Sherman, Conn. (Citizen News) – It seems like just yesterday Sherman, Connecticut residents were voting at the polls in the 2015 local election. First Selectman Clay Cope won his third consecutive term in office. Just as he was getting settled in the New Year, Mr. Cope announced that he is officially running for Congress. This is incredibly big news for small town Sherman! Regardless of whether or not Sherman residents and those in neighboring towns follow local, state, and national politics, many will surely pay closer attention now. If Mr. Cope wins this Congressional election, then he will be the very first representative from Sherman to serve in the United States House of Representatives. Sherman now has a front row seat to witness and be part of all the excitement and energy that Mr. Cope’s run for Congress is going to bring to our community.
Meanwhile, Mr. Cope shared in an interview with Citizen News the whirlwind of events of when it all began, the process, what’s going on now as he ramps up his campaign to win a Congressional seat, and what this means for the Town of Sherman.
We began our conversation by asking Mr. Cope, “When were you first approached and why did you decide to run, especially after just winning another re-election as First Selectman?” He replied, “I was first approached by a Republican leader in October. I was surprised because I was focused on Sherman for the last four years of my life. Really, it was more like 20 years. As long as I have lived here, and in some capacity, I am involved with Sherman through the church, the library, Planning & Zoning, the Matthew 25 Project, and as First Selectman. But, I agreed to run because I see it as an opportunity to serve the 5th District. My interest and involvement with the 18-town Western Connecticut Council of Governments honed my interest in this Connecticut District to serve a broader constituency.”
As for how the entire process works, Mr. Cope stated, “first, you announce and start campaigning at the local level and reach out to the Chairmen of all the Republican Town Committees in the 5th District, which I have done. The next step is to secure their endorsements. Then, you get formally nominated at the State Republican Convention in May. If there is a primary, we would have a race for the nomination. After that, it’s campaign mode up until Election Day on November 8.” In the meantime, Mr. Cope is lining up supporters, getting donations, and working on his website and social media channels.
As for why Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District is receiving much press coverage, especially across the State, the main reason is quite simple and strategic. In the political world, the 5th District, which is historically a Republican district until fairly recently, is the best opportunity for the Republicans to win a seat in Congress. Right now, all seven Connecticut seats in Congress are occupied by Democrats. What makes this election even more interesting, the 5th District encompasses 41 towns and cities across northwest and central Connecticut, and this diverse region includes a high percentage of independent / unaffiliated voters that are up for grabs.
Aside from Mr. Cope being up against Democratic Incumbent Elizabeth Esty, who is serving a second term as the 5th District’s U.S. Representative, there are two declared Republican contenders, John Pistone and Matt Maxwell, vying for the same nomination at the State Republican Convention on May 9th. Another Republican exploring a run is Joseph Stango.
When asked about Mr. Cope’s contenders and why he thinks he will get the Republican nomination, he stated “out of all the Republican candidates, I am the only candidate who has ever held an elected position and I have that experience.” He elaborated, “There are three things that distinguish me from other potential candidates. #1, I am an experienced municipal leader and I know how to make government work. #2, I’m non-partisan and I can work with members across the aisle. Finally, #3, as a candidate, I am an experienced fundraiser.”
Mr. Cope added, “I think that I will appeal to the independent voters because they will trust me to not show partisanship. I will represent everyone in my district when I am elected. I will always act in their best interest.”
As for what the next steps are on the Campaign Trail, Mr. Cope said today, January 27th, is a big, defining moment in his campaign because it is the official date of his campaign launch. “Those invited are many of the biggest supporters. The launch is in Danbury at City Hall because it is the epicenter of the District. Joining will be surrounding mayors, first selectmen, and elected officials” he said. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, First Selectwoman of New Fairfield, Susan Chapman, State Senator Michael McLachlan, former Congressional candidate Mark Greenberg (who has also contributed), and many others are expected to attend.
“So, what does this all mean for Sherman and are you going to keep your First Selectman position while you campaign or will you step down?” Mr. Cope replied, “I will continue to serve the town at full capacity. I love my town and I love my job.”
As for how he makes the time for being First Selectman and for campaigning, Mr. Cope said it’s all about time management. With a thoughtful pause he then said “truthfully, being a First Selectman is a 24 / 7 job but I can certainly manage to do both.”
For now, Mr. Cope said he is doing what he always does as First Selectman of Sherman. “We’re in the beginning of the budget process and I am working on the operating expenses for the Town’s departments and buildings. In particular, looking with our superintendent of the DPW [Department of Public Works] to prioritize paving projects for the next fiscal year.”
In his personal time, Mr. Cope said he is continuing to raise money for his Congressional campaign and lining up supporters.
If Mr. Cope wins the 5th Congressional District seat, likely the RTC will select a candidate to fill the open First Selectman position. Then, Selectman Bob Ostrosky will present this person to Selectman Don Lowe. If they agree on the replacement, then it’s a done deal. An election will only occur if an agreement could not be reached.
We asked Mr. Cope, “As Sherman’s First Selectman, what are a few of your accomplishments that you are the proudest of?” Mr. Cope said that he brought in over $700,000 in grant money to provide for road improvements, school security, senior transport vehicles, and public works projects. Also, throughout his Administration, Mr. Cope said he takes pride in “running a very lean but effective budget without compromising services.”
To say the least, this is going to be an interesting election to watch. Sherman’s own First Selectman, Clay Cope, may very well win the race. If he does, then Mr. Cope will be a Representative for Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District in Washington, D.C., 115th United States Congress. And to think, his political career began right here in Sherman!
Written by Alicia Sakal for the Citizen News January 27 Edition, a weekly newspaper serving Sherman and New Fairfield, Connecticut. Contributed photo.