DANBURY — Republican Dean Esposito is running for Mayor, a seat left open for the first time in decades with the retirement of Mark Boughton, after he served ten consecutive terms. In 2019, Boughton won re-election with 8,598 votes to his Democratic opponent’s 7,372.
Esposito serves as chief of staff to the Mayor of Danbury, and previously served five terms as a Danbury City Councilman. He will face off against Democrat Roberto Alves, a technical sales engineer and Danbury City Councilman.
The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Esposito about the last few days of his campaign, and what he’s learned from knocking on doors around Danbury.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
How are you spending your final days of the campaign?
It’s been a lot of old-school campaigning, knocking on doors after work and standing at entrances to highways waving with signs. We’ve been getting a really good response, with cars beeping and people giving me a thumbs up. I love it, it’s been very motivating. For the most part throughout the campaign going door to door, I’ve gotten a really nice and welcoming response from people. We’ve hit more than 14,000 doors so far, and it’s all been really positive.
How do you decide which houses to stop by? Do you target specific voters based on political affiliation?
We have a list that indicates everyone on the street by their address, and says whether they are a Democrat, a Republican, or unaffiliated. But for me, as a lifelong Danburian, I go to every door. My wife is by my side at every door, and she won’t let me skip any. Sometimes I’m setting myself up, but people have been really nice, even if they have had concerns. They’ll say, are you a Democrat or a Republican, and I’ll say that I’m a proud Republican, and they’ll close the door and say never mind, thanks anyway!
What issue have you been hearing about most from voters when going door to door?
The number one issue in a lot of the surrounding outskirts of town is taxes, and in the inner city of Danbury, it’s more about education. We have a high density of young children in the inner city of Danbury, and our city is growing every day, so our schools are starting to get full. We’re facing a big growth spurt, so I’ve been working for a charter school, and we’re approved for one by state legislation, but our own local people put a stop to it for now. I’m still going to try to push it through, because it’s a potentially very positive solution for us.
I love being out and learning from people about exactly what their concerns are. One of my jobs before being chief of staff was in the mayor’s office in community service talking with constituents. When a call came in with a problem, I’d have to come up with a solution.
When going door to door, I had a situation where a few folks shared some concerns about road conditions, and told me that on one of the roads, the repairs were not paved properly. Because I’m still currently chief of staff to the mayor, I was able to call down to the superintendent of public works and they went over and solved the problem.
Are there any specific conversations with voters that have really stood out to you?
Last week, up in the northern section of Danbury, I went up to a good sized home and knocked on the door. An older Portuguese gentleman really started giving it to me in a broken accent, saying, oh, you politicians are all the same, you don’t do anything, you just run and then we don’t see you anymore. I asked him what his real concern was, and he said taxes. I said, sir, we haven’t raised taxes here in three years. You have a big, beautiful home, do you understand that your taxes could be going up quite a bit like other cities?
He was giving me a little bit of a hard time, but I kept talking with him, sharing that my goals are simple, to keep taxes low and services high, and keep moving the city forward. By time I was done, and this is God’s honest truth, the gentleman asked me to come inside for wine and cheese. I said, oh, I’d love that, but I still have five more streets to go to! It was really a positive visit, and it ended with him saying he was going to vote for me because I’m a nice guy.
What’s the plan for election day?
On Tuesday morning my wife and I will go down and vote as early as possible and then continue to move around the city to each and every polling place and greet people as they go in. It’s old school politics, people really like to see your face. It’s going to be a long day, but I’ve got to tell you, I’m feeling very confident. I get a lot of positive feedback when I’m out, and people just understand that I have 30 years of experience representing the people of Danbury as a public servant, and my opponent has two years. It’s about experience. My office is right next to the mayor’s office, I’ll just need to move my pictures and books.