STAMFORD — With absentee ballots still being counted, it appears that the Stamford Charter Revision will be voted down.
STONINGTON — In a competitive and unpredictable four-way race for first selectman, incumbent Danielle Chesebrough won a third term Tuesday running as an Unaffiliated candidate endorsed by the Forward Party.
As the top vote-getter, Chesebrough earned 2,479 votes, running against Democrat Laura Graham who earned 1,772 votes, Republican Bryan Bentz who earned 1,249 votes and Unaffiliated candidate Michael Spellman who earned 500 votes.
Winning the two selectmen’s seats were the next two highest vote getters: Graham’s running mate, Democrat Ben Tamsky, a former chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, with 2,066 votes; and Bentz’s running mate, Republican two-term incumbent Selectman Deborah Motycka Downie with 1,890 votes.
In Stonington, once the top contender for first selectman is named, all candidates for first selectman and their running mates compete for the two selectmen seats – which, in this election, was a seven-way race.
Incumbent Selectman June Strunk, who served two terms with Chesebrough and Downie, earned 1,433 votes, which put her in fifth place behind Graham who came in fourth. Strunk, a Democrat, ran as a petitioning candidate on the Forward Party ticket with Chesebrough after announcing in August she would not primary with the Democrats due to “slanderous comments.”
Spellman’s running mate, Frank Todisco, who garnered 466 votes, also did not earn a seat on the board.
After the vote counts were in, Chesebrough addressed the small crowd that packed the basement of Town Hall Tuesday night.
“It’s humbling. It’s an honor and privilege to represent the amazing people in the town of Stonington. And we’re going to try and do our best to not let anybody down and represent everyone. Now’s the time for coming together and moving forward together,” she said.
Chesebrough said she was excited to put together a new team with Downie and Tamsky.
“I think we have different perspectives and it’ll be healthy to balance that out and to be able to represent the whole community,” she said.
Chesebrough thanked Strunk for her years of volunteering for the town. Strunk served on the Board of Finance with two years as chair, the K-12 Building Committee, the Stonington Retirement board, the Planning and Zoning Commission and was a board president of the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center.
“June Strunk has done an amazing job over 30 years of service to the community and we thank her for everything she’s done,” Chesebrough said.
Downie said it had been a productive two terms while serving with Strunk and Chesebrough, and she looked forward to working with Tamsky.
“It’s been good the past four years, having three different perspectives has been wonderful. And so now we have three different perspectives again,” she said. “I’m just happy for the opportunity to continue to support the town, to finish up the projects that have started and to continue to work with Danielle. It’ll be interesting to work with Ben and I’m looking forward to it.”
Tamsky thanked Strunk for her service and said he looked forward to serving on the board.
“It’s my first election and I’m amazed at the energy expended in getting to this point, and I’m exhausted — I’m sure everybody is. And I look forward to working with these women. As Danielle put it, we’re gonna work for the best of the town,” he said.
When asked how he will apply his zoning experience in his role as selectman, Tamsky said he planned to look at the update of the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development and also phase two of the zoning regulations rewrite.
DANBURY – The Danbury mayor’s race was bitter to the end.
Democrat Roberto Alves defeated Republican Mayor Dean Esposito by 463 votes, beating the one-term mayor 7,531 to 7,068 Tuesday evening. The Democrats also took control of the council in the city, winning the council – at presstime – either 16-5 or 17-4. The Republicans had held a 14-7 majority.
There are about 6,000 more registered Democrats than registered Republicans in the city according to local officials.
There was no love lost between the two candidates as they spent the last few months taking shots at each other. Esposito recently told CT Examiner that his opponent favored defunding the police because he was endorsed by the Connecticut Working Families Party. Some in the national party have called for defunding the police; with Alves calling the claim aimed at him absurd.
And, Alves – who lost by about 200 votes in 2021 to Esposito in that year’s run for mayor – has accused Esposito of not being transparent nor honest, specifically when it came to the costs of two buildings for the Career Academy.
That combative tone continued Tuesday night.
In his concession speech to a packed crowd of about 200 at Anthony’s Lake Club Catering, Esposito said: “Tonight was a rough night; we weren’t victorious. The people have made their choice; they know who they selected and God bless them.”
Esposito continued: “My opponent ran a rough campaign. It’s hard to believe I lost to that guy. I am sore. I am a lifelong Danburian. I congratulate my opponent, but he made statements about me that weren’t true… We have to keep him in check. It’s a sad night for me but we have to stay focused.”
