Longtime city treasurer Christine Bourne raised more than a few eyebrows this week when she said she intended to challenge Democratic mayoral candidate Dan Drew in a primary.
Bourne, a Democrat, was recently passed over by her party for the city treasurer nomination. She believes the snub was "payback" for her support of the mayor in the ongoing dispute over Board of Education spending practices.
As for her own mayoral bid, she said Monday that "It's something I always wanted to do.”
Still, some are questioning her motives, noting that Bourne only applied to the nominating committee for the city treasurer position, having run largely uncontested for the position in nearly every election. She has served as treasurer for 16 years.
As for endorsing Quintin Phipps, chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, for city treasurer instead of Bourne, Democrats say Phipps had greater experience.
Bourne thinks differently.“My understanding is that person never interviewed for treasurer,” Bourne said. “It seemed like [the Democrats] already made their decision.”
In fact, Bourne said, “The rumor is Quintin Phipps didn’t even apply for the city council — he was recruited."
Quintin Phipps comes with a banker’s experience,” Democratic Town Committee Chair Lisa Santangelo countered. With the economy still on shaky ground, she said, “we’re going to have to be very creative with financial things the way they are.”
Drew said he welcomes Bourne’s challenge. “The bottom line here for me is the city of Middletown needs a new leader,” Drew said.
“I don’t think a primary is a bad thing. It’s a healthy part of the democratic process. She has every right to run. I look forward to a debate about the issues.”
Nevertheless, a Democratic party member who asked not to be named, said he believes the Republicans are behind Bourne’s bid.“They’ve been planning this for a long time,” the source said. “The whole intention is to bleed Dan Drew of money and bloody him up going into the general election against Seb, because Seb desperately needs the help.”
Bourne called the assertion "silly."
“I was the highest vote-getter last time around out of all the positions — Council, mayor, everybody,” she said. “I attribute it to my community involvement. I’m active in the community, I grew up in the community, my husband grew up in the community, my mother and father both grew up in the community.”
Santangelo is unconvinced. “None of it makes any sense to me," she said. "Usually you primary for the position you didn’t get ...."
In hoping to capture the Democratic nomination and run against your boss, Santangelo said, “that assumes the current mayor is not doing a good job. She was never vetted for the spot. How do you run against a person you obviously feel is doing a good job?”
Still, Santangelo said she thinks a primary will have a positive effect overall for Democrats.
“Someone said the last time there was a Democratic primary, the following fall, we had the largest turnout ever … and the winner won the primary by the biggest margin ever,” Santangelo said.