On an unusually warm November evening, the three candidates for the first selectman's position stood outside Town Hall and waved to voters as they drove in to cast their ballots for the municipal election.
With turnout seemingly little affected by the week-long winter storm ordeal of last week, nearly 2,000 voters showed up to pick their leaders for the next two or four years.
The East Windsor race for first selectman offered some unusual twists this year, as Judith Rajala, an unaffiliated candidate petitioned to be on the ballot, and the Republican candidate also petitioned to appear on the ballot because he failed to gain the endorsement of the Republican Town Committee. Rajala spent 10 years on the board of education as a Democrat.
Democratic incumbent Denise E. Menard, running for her second term as the town's first selectman was the only candidate with the backing of her town committee.
The incumbent prevailed in the race by a healthy margin over her two challengers. Menard gathered 758 votes compared to 606 for Slate and 598 for Rajala in the unofficial tally.
Menard touted her record in her first four years and vowed to continue the improvements begun in her tenure. She is excited to work with the new board of selectman.
She claims she has worked hard to foster a business friendly environment in East Windsor, and was proud the municipality's bond rating improved to AA2 under her watch. She cited the need to continue the intelligent growth on the Route 140 corridor, and continue to provide a high quality education to children.
Of the race, Menard said, “for a small town, this was a tough campaign. The Republicans and Democrats ran a clean and straightforward campaign. The person that lost was not always as straightforward and I guess the voters knew it. Both parties worked very hard.”
Rajala cited a lack of communication between town commissions and boards as a primary weakness in Town government. She ran as a petitioning candidate because she claimed partisan politics had no place in town government. She also said she chose not to force a primary with Menard because such a primary would cost the town money.
The candidate's father-in-law Jack Rajala served as first selectman for East Windsor in the 1990s.
Republican candidate Robert Slate, a former Hamilton Sundstrand employee, has not held public office before. He attempted to gain the endorsement of the East Windsor Republican Town Committee, but that body chose instead not to put forward a candidate.
“When they knocked me down at the caucus, I said, 'You know I don’t lay down and die,’” Slate said.
Slate ran on a platform of reducing the tax burden for residents, and encouraging more business development in town.
Both Rajala and Slate financed their own campaigns.
East Windsor Republican Town committee Chairwoman Lois Noble was pleased with the overall results of the election. She claimed it was a Republican year, as most of the under-ticket went the way of the GOP.
“I am pleased with the entire elected board of selectman," Noble said. ":Those are people that will work together. Democrats and Republicans will work together well.”
Speaking of the first selectman's race, Noble was also pleased with the result of that contest. She praised the petitioning Republican, calling him a nice man, but also lauded Menard's victory.
“A lot of towns are going through difficult times out there, and it is good to have an incumbent at the top, whether Democrat or Republican. The people of East Windsor made the right choice,” said Noble.