Espositio said the Republicans will be watching how government runs the next two years and “will call you out every step of the way. We are Danburians and we will call them to task.”
Several Esposito supporters were crying during his speech.
The mood at Alves venue at the Portuguese Cultural Center was – on the other hand – upbeat.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, an early supporter of Alves, told hundreds in attendance that “Roberto is a decent honorable man.”
“It was a really hard race for an immigrant named Roberto Alves,” Tong said. “For the young William Tongs out there and the young Roberto Alves out there, this shows what is possible in Danbury.”
Tong noted that Alves, who served on the City Council from 2019-2021, is believed to be both the first Danbury mayor of Portuguese descent and Brazilian descent.
Prior to Tong speaking, Alves told CT Examiner that the victory was a bittersweet one.
“This means so much. There is a wave of emotions because we fought so hard,” said Alves, who noted that his father died at age 65 during the campaign of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
“It comes down to honest campaigning,” Alves said when asked why he thought he was elected the city’s first Democratic mayor in more than two decades. “It also came down to accountability. When the city violated the rules and passed gerrymandering, we stood up to that. It was about holding leaders accountable.”
Alves said he was told by many people that “we ran the most efficient, well-organized campaign this city has ever seen.”
Alves said the voters “held my opponent accountable” on issues like the defunding the police claim.
“It came down to talking about issues that mattered to voters like taxes, roads and schools,” Alves said.
Asked what he would do on day one, Alves, a 40-year-old technical sales engineer and treasurer of the state Democratic Party, said: “We will open the books up. We have got to find out what we don’t know.” That, he said, will include an audit.
GROTON — Unofficial counts show the Democrats sweeping all 9 seats on the Town Council, defeating a significant third-party effort, and the Republican slate.
MADISON — Incumbent First Selectwoman Peggy Lyons (D) wins reelection.
NORWALK — Mayor Harry Rilling (D) defeated Republican candidate Vinny Scicchitano. Unofficial total is 7,948 Rilling, 6,482 Scicchitano.
OLD LYME — Democrats gathered at their headquarters on Boston Post Road, pouring beer and munching on tortilla chips, dip, shrimp and guacamole.
“We’re in charge! We’re in charge!” one Democrat yelled.
Martha Shoemaker told CT Examiner that she was “excited to go to work for Old Lyme and do good things.” She noted how she and Jim worked well together.
Gavin Lodge, who won a seat on the Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education, defeating incumbent Mary Powell-St. Louis, said he felt the victory was a reflection of Lyme’s values.
“The values of the town were voted, and decisively so,” he told CT Examiner.
Speaking to the room, Shoemaker thanked everyone. She said the Democrats ran a “clean campaign” and “stated the facts.”
“This town has had problems for so long, and no one’s reacted. Now we’re going to react,” she said.
Jim Lampos, who arrived late after closing up his Pizza shop, told the room he was grateful for their help.
“We’ll work with everyone, whether they voted for us or not,” he told CT Examiner.
CLINTON — In a modest upset, Clinton Democrats took a majority of the Town Council, flipping a 4-3 Republican majority to 4-3 Democratic majority.
BRIDGEPORT – Arriving at his post-election party, Democratic mayoral candidate John Gomes claimed he won at the polls, and asked attendees to stand by for a count of absentee ballots.
“As I stand before you, we are victorious at the polls once again by, I believe, 564 votes,” Gomes said, standing in front of his supporters at the Cape Verdean Association of Bridgeport.
Gomes told attendees that Judge William Clark’s ruling to overturn the Sept. 12 Democratic primary – which declared Mayor Joe Ganim the winner by 251 votes – based on video evidence of alleged absentee ballot fraud makes the Tuesday general election the second race he’s won this season.
“On September 12, we won the primary,” he asserted. “It was reflected in the numbers. And we were gifted with the evidence that showed why it was stolen from us.”
Gomes asked the room to be patient as they wait for election workers at City Hall to finish counting the absentee ballots.
“Here we go again,” groaned one attendee at the mention of absentee ballots.
The crowded room erupted with cheers as Gomes looked forward to the rest of the night.
“We’re going to stand united,” Gomes said. “Let’s wait for the result, and let the people outside these walls know that this fight is far from being over.”
GUILFORD — 3,380 voters and a 21% turnout despite every seat being uncontested.
