Incumbency, Party Endorsements Drive Municipal Primaries Across Connecticut… Well, Mostly

Credit: Robin Breeding


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Hartford likely found its replacement for departing Mayor Luke Bronin in 37-year-old Hartford Land Bank CEO Arunan Arulampalam – who came out ahead in a three-way Democratic primary on Tuesday, and results in a heated Bridgeport mayoral primary have already led to accusations of absentee ballot fraud.

But across most of the 26 party primaries in 25 cities and towns in Connecticut, the votes could be fairly characterized as relatively small numbers of party stalwarts re-affirming the endorsements of their town parties for the November elections.

In Bridgeport, incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim led a sweep of DTC-endorsed candidates for city-wide races, winning the Democratic primary against challenger John Gomes by a slim margin – carrying about 54 percent of the 8,047 votes cast on Tuesday – 549 more than Gomes, according to unofficial results.

Until the late hours of Tuesday night Gomes, a former chief administrative officer for Ganim, had been leading the polls with 57 percent of the vote, according to a Fox 61 report.

But after a count of absentee ballots, Ganim declared victory while Gomes reportedly alleged foul play to a crowd of voters. 

Gomes has since claimed that the election was “stolen” – a claim that comes three months after the State Election Enforcement Commission referred an investigation to the chief state’s attorney into alleged misuse of absentee ballots by three Ganim campaign staffers in the 2019 Democratic primary.

Asked for comment on his win and Gomes’s claims that the election was “stolen,” a Ganim campaign staffer emailed CT Examiner a written statement thanking voters, but did not respond to Gomes’s claim. Gomes and his campaign also did not respond to Wednesday requests for comment.

In New Haven, incumbent Mayor Justin Elicker – who had the endorsement of the New Haven Democratic Town Committee – defeated challenger Liam Brennan 5,504 votes to 2,278. All five DTC-endorsed for the city’s Board of Alders led their districts in unofficial results. Shafiq Abdussabur, seen by many as Elicker’s strongest challenger, was dropped from the ballot prior to the primary after failing to secure a sufficient number of valid signatures as a petitioning candidate.

The general pattern held across much of the state. In Brookfield, Republican party-endorsed candidates swept 13 primary challenges, including First Selectwoman Tara Carr’s 512-354 victory over challenger Matt Grimes. 

Democratic party-endorsed candidates swept primaries for six Town Council seats in Bloomfield, seven City Council seats in New London, and eight Legislative Council seats and Mayor in Hamden.

And endorsed candidates from both parties also won primaries in Bethel, Durham, Griswold, Killingworth, North Canaan, Putnam, Stratford and Derby – where party-endorsed Alderman Gino DiGiovanni defeated Mayor Rich Dziekan 202 to 192 in the Republican primary for mayor. DiGiovanni is facing four federal misdemeanor charges for entering the Capitol in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021.

That race is heading to a recount given the close margin, along with Killingworth RTC-endorsed First Selectman candidate Amy Roberts-Perry’s five-vote victory over challenger John Samperi, and Enfield Town Council challenger Kari Monteforte’s 15-vote victory over incumbent Town Councilor Nicholas Hopkins.

In Middletown, incumbent Mayor Ben Florsheim held the party endorsement and defeated challenger Ed Ford Jr. 2,218 to 482. Florsheim said in a statement that he was “gratified and humbled” by the show of support and by conversations he’d had with people who were “excited about the direction we’re moving in and want to continue forward.” 

Ford thanked his supporters but took aim at what he called the “low Democratic turnout” at the polls. According to numbers from the Registrar of Voters, about 23 percent of Middletown’s approximately 11,612 registered Democrats came out to vote.

“I will continue to work towards advocating for the most vulnerable in our city, uplifting our youth, supporting mental health services, fighting for equity, taxpayers and more,” he said. “I also would hope to see more involvement from our community in the democratic process.”

Statewide, voter turnout was just below 23 percent – ranging from 12.4 percent in Waterbury to 58.4 percent in North Canaan.

Thompson bucked both trends, as 36 percent of registered Republicans turned out to vote against Republican Town Committee-endorsed candidates for nine seats. For the top seat, two-term incumbent First Selectman Amy St. Onge defeated RTC Chair Bill Warner by a vote of 333-290.

While none bucked their town party as thoroughly as Thompson, incumbents in Norwalk, Waterbury, Branford and Bloomfield all secured places on the November ballot, despite not having the endorsement of their town committees.

In Thompson, the dramatic results came out of a division in the RTC.

St. Onge told CT Examiner on Wednesday that Warner took control of the committee in 2021, and that the committee is split between 14 people that tend to side with him, and an opposing group of six, including herself.

The caucus traditionally used in Thompson to select the local Republican candidates was canceled, leaving the committee to vote on a slate, and local party officials voted 14-3 in July to approve the slate that included Warner as the candidate for first selectman, and voted down motions to replace him with St. Onge, according to WINY Radio.

After the vote, St. Onge and incumbent Selectman Susanne Witkowski, along with seven other candidates, decided to challenge the RTC slate in a primary.

“I didn’t think that was acceptable,” St. Onge said. “Canceling the caucus took away the voices and the votes of all the Republicans in Thompson. So yesterday’s primary was really a statement that it’s not okay to take people’s right to vote away.”

Editor’s note: The voter numbers for the Middletown primaries were corrected in this story.