Norwalk's Democratic legislators -- state Sen. Bob Duff, state Rep. Chris Perone and state Rep. Bruce Morris -- stood with Harry Rilling in body and spirit in front of City Hall Tuesday and endorsed him as the candidate to vote for in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, Sept. 10, and the best person to unseat Republican mayor Richard Moccia.
"Norwalk has four Democratic candidates for mayor," Duff said. "They all bring their unique perspective to the race and have elevated the conversation about what our city needs.
"I thank all of them for their hard work and efforts. However, it is now time to unite behind a candidate. One who has the best vision for Norwalk, one who has the grassroots support in our community and one who can lead us toward a better tomorrow. Isn't that what we all want?"
Rilling, who served as Norwalk's police chief for 17 years, is competing with District D Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra, Common Councilman Matt Miklave and former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel for the nomination.
Perone called Rilling a "true public servant in every definition of the word," referring to his 41 years as a police officer and his service in the Navy during the Vietnam War.
He said it is an important choice.
"So far in this campaign we've had very good candidates, but heading into this election we need to have a united voice, a shared vision," he said.
Morris said that Rilling led with grace as police chief, reaching out to people across socio-economic lines and ages.
"It doesn't matter what the party affiliation was," he said. "He showed us `I can lead with what is good for all of the residents.' "
Morris ran through a list of adjectives he said describe Rilling, including "honest," "ethical," "trustworthy," "inclusive" and "civil."
"Harry is a collaborator, he's a team builder, he is not an egotist," Morris said. "Something you typically find around politics -- a lot of people with big egos. My experience with Harry is he's always about team building, finding out about how many people we can bring to the table."
Rilling said he was proud and grateful to accept their endorsement.
"There is a need for change," he said. "When the three gentlemen behind me came out and endorsed me, I knew we were on the right track. I knew that our message was getting out. I knew that the people were receiving our message. They were saying this is the message we want. This is what we need for Norwalk."
The three legislators declined to come out and ask the other three candidates to drop out.
"I think that's really up to them," Perone said after the staged portion of the press conference. "We're supporting Harry not only because of his record of public service, but what we think his goals are."
With the primary a week away, the trio thought, "One strong statement of support made the point pretty clear," Perone said.
Duff said they are focused on Rilling.
"We believe he's the strongest candidate," Duff said. "Somebody that can unite the city. He can win."
Rilling said he hoped Norwalkers would take to heart the endorsement from "the people who are working on their behalf, day in day out, to try to get the things that Norwalk needs to make Norwalk better.
"When they say that my candidacy is the one that most fits the needs of Norwalk, I believe that it will have an impact," Rilling said. "I believe people will sit up and take notice."