Josalee Thrift photo
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Neil O’Leary, and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman celebrate in Waterbury (Josalee Thrift photo)

Early Election results showed Democratic candidates making big gains in Tuesday’s election, knocking out Republican incumbents and in some instances winning open seats vacated by Republicans.

Democrat Dan Drew ousted long time Republican Mayor Sebastian Giuliano, former Waterbury Police Chief Neil O’Leary beat Democrat-turned-Republican Mayor Michael Jarjura in the Brass City, and Ben Blake was elected as the first Democratic mayor in Milford in 22 years. In each of those cities, Democrats took back control of their local boards and councils.

—More photos from Waterbury

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made the rounds Tuesday to congratulate the candidates, starting in Waterbury where Jarjura conceded in person to O’Leary. Malloy’s next stop was New Britain, where state Rep. Tim O’Brien beat both a Republican and an Independent candidate to win the seat vacated by Republican Timothy Stewart. Malloy then headed toMiddletown to congratulate Drew.

“I’m always proud to be a Democrat, and tonight is a good night for our Party,” Malloy said in a statement. “Tonight shows that the people of Connecticut trust Democrats to reinvent Connecticut by creating jobs and turning this economy around. It’s been a tough 10 days weathering this storm and its aftermath, but I want the people of Connecticut to know that we’re on the job, for them.”

Eric Hyers, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said tonight’s victories show that “voters are sick of politicians who put their own interests ahead of taxpayers.” He said that was especially evident in the Middletown race where Giuliano accepted a $1,000 donation from Gregory Butler, senior vice president and general counsel for Northeast Utilities. Hyers said the silence from Giuliano regarding the recent power outages was deafening.

Josalee Thrift photo
Rep. Anthony D’Amelio comforts Waterbury Mayor Michael J. Jarjura at Jarjura’s campaign headquarters (Josalee Thrift photo)

Giuliano’s campaign was run by former Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy.

Hyers said this year was the first time the Democratic Party really put forth an effort to win municipal elections. They made fliers, knocked on doors, made phone calls, and helped get out the vote, Hyers said.

“On the heels of a terrific 2010, 2011 has been a great year for Connecticut Democrats and we are thrilled that we could play a role in helping so many of these candidates win. From mail, to phone calls, to press releases and strategic advice, the Connecticut Democratic Party made it a priority to win municipal races all across the state and we were successful,” Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said.

Malloy also helped a lot of candidates by giving them his endorsement and tonight’s victory could be seen as a referendum on the governor’s first 10 months in office.

Republicans also were hoping the election would be a referendum on Malloy’s first 10 months in office and the biggest tax hike in Connecticut history, but the results weren’t what they had expected.

“As I visited polls across the state, I spoke to countless voters who are tired of being left in the dark,” Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola said in an emailed statement. “Regardless of party affiliation, people are receptive to our Republican ideals of lower taxes, smaller government, and less spending so that we can begin to restore the economic health of our great state and nation.”

“During the past year Connecticut voters have suffered from the largest tax increase in state history, job-killing legislation and the two worst storm responses our state has ever seen,” he said. “Tonight’s results have shown that the time to make a difference is now and it starts with these local elections.”

Republicans were able to hold onto some seats, but some races were closer than others, and Democrats even won in traditionally Republican towns like Southbury and Weston. In a few towns like Wallingford and Southington, Republicans maintained their majorities. Republican Mayor Mark Lauretti in Shelton easily won an 11th term and Derby Mayor Anthony Staffieri, also a Republican, held on by a slim 38 votes. In Seymour, Republican challenger Kurt Miller ousted Democratic First Selectman Paul Roy.

In Bristol, Democrat Mayor Art Ward won by about 2 percent of the vote in a three-way race. He said it was the most difficult race he’s ever had. Ward angered some residents when he voted for a raise for himself and failed to let the public know that the city had to pay about $2.6 million more than expected to local schools, which allowed him to pass a budget that was artificially low. He beat Republican Mary Alford.

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, a Republican,  easily won re-election to a sixth term, beating his Democratic opponent with 70 percent of the vote. In the final days of the campaign, Boughton mourned the loss of his father but also was vocally critical of CL&P’s response to the October snowstorm. Boughton used social media to vent his frustrations about the company.

Douglas Healey photo
Ben Blake hugs a supporter at his victory party in Milford (Douglas Healey photo)

In Milford, Blake is to become the city’s first Democratic mayor in 22 years with 56 percent of the vote. Democrats also took all the boards and council in that city as well, despite what Blake campaign field director Justin Rosen described as a relatively even split between registered Democrats (22 percent) and registered Republicans (20 percent) in town.

“The word ‘campaign’ is not just a noun, it is a verb as well,” Blake said at his victory party.

—More photos from Milford