Columbus Day ‘Meet and Greet’ Includes GOP Candidates Only UPDATED

Organizers Didn’t Negotiate the Date with Democrats

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Oct. 14 with additional information provided by the Lions Club.

A Monday “Easton Municipal Candidate Meet and Greet” that was initially advertised as being co-sponsored by the Lions Club and Exchange Club will not include Democratic candidates and will not have Lions Club sponsorship.

Promoted as as an opportunity for Easton voters to “come and mingle with the Democratic and Republican candidates running for office,” on Monday, Oct. 11 from 6:30 to 8:30 at the Easton Village Store, the date was suggested by Tom Herrmann, an Exchange Club and Lions Club member. Easton Democratic Town Committee officials let him know immediately that the date would not work for them.

Copy of the flier distributed by the Easton Town Republican Committee with the Lions Club included as a co-sponsor. The Lions Club had declined to sponsor the event. The ERTC later removed the Lions Club from its promotional materials for the event.

Herrmann also reached out to the Lions Club on Sept. 29 about joining the Exchange Club for the purpose of sponsoring a Meet and Greet event, involving both the Republican and Democratic candidates, according to Richard Weaver, Lions Club secretary. Lions Club officers informed Herrmann that the club did not wish to sponsor the event, and in no way wished to be associated with a political event of any kind.

According to Weaver, Herrmann sent an email on Oct. 3 to all Lion’s Club members, announcing that the club “…will be cohosting a candidate Meet & Greet with the Exchange Club on Oct. 11…” and encouraging all club members to attend.

“The Lions Club of Easton Connecticut is not a political organization and is extremely sensitive to any association with any political party,” Weaver said. 

Former ERTC member Dana Benson, who belongs to the Lions Club, weighed in on Hermann’s request on Oct. 4 and was likewise told that the Lions Club would not co-sponsor the Meet and Greet event with the Exchange Club, according to Weaver.

Benson said he didn’t promote or organize the event, or produce the fliers. He said he hadn’t discussed it until it became Liion’s Club business. He said he received Information about the event when it was distributed to him and others by the Easton Republican Town Committee via its distribution list.

“Subsequently, on Oct. 4, Benson conducted an informal poll of Lions Club members as to whether or not the club would participate in the Meet and Greet. A significant majority of members responded ‘no’,” Weaver said.

The Lions Club advised the Easton Republican Town Committee on Oct.  4 that it had not authorized the use of its name or logo in conjunction with the Meet and Greet event and demanded that the ERTC remove the Lions Club name and logo from the flier about the event on the ERTC website. ERTC Chair Wendy Bowditch did so without hesitation, Weaver said.

The Lions Club logo and sponsorship was removed from the poster and flier displayed inside the Easton Village Store. As of 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 9, however, the event was still being promoted as an opportunity to “meet and mingle with the Democratic and Republican candidates running for office.” The Easton Democratic Town Committee made it clear from the outset that their candidates would be unable to attend if the event was scheduled for October 11.

Bowditch confirmed the meet and greet is an Exchange Club event, not an official ERTC event, although it had been posted on the ERTC website. Hermann originally reached out to the EDTC in early September about participating in the Oct. 11 event, but the EDTC said that date was not acceptable. It’s Columbus Day, and a number of candidates would be out of town and unable to attend.

The Democrats indicated their willingness to work with the Republicans to choose another date for a meet and greet. However, Herrmann proceeded with the Oct. 11 date anyway. He produced and distributed fliers promoting it as an opportunity for Easton voters to “come and mingle with the Democratic and Republican candidates running for office” even after the Democrats had made it clear they could not attend.

Herrmann said he removed the Lions Club name after the club declined to sponsor it. He said he understands the Democrats said Oct. 11 wasn’t the best date for them, but he hopes some of the Democratic candidates will show up anyway. There aren’t many dates left before the election, he said.

“The event is proceeding,” Herrmann said. “The Democrats were invited. Maybe some of them will show up. Not all of the Republican candidates can be there either. It’s not a debate. It’s a chance to eat pizza and mingle. Let’s get together.”

Bowditch and EDTC member Maureen Williams have successfully negotiated three candidate debate dates prior to the Nov. 2 election and have agreed to the format. The dates, times and places are available for viewing here.

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