NEW MILFORD — While his former political party was caucusing in a barroom last month, Joe DeGregorio was canvassing alone in the rain.
DeGregorio, who is running as an unaffiliated candidate for Town Council, hoped to get enough signatures to have his name placed on the November ballot. He apparently succeeded.
A Green Party member and former Democrat, DeGregorio turned in more than 100 signatures from registered voters. Since he needed only 65, he’s confident his candidacy will be approved this week by the Secretary of the State’s Office.
DeGregorio chose to run unaffiliated rather than as a Green Party member to reduce the amount of paperwork he would need to fill out.
“My biggest concern is just getting someone on the ballot who isn’t a Republican or Democrat,” he said. “I think there are a lot of people who want another choice.
“It’s time for a third seat at the table,” DeGregorio said. “It has been like 14 years of two-party flip-flop.”
An unaffiliated candidate campaigning for elected town office isn’t unheard of in New Milford, said Town Clerk Noreen Prichard, but it’s uncommon.
And this year, DeGregorio isn’t the only minor-party or unaffiliated candidate coming forward.
Mike Sennello plans to run for Town Council as a Libertarian, and another candidate has submitted paperwork to run for a seat on the Planning Commission, though he has not declared a party, Prichard said.
Without party backing or party money, DeGregorio, now a member of the board of finance, said he plans a word-of-mouth campaign, telling voters about his desire for more transparency in local government and fewer party-line votes.
All campaign funds will come from his own pocket, he said, and he’s not keen on printing signs or campaign literature.
“I am a member of the Green Party,” he said. “So I don’t want a bunch of plastic signs out there, and high-gloss candidate cards don’t biodegrade too easy.”
Sennello, in a Facebook post, said his platform is simply “exceptional value judgment: knowing how to best decide whether an idea, endeavor, or thing is good or bad.”
Republican Town Committee Chairman Mike Barnes said he welcomes the competition.
“This will bring a diversity of opinions,” Barnes said. “It presents a healthy dialogue and it will help us refine our message.”
Barnes said candidates from outside the two major parties haven’t historically hurt Republicans or Democrats, and rarely win seats on elected boards.
Peter Mullen, Democratic Town Committee chairman, agrees.
“I can only count a handful that have run without a party,” Mullen said. “Over the last 25 years, no one from outside Republicans or Democrats has won a seat on the Town Council.”
“It’s so hard to get the votes if you don’t have any affiliation,” he said.