks to the validity of our message and our work.”

On the Board of Education, Democrat Naomi Joseph, who garnered 676 votes, defeated Republican John Grant, who received 376 votes.

Joseph said she’s “very proud” to have been elected.

“I have two children who currently attend Kent public schools and I am committed to their education,” Joseph said. “As a Board of Education member, I will be dedicated to doing all I can to ensure a quality education for my children and those of my friends and neighbors in Kent.”

For the Sewer Commission, Democrat Stephen Robey, with 718 votes, and Barry Enis, with 550 votes, defeated Republican Jack Nelson, who had 468 votes.

On the Planning & Zoning Commission, Democrats Alice Hicks, with 630 votes, and David Birnbaum, with 506 votes, defeated Republican Michael Gawel, who received 392 votes, and petitioning candidate Matthew Winter, who received 289 votes.

“On behalf of Alice Hicks and myself, we consider it an honor to be entrusted with full seats on the P & Z committee,” Birnbaum said. “A lot of important business comes before the committee, and it’s important to treat applications fairly as they navigate the approval process.”

Birnbaum added the Planning and Zoning Commission “has to balance the needs of the community between conservation and development. We will do our utmost to respect our existing regulations, but when it is necessary to craft new ones, we will do so based on the feedback of our constituents.”

On the Zoning Board of Appeals, Democrats Stephen Pener, with 712 votes, Daniel Murray, with 642 votes, and John Johnson, with 675 votes, defeated Republican Anthony F. Di Pentima, with 433 votes.

Unopposed and cross-endorsed races

Also on the ballot, running unopposed for selectman, was Glenn Sanchez, a Democrat, who received with 755 votes.

Since Sanchez and de Rham garnered more votes than Matson, both will now be selectman, and Matson will step down. Selectman Chris Garrity did not run for reelection. Two-thirds of the Kent Board of Selectmen will therefore be different.

In his first ever race, “I enjoyed every second of it,” said Sanchez, who teaches history at Marvelwood School in Kent and is a 27-year resident of the town.

Top issues for Sanchez are the streetscape project, strengthening programming for youths and seniors, and broadband.

Town Clerk Darlene Brady, who was cross endorsed, garnered 1,059 votes. Tax collector Deborah Devaux, who was also cross endorsed, garnered 1,011 votes.

On the Board of Finance, Democrat Jason Wright received 686 votes and Republican Tegan Gawel received 461 votes.

Democrat Bethany Keck, who ran unopposed to fill a school board vacancy, received 792 votes.

On the Board of Assessment Appeals running unopposed was Democrat Gary Ford with 721 votes.

For Zoning Board of Appeals alternate, Democrat Justin Potter ran unopposed and received 732 votes.

For the Sewer Commission alternate, Democrat Vincent Roberti, who was running unopposed, received 733 votes.

There were 1,129 people who voted in the 2021 municipal election, including absentee ballots and election day registration voters. There are 2,112 registered voters in Kent. There was a 47.3 percent voter turnout.