Political newcomer Arunan Arulampalam declared victory Tuesday night, winning with 69% of the vote, making the son of Sri Lankan immigrants the next mayor of Hartford.
“I am so proud of the campaign we’ve all built together,” Arulampalam said during a campaign celebration at Dunkin’ Park in Hartford, declaring victory shortly before 9 p.m.
Official results were not available Tuesday night, as none of Hartford’s precincts had reported vote totals to the Secretary of the State’s public reporting portal when Arulampalam made his announcement.
The win means Arulampalam will replace current Mayor Luke Bronin, who decided not to run for a third term in office.
Arulampalam had to defeat notable Democrats, including state Sen. John Fonfara and retired lawmaker and judge Eric Coleman, to secure to Democratic nomination this summer.
He then had to beat out a crowded field again Tuesday to become mayor. Republican Mike McGeary and petitioning candidates J. Stan McCauley, Giselle Jacobs and Nick Lebron were also on the ballot.
Coleman remained in the race as a write-in candidate.
During his victory speech, Arulampalam talked about his childhood in Zimbabwe after his parents fled Sri Lanka because of a civil war.
He came to the U.S. to attend college and eventually ended up in Hartford.
“It’s not my journey that inspires me the most, it is the journey of this city of Hartford,” he said. “A journey that involves birth and rebirth. A journey that involves hope that comes out of pain that leads, by the grace of god, to progress.”
The CEO of the Hartford Land Bank, Arulampalam ran on a platform of fixing Hartford’s housing problems. He promised to crackdown on slumlords and vowed to try and make blighted or vacant lots into livable units again.
He also said he wants to improve the city’s schools and address ongoing violence.
Supporters said they hope he brings the city in a new direction.
“Do the best for the city and the neighborhood,” said Alejandor Roman, who voted for Arulampalam.
Roman said thinks the city needs to stop violence and crackdown on drug activity, especially in the North End.
“That’s the main thing, because sometimes they stay until two o’clock in the morning making noise, people coming and going, and police don’t come there,” Roman said.
His wife, Anna, agreed. She said she wants to see Arulampalam have more of a presence in North End neighborhoods.
“They want you to vote, but this is the only time you see them,” she said.
Frankie Williams declined to say who she voted for, but said she wants to see the mayor’s office push for development in other neighborhoods besides Downtown, especially the North End.
“Do stuff in the community,” Williams said. “Revive Barbour Street, put a grocery store there – just take care of a lot of stuff on the North End side.”
Arulampalam vowed to win over all residents, even those who didn’t vote for him.
“I didn’t earn your vote, but over the next four years I’m going to work hard every single day to earn your support and earn your trust,” he said.
Prior to running the Hartford Land Bank, Arulampalam was a deputy commissioner in Gov. Ned Lamont’s Department of Consumer Protection.
Despite his lack of experience running for office, he secured support from Lamont, Bronin and several other prominent Democrats in Hartford and in state government.
By early Wednesday, absentee ballots had put incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim slightly ahead of challenger John Gomes in Bridgeport, according to CTInsider. Ganim declared victory and asked Gomes to withdraw his legal challenge. However, it remained unclear who would ultimately serve as the city’s next mayor.
In an unprecedented ruling last month, a Superior Court judge ordered a new Democratic primary between Ganim and Gomes due to “shocking” evidence of absentee ballot misconduct by supporters of Ganim during the city’s September primary.
That means Democrats in Bridgeport will head to the polls again in the coming weeks to choose a mayoral nominee and a second general election is likely to follow.
Voters in Bridgeport were confused Tuesday by the fact a judge ordered a new Democratic primary for mayor after the General Election.
“How can you have a primary after a General Election? Then if Ganim wins there’s a primary and if Gomes wins, he just wins?” Sarah Lewis, a member of the Democratic Town Committee, said outside JFK School.
Other voters who declined to give their names expressed similar concerns about their vote.
“I hope it counts and that everything gets fixed and we don’t have to do this again,” a female voter at JFK campus, who declined to give her name, said.
Another voter said he didn’t know what would be valid or not but he wanted to make sure his vote counted.
Before the polls closed Gomes remained optimistic that he would again beat Ganim on the machines. There were about 1,500 absentee ballots returned, according to the Secretary of the State’s office, before mid-day. It was the absentee ballots and how they were delivered that were called into question during the primary.
Gomes said voters saw how “disrespectful” the Ganim administration was to voters and they want a change.
Ganim said he loves the city and the residents and is willing to stand for re-election on his record. He said voters will get to decide what happens and whether they want to keep the momentum going.
“We’ve got a path to revitalization that is benefiting the people, and a great vision for this city and I want to continue,” Ganim said. “We’ll get past what this stuff is as we have with other stuff in the past and we’ll move on.”
If the vote doesn’t go his way, Ganim admitted that the voters are obviously saying “they want change.”
Gomes said the judge bravely put an end to voter suppression by ordering another primary. He said the only reason the “corruption” of the Ganim administration was uncovered was due to the video.
In the Elm City, Mayor Justin Elicker easily won with 79% of the vote.
The turnout in absolute votes cast was lower than the last contested mayoral election in November 2021, when a total of 12,980 votes were cast in the mayoral election. That was a 23 percent turnout. In that race, Elicker collected 10,767 votes, or 83 percent of the total, to win re-election against Republican John Carlson, who received 1,727 votes; and Independent Mayce Torres, who collected 166.
Elicker has focused his campaign this year on highlighting accomplishments like a surge in city funding from Yale and the state, the creation of the COMPASS crisis response team for mental health and homelessness-related 911 calls, the passage of an inclusionary zoning ordinance mandating affordable housing percentages in new developments, and ramping up landlord code violation fines and tenants union support. Click here to read more about the mayoral race.
Democratic challenger Roberto Alves unseated Republican incumbent Mayor Dean Esposito in Danbury, according to the state Democratic Party, which declared the city a “major pickup” in a social media message posted just before 9 p.m.
Last month, the state Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling, which removed Esposito and other candidates from the city’s Independent Party ballot line as a result of a lawsuit brought by Alves in a case involving competing candidate slates.
During a press conference just after polls closed, Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas told reporters that a polling place in Danbury lost power at some point on Election Day.
“Apparently it did not disrupt the voting,” Thomas said. “As most people are aware, the tabulators have a battery backup that is good for some time so everything proceeded as normal.”
In Derby, Democrats took back the mayor’s spot after a contentious battle between the two Republicans.
Joseph DiMartino defeated Mayor Richard Dziekan, who was running as a petitioning candidate after losing the primary, and his Republican challenger Gino DiGiovanni, who is facing federal charges related to allegations he illegally entered the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Reporters Mike Savino, Christine Stuart, and Hugh McQuaid contributed to this report.