Arunan Arulampalam won the Hartford Democratic mayoral primary Tuesday beating out two political veterans to take the party’s nomination.
Arulampalam, a political newcomer, bested out Sen. John Fonfara and Eric Coleman, a retired lawmaker and judge.
“When we started this campaign, many said it wasn’t possible,” Arulampalam said during a campaign party at Dunkin’ Park in Hartford. “That for a newcomer in this race, somebody who looks like me with my name, to win against two established politicians just wasn’t possible.”
Arulampalam is CEO of the Harford Landbank, a nonprofit organization that acquires vacant and abandoned properties, rehabilitates them and sells them. Prior to that role, he was a deputy commissioner for the Department of Consumer Protection.
The victory gives Arulampalam, who also won the party’s endorsement over the summer, a big advantage in the heavily Democratic city.
Ann Unccello was the last Republican mayor of Hartford, leaving office in 1971 to work for the U.S. Department of Transportation.
A Democrat has won every election since, with the majority of the victories going to the party’s endorsed candidate.
But Arulampalam will face a crowded field in November that still includes, at least for now, Coleman. Coleman filed a petition to get on the ballot, but has not said if he will continue to run.
Nick Lebron, another Democratic hopeful, also petitioned his way on the ballot even though he failed to qualify for Tuesday’s primary. Republican Mike McGarry and petitioning candidates J. Stan McCauley and Giselle Jacobs will also be on the ballot in November.
Gov. Ned Lamont was among those in attendance Tuesday to celebrate Arulampalam’s victory.
“I think he’s genuine,” Lamont said. “I think people know he cares deeply about the city and I think he’s a man of vision.”
While Arulampalam won the Democratic’s line on the ballot, some voters in the city’s North End said he still had to win them over.
Voters at Parker Memorial Community Center said they came out over concerns about safety and the school system.
“Making sure that our residents and children get equitable education and quality education,” Afrika Lyons said when asked about what she wants from a mayor.
Other voters said they feel the North End has been ignored. Steven Harris pointed to flooding and sewage issues and problems the next mayor needs to address.
“I’m not begrudging any other neighborhood for getting things, but our neighborhood deserves no less than what other neighborhoods get,” he said.
Many voters at the community Center Tuesday evening said they backed Coleman, and said Arulampalam needs to spend more time getting to know that part of the city.
“Really get out here and do the groundwork and really try to connect,” Lyons said.
Some voters said they weren’t even familiar with Arulampalam.
“These other two guys, I’ve never heard of them before and I just don’t see them in the city,” said Devon Hightower, referring to both Arulampalam and Fonfara.
Other Cities and Towns
In New Haven, incumbent Mayor Justin Elicker crushed challenger Liam Brennan by more than a 2‑to‑1 margin taking in 5,176 votes to Brennan’s 2,176 at the machines with all polling places reporting.
In Bridgeport, John Gomes, a former aide to incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim, seemed to be winning on the machines, but Ganim pulled out a victory by winning the absentee ballots.
In Middletown, Democratic Mayor Ben Florsheim fended off a challenge from Ed Ford Jr. and in Hamden Democratic Mayor Lauren Garrett prevailed against Walter Morton IV. And in West Haven Barry Lee Cohen bested Paige Weinstein in the Republican primary.
There were primaries in 25 cities and towns, including a Republican primary for mayor in Derby, where Republican Party Chair Dino DiGiovanni narrowly won the endorsement over Mayor Richard Dziekan. There will be an automatic recount in that primary because the results were within 20 votes.
DiGiovanni has federal charges pending for allegedly entering the U.S. Capital on Jan. 6 to disrupt Congress. DiGiovanni said while he entered the building on Jan. 6, he was let in by a Capitol police officer and simply walked through the building.
His next court appearance is scheduled for 1 p.m. Nov. 9, two days after the general election. It’s unclear if someone will try and disqualify him based on those charges.
Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas said her office is still reviewing the state’s elections laws around the 14th Amendment disqualification question.
Thomas’s office has yet to receive the complaint from New Haven Alderman Maceo Troy Streater and civil rights lawyer Alex Taubes who asked to disqualify Trump under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.
“We haven’t gotten it yet. Obviously our election division has been busy making sure today’s election gets off without a hitch,” Thomas said. “It’s obviously on our radar and we’ll be talking about it.”
Earlier in the day Tuesday, Thomas said there were few issues at the polls Tuesday and only infrequently poll workers had to use their backup tabulators.
Thomas is waiting on the state Bond Commission to release funding for new voting machines and is nervous the money won’t come soon enough for the 2024 presidential election.
The tabulators Connecticut uses to count the votes are obsolete, so parts to fix them are few and far between even in the secondary marketplace.
Thomas said they are secure since they aren’t connected to the internet, but would like to have a new system in place before the 2024 election.
“It’s just not the way you want to run a modern election in 2023,” Thomas said.
Christine Stuart contributed to this report.