KILLINGWORTH — Democrat Eric Couture wins First Selectman beating out Republican and Conservative Party votes combined.
DANBURY — In a modest upset, Democrat Roberto Alves defeats incumbent Republican Dean Esposito to the flip the seat of Danbury Mayor.
EAST LYME — Democrat Dan Cunningham wins First Selectman of East Lyme, flipping the seat from Republican control.
BRIDGEPORT – Mayoral candidate John Gomes’s supporters are standing by, waiting to see if the Democratic challenger will beat Mayor Joe Ganim, who has won reelection every year since 2015.
The results of the mayoral race may also determine whether Bridgeport will hold another Democratic primary election. While a judge overturned the results of the Sept. 12 Democratic primary last week following claims that Ganim supporters committed absentee ballot fraud, some have said another election may be unnecessary if Gomes wins on Tuesday.
As of 9 p.m., unofficial results from the New York Times put Gomes in the lead with 43.5 percent, compared to Ganim’s 37 percent. According to the Times, 46 percent of the total votes have been counted.
STONINGTON — Incumbent Danielle Chesebrough, an Unaffiliated candidate running on the Forward Party ticket, wins reelection as First Selectman of Stonington. Ben Tamsky (D) and Deb Downie (R) are 2nd and 3rd.
OLD LYME — Democrats Martha Shoemaker and Jim Lampos flip control of the Board of Selectmen after four years of Republican control, defeating John Mesham and Jude Read.
Democrats W. Scott Brown and Susan Fogliano win seats on the Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education.
Alexander Lowry (D) is heading to a recount with Suzanne Thompson (R) for the final Board of Education seat.
LYME — Gavin Lodge (D) defeated incumbent Mary Powell-St. Louis (R) 586 to 347 (unofficial) to take a seat on the Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education.
HARTFORD — Tuesday was an “uneventful” Election Day, Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas told reporters as polls closed at 8 p.m.
“Which is the way we like elections to go,” Thomas said.
There were “run of the mill” issues — failing tabulators with backups available, people standing within the 75 foot electioneering boundary, and a power outage in Danbury, she said. The tabulators have battery backups, so it didn’t disrupt voting, she said.
“In one instance a voter received two ballots that were stuck together, but that was figured out very quickly and they only voted on one ballot,” Thomas said.
There were about 100 calls to the State Elections Enforcement Commission, which is in line with what they usually get, she said.
Thomas said there was one complaint in Bridgeport about a City Council candidate driving a voter to curbside voting, and staying in the car while they voted. There was question whether the person was eligible for curbside voting, and staying in the vehicle with them while they vote is not allowed, she said.
She also said there was a complaint about a Bridgeport mayoral candidate standing within the 75-foot boundary. She said she wasn’t sure if she was allowed to name the candidates since they were subject to a formal SEEC complaint.
Asked by a reporter whether Bridgeport would hold its Democratic primary again if hypothetically the Republican candidate won, Thomas said that was up to the judge decides.
“We’re not sure,” Thomas said. “It will depend on what all the parties do legally.”
STAMFORD — Voters from the heart of downtown, District 6, appear to be split on the all-consuming question on Tuesday’s ballot.
It’s whether the charter should be changed to allow the Board of Representatives to nominate people for the planning and zoning boards when the mayor doesn’t do it. Stamford has a pro-development mayor, Caroline Simmons, who opposes the change. So do developers and establishment Democrats who support Simmons.
But another faction of Democrats, and neighborhood activists, say it’s time to give residents more say in approving development, which is moving at a fast clip. And it’s time, they say, to close the loophole in the charter that allows mayors to keep their appointees on the boards long after their terms expire.
Residents who want the charter change say Simmons’ stance on development takes precedence over what their neighborhoods need, citing what she did in the legislature in June. Simmons used her friendships in Hartford to slip a bill, called a “rat,” into a large bond package so it was sure to pass. Her bill, now law, prevents Stamford and all other towns from changing their charters on zoning matters.
The “rat” showed up in a hand-made sign posted at the District 6 polling site, Faith Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church on Grove Street. “Vote yes to close the loop holes,” read the sign showing a rat blocked from entering a hole.
Still, voters at that polling place seemed divided, said Kate Kochiss of the Yes to Stamford Charter 2023 political committee.
“There seem to be a lot of yes’s and no’s, but maybe a few more no’s,” Kochiss said.
One was Jeff Schreider, who said that though he thinks Stamford could use a more cohesive plan for development, he voted against the charter change.
