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Westport Democrats Support Helen Garten For First Selectman

WESTPORT, Conn. — Westport Democrat and Board of Finance Vice Chairwoman Helen Garten was endorsed by a search committee of Westport’s Democratic Town Committee to run as the party’s candidate for first selectman in this November’s municipal election.

Garten, who has served on the finance board for the past eight years, was one of three Democrats who sought endorsement for the position, DTC Chairman Jim Ezzes said. The other two candidates were state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg and former Board of Finance member Ken Wirfel. Current First Selectman and Democrat Gordon Joseloff is not seeking re-election.

“I think Helen brings an extraordinary amount experience and insight to the race,” Ezzes said Wednesday. “She understands the structures of town government better than probably most people town, and understands the need to satisfy all constituents in the community.”

Garten’s recommendation was announced at Tuesday night’s DTC meeting. However, she won’t become the party’s official candidate until the entire DTC votes July 18, Ezzes said.

No recommendations for a second selectman candidate were made at Tuesday’s meeting, Ezzes said, as the search committee is still interviewing interested candidates. A recommendation will be made soon, he said.

Garten, a law professor at Rutgers University, was first elected to the Board of Finance in 2005 and is a past board chairwoman. Before her election to the board, she served on the Representative Town Meeting, the town’s legislative body.

“Considering her background in finance, she’s going to be the person we will look to as we move forward in dealing with pension reform and other financial issues, which will be thrust of the town for next number of years,” Ezzes said.

If she is officially nominated as the Democratic first selectman candidate, Garten would likely face Republican and former acting Board of Education Chairman Jim Marpe in November’s election. Last month, a nominating committee of Westport’s Republican Town Committee recommended Marpe run for first selectman and current Board of Finance Chairman Avi Kaner for second selectman.

"Congratulations to Helen Garten on her endorsement," Marpe said in a statement Wednesday. "Avi Kaner and I look forward to continuing to present our unique qualifications for the selectman office, discussing our vision and ideas for Westport, and continuing to lead our town forward if elected."

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