New Haven elected its first female mayor in the city’s 375-year history. Stamford voters chose a Democrat backed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy over former Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele. And a young staffer from the Republican caucus at the State Capitol defeated a first-term Democrat incumbent mayor in New Britain.
Those were just a few of the results Tuesday night as Connecticut voters chose their municipal leaders at ballot boxes throughout 165 of the state’s 169 towns.
In Ansonia, Republican challenger David Cassetti unseated seven-term Ansonia Mayor James Della Volpe in a stunning upset. In Derby, Democratic challenger Anita Dugatto declared victory over incumbent Republican Mayor Anthony Staffieri to become the first female mayor of that town. And in Norwich, Democrat Deb Hinchey defeated Republican Peter Nystrom — who on Monday saved a cat shot by an arrow — to become the town’s first female mayor.
In Bridgeport, the balance of power on the Board of Education tipped toward the Working Families Party and out of the hands of the Democratic machine led by Mayor Bill Finch, who was not up for election this year.
Malloy spent part of his night in New Haven with state Sen. Toni Harp celebrating her mayoral victory. Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. was in Hartford at GOP headquarters late Tuesday, but earlier in the day he was in New Britain with 26-year-old Erin Stewart, who defeated Democratic Mayor Tim O’Brien.
“Tonight in New Britain a star was born,” Labriola said. “It was a well-earned victory by a hardworking candidate who will put New Britain back on track.”
While no one had any official results, Labriola, whose party held the top elected offices in 97 communities going into Tuesday’s election, said he’s confident of a “net gain.” He pointed to some of the Republican victories in what are considered Democratic strongholds like New Britain, Bristol, Ansonia, Meriden, and Bridgeport.
He also admitted that they had a few tough losses in Stamford and Norwalk, both of which were open seats. In Norwalk, Democrat Harry Rilling outpolled Republican Richard Moccia.
Labriola hoped that the victories he counted Tuesday would be a “harbinger” for next year’s gubernatorial election. In 2011, Republicans were successful in taking control of 14 towns previously run by Democrats, but that didn’t translate into large gains in the General Assembly in 2012. Democrats hold a 98 to 53 majority over Republicans in the House and a 22-14 majority over Republicans in the Senate. Democrats also control all six constitutional offices, including the governor’s office, and all seven U.S. House and Senate seats.
Democratic Party Executive Director Jonathan Harris challenged Labriola’s interpretation of Tuesday night’s unofficial results and what they mean for the party going into 2014.
“Connecticut Democrats had big wins and upsets in large cities, mid-sized towns and small communities, which has sent the CT GOP into spin mode after Chairman Labriola’s ‘referendum’ claims were debunked by the voters tonight,” Harris said. “This is just one more example of empty rhetoric from the Republicans, while the proof is in the pudding for Democrats, who are winning municipalities like Derby, New Haven, Norwalk, Norwich, and Stamford.”
Republicans also held onto seats in big cities like Danbury where Mayor Mark Boughton, who is considering a run for governor, won his seventh term by a large margin.
Meanwhile, Malloy was savoring the Democratic victories in his hometown of Stamford, as well as in Derby, Norwich, and New Haven. In the Elm City, there were no Republicans on the ballot.
“I would like to congratulate Mayor-Elect David Martin on his win in Stamford and Mayor-Elect Anita Dugatto on her win in Derby,” Malloy said in a statement. “Both ran tough races, and in Derby knocked out a seasoned incumbent.”
Earlier in the day, Malloy said whatever happened Tuesday night it would not be a referendum on him and his policies since he’s not on the ballot.
“Elections are referendums on the people who are on the ballot,” Malloy said. “And I’m not on the ballot.”
With no official results in hand, Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said she believed the night was good for Democrats. Citing the “major upsets in Derby, Norwalk and Stamford,” DiNardo claimed her party, under the leadership of Malloy, is “moving Connecticut in the right direction.”
Going into Tuesday’s election, Democrats held the top elected offices in about 70 communities.
As expected, voter turnout was low across the state.
In Hartford at around 2 p.m., registrars had registered 16 new voters under the Election Day Registration system, but turnout was 2.29 percent. By 5 p.m. the voter turnout percentage to increased to 3.85 percent.
Urania Petit, Hartford’s Working Families registrar of voters, acknowledged there were no high-profile contested races in the capital city, but nevertheless said she was disappointed more people weren’t coming out to vote.
Petit said poll workers had not encountered any issues signing up new voters under the EDR system. In Hartford, a new voter signup station had been set up inside one of the entrances to the public library.
“There wasn’t any problems but for us it was new,” she said. “. . . It’s a good thing, but I would prefer it if [voters were able to sign up] at the polls.”
In 2009, the last time the Hartford ballot only included school board candidates, turnout was around 7.55 percent.
This was the first year voters could register to vote on Election Day in Connecticut. According to unofficial numbers from the Secretary of the State’s office, there were more than 1,600 voters who signed up to vote Tuesday. The largest share of those were in New Haven, which had registered 125 voters as of 5 p.m.
Official results for each town will be posted here in the next few days.
Hugh McQuaid contributed to this report.