“From everything I read online, no was the logical choice,” Schreider said. “If this power lies with the mayor, no one made a good case for giving it to the board. I couldn’t reconcile voting yes.”
STAMFORD — For campaign workers who spent Election Day standing outside, Stamford’s District 20 had a tent, thanks to Republican state Rep. Tom O’Dea of New Canaan, who also represents part of Stamford. It was to protect against the early morning rain.
“We don’t usually have a tent. But that’s how they do it in New Canaan,” said Tom Lombardo, chair of the Stamford Charter Revision Commission and a district resident who spent the day talking to voters at Scofield Magnet Middle School.
O’Dea was supporting political newcomer and fellow Republican Vito Quivelli, who is challenging Democrat incumbent Carl Weinberg for a District 20 seat on the Stamford Board of Representatives.
But the hot topic in that North Stamford district, as elsewhere in the city, was not candidate races. It was charter revision. A change proposed for the charter would clear a path for the Board of Representatives to nominate people for the Zoning Board, which controls development in fast-growing Stamford.
Mayor Caroline Simmons, city Democrats, developers and others oppose the idea, saying it would take power from the mayor and give it to the board.
Dennis Mahoney, a Republican former city representative who now sits on the Board of Finance, said that should not have happened. He is a “no” vote on the charter change, Mahoney said, but in their review of the foundational document the Charter Revision Commission and the Board of Representatives raised serious issues that must be addressed.
“There should have been a compromise. But there wasn’t,” Mahoney said. “Now we’re sitting in the middle of an argument we should not have had.”
OLD LYME — The Republicans are standing around a tent piled high with food. Selectman candidate Jude Read holds out a box of baked goods to a voter who stops by the tent.
“Pumpkin spice cake?” she offers. “They’re homemade. They’re not from the bakery.”
On the other side of the parking lot, Democrat Board of Education candidate Alexander Lowry tries to stop two small children — a boy and a girl — from jumping into the street.
They are children of a friend who has gone inside to vote.
The vote tally has hit 2,978 by 6:45 p.m.
Town Clerk Vicki Urbowicz tells the assistant moderator by phone that 3,000 is about average for a final vote total in a municipal election.
A voter leaving the polls, Chris, says he’s looking for “conservative leadership all around.” Tracy, who is with him, says they want to see low taxes, the schools remain high quality and Halls Road not become overdeveloped.
Republican First Selectman candidate John Mesham says he’s proud of the way they ran the campaign, and that it was good to see a lot of people come out.
Democratic First Selectman candidate Martha Shoemaker said they’ve seen a good crowd all day, with few lulls.
“Try to stay positive,” said Shoemaker.
GREENWICH – Democrat Steve Meskers, a state representative for Greenwich and a Representative Town Meeting member running for re-election, said he is running to take back democracy from far-right groups in town.
Posted outside of New Lebanon School, Meskers told CT Examiner that RTM members attempting to run alongside their party members for the nonpartisan body are ruining the integrity of Greenwich elections.
“It’s the most unpatriotic agenda I’ve seen in my life,” he said. “My father was a Korean War veteran. He would be disgusted by the dialogue we’re having in my town.”
Meskers said he has to take a stand against RTM partisanship, otherwise the institution could “crumble.”
GREENWICH – Republican First Selectman Fred Camillo took the 6 p.m. shift at Greenwich Civic Center, awaiting the results to come later tonight.
“You don’t know how people voted, so we’ll have to wait and see,” Camillo told CT Examiner.
Facing Democratic candidate Laura Erickson in the race for the executive seat, Camillo said he has remained cautiously optimistic all day.
As Greenwich recently saw an increase in Democrats – with about a third of total voters registering Democratic, a third Republican and a third unaffiliated – Camillo said this year’s election is harder to gauge.
“People were predicting a blue wave, but we don’t know yet,” he said.
Regardless, Camillo said he has been delighted by voter turnout, which he said is higher than his last election in 2021.
GUILFORD – With a uncontested slate of electors on the ballot this year, there wasn’t anyone campaigning in front of Calvin Leete Elementary School today, but voters showed up to participate in the democratic process.
“The most important elections are the local elections,” said Alisha Rayner who voted today with Patrick Romano and their daughter Eala Romano. “That’s what drives us on the daily. For me, particularly, we have some really good Board of Education members and I’d like to keep them there.”
Romano and Rayner have four children, Romano said, three of which are in the Guilford School System.
“It matters a lot to us what happens with the Board of Ed,” Romano said. “We want to show our support for these people.”
The couple have been bringing their children to the polls for a very long time, Rayner said.
“I think her first election, she was six months old,” she said of Eala. “It’s important for them to understand their civic duty. All of them are learning about it in school too. It’s that extra layer of learning when you are actually doing it.”
“It’s very important for us to pass it down to the kids,” Romano said. “They’re very aware of our views on things.”
Other people at the polls reflected similar sentiments.
“Too many people have fought too hard and long for us to give up our right to vote, no matter what,” said Diana Harris, “especially as a female only being able to vote for a certain amount of time. It’s not a right I’m ever going to want to let go. With the volatile state of our nation, I worry about that, so I come out to vote no matter what.”
“It’s a right that we have and I think you should exercise that right,” said Sandy Whelan. “I want people to see that people are interested in this process.”
“The ability to vote is such a privilege,” said Christine Dokko. “I think it’s not one that I would ever pass up.”
Everyone expressed support for the slate of candidates.
“I’m familiar with most of them having lived here for so long,” Dokko said. “I’m very supportive of the people who are running.”
“I know all these people,” Whelan said. “I’ve watched what they’ve done and I’m very pleased they’ve stepped up to the plate.”
Harris said she hopes the town can continue to be diverse and inclusive with the candidates being elected.
“The danger we’ve been facing,” she said, “with books being banned and marginalized communities being continued to be marginalized, I’m hoping the slate we have here that’s going to dissipate a little bit.”
GREENWICH – Despite the growing diviness between the parties in town, a Democratic finance board candidate and Republican Representative Town Meeting candidate stood together at Greenwich Town Hall and greeted voters.
David Weisbrod, a current Democratic member of the Board of Estimate and Taxation running for reelection, told CT Examiner that the increase in far-right politics in Greenwich – particularly on the nonpartisan RTM – is unnerving.
Joe Kelly, current Republican chair of the Board of Education running for the RTM, agreed.
“The day before the registration closed, there were – never before happened – 100 applicants came in,” Weisbrod said of the RTM race. “Similar to the way the radical wing of the Republican Party took over the Republican Town Committee.”
Weisbrod said he hopes that the moderate Republican RTM members win this election to ensure a balanced legislative body. Kelly said he noticed the last minute influx in candidates, and has been advising voters against voting along party lines for the RTM.
“The RTM has always been a body that should not identify whether you’re Republican or Democrat or unaffiliated. It’s neighbors,” Kelly said.
Recently, a former Republican first selectman and former Republican Town Committee chair endorsed the Republican candidates for the finance board. Weisbrod said he was very pleased with their support, and Kelly asked other Republicans to take note.
“What I sometimes criticize my team for is that they don’t compromise or find middle ground enough,” Kelly said. So, hearing some of the respected voices from the past, the advice is crystal clear – we should learn to compromise the work together with the other party.”
MIDDLETOWN — Turnout is picking up at the Rec Center.
Moderator Ann Morse said this was the busiest time she’d had it all day. Around 4:45, about 429 people had voted, a number she said was “a little low.”
A voter named Kim told CT Examiner as she was exiting the polls that she didn’t know much about the different candidates.
“I didn’t really hear a lot about anybody,” she said. “So I just followed my husband’s lead.”
Another voter named Andrew had a clearer picture.
“I’m voting Ben. Ben all the way,” he said, speaking about Ben Florsheim, the city’s current mayor. “He’s done a lot of great things.”
Andrew said he supported Florsheim’s opening of the Rec Center, the development downtown and the riverfront plan.
He said he also supported the $13.5 million bonding referendum for a new boathouse for the city, since it would also be part of the riverfront development.
But Hallie, a voter who was with him, was less sure. She said she felt $13 million for a boathouse wasn’t necessary.
“We’ve got one,” she said.
At Bielefield Elementary, lines are forming out the doors as people come to vote after work. The site, which hosts two districts, has had over 1,600 voters by 5:30.
One voter, wearing a track suit and a ball cap, calls himself a “Florsheim man.”
“He did a good job. Give him a second chance,” he said.
WATERBURY – Waterbury’s Board of Aldermen’s Minority Leader, Republican George Noujaim, who started his day at the Chase Elementary School polling place at 6 a.m. and will be staying there until the polls close at 8 p.m., has a dilemma.
Noujaim was standing near where the surrogates for Republican mayoral candidate Dawn Maiorano, a small business owner, and Democratic mayoral candidate Paul Pernerewski Jr., the city’s aldermanic president, were located cheering on their candidates.
Noujaim was at the Chase School, in the city’s east end, strongly backing Maiorano but is also good friends with Pernerewski, who he serves with on the Board of Alderman. In addition, he is good friends with Waterbury State Rep. Mike DiGiovancarlo, a Democrat, who was two feet from him at the Chase School polling place, and who is full-throated in his support for Pernerewski.
Noujaim’s dilemma is throwing his unconditional support behind Maiorano, while making it clear he has no intention of saying anything bad about his friend Pernerewski. Maiorano has criticized her Democratic opponent, saying he is strongly tied to the city’s Democratic machine while saying voters deserve better.
Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary, the city’s former police chief, is not seeking another term; he has run the city for 12 years and has thrown his support behind Pernerewski.
“She can win,” Noujaim said of Maiorano, who runs a family-owned funeral home business. “People want to see the city’s first female mayor and people want change.”
When pressed, Noujaim was not specific on what type of change that was, but said taxes and reining in school district costs was on the top of Maiorano’s list.
“I like her initiatives,” Noujaim said of Maiorano. “She has raised many times the issue of Board of Education salaries [claiming they are excessive] and she has addressed blight, crime and taxes.”
Asked to comment on Pernerewski, Noujaim said: “I’ve served with him [on Waterbury council] the last 10 years. He has had some great initiatives. We have kept the budget at a minimal without cutting services. He’s done a fine job on the council.”
From where he stands, DiGiovancarlo, also a city police officer, said he expects his candidate, “Paul to win handedly.”
As of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, DiGiovancarlo said he estimated that more than 900 people had voted at the Chase School; it’s the busiest polling place on the city’s east end.
“I am hearing that people want to stay the course,” DiGiovancarlo told CT Examiner. “He [Pernerewski] helped bring us from the time of bankruptcy to today, where we have a real high bond rating. He has worked with the guidance of the last two Democratic mayors [Michael Jarjura and O’Leary] to guide the city to where we are today; it’s a much better place.”
Specifically, DiGiovancarlo said, Pernerewski is committed to economic development and supporting the police and making the city safer.
“He is committed to growing the Police Department back to 300 officers,” DiGiovancarlo said. There are currently 271 officers on the force; up from 250 several years ago.
In addition, DiGiovancarlo, who has worked on the police force for about 20 years, said: “Paul is committed to also keeping officers here and increasing their pay.” DiGiovancarlo said the department has lost upwards of 40 officers over the last 12 months to other Police Departments in the state who pay better, have a stronger pension and more medical benefits.
STAMFORD — A steady line of cars has been coming and going at Springdale Elementary School, the polling place for Stamford’s District 17.
Before it was noon, the indicator on the voting tabulator machine showed 454 ballots, moderator Ryan Teeples said.
“We’re going on 500 and we’re not even halfway through the day,” Teeples said. “It’s a pretty good pace.”
Turnout in municipal elections is usually poor. But this one has boiled down to a bitter fight over whether to change the city charter to allow the Board of Representatives to name people to the planning and zoning boards when the mayor fails to do so. It has to do with who will get more authority over development decisions, the board or the mayor.
That was clear from a greeting between two friends who saw each other on the steps of Springdale School. “Yeah, yeah, I know,” the woman walking into the polling place said to the one walking out. “It’s all about the charter.”
Voter Steve O’Brien said he came out to the polls just because of it.
“If I vote no, nothing gets changed,” O’Brien said. “My taxes have doubled since I’ve been in my house. I want it to change. I voted yes.”
Republican city Rep. Mary Fedeli of District 17 was standing outside with a “vote no” sign. She was getting thumbs-up from voters as they walked into the polling place, Fedeli said.
DARIEN – Running uncontested for first selectman and Board of Selectmen, Darien Republicans said they are still excited about election day despite low voter turnout.
As of 3:30 p.m., about 10.5 percent of the total registered voters in town have cast their ballots. Inside Darien Town Hall, election moderator John Visi told CT Examiner turnout has been “slow, but steady.”
Still, first selectman candidate Jon Zagrodzky said it’s heartening to see the residents who came out.
“People are still coming out, they’re still excited,” he told CT Examiner. “They want to participate in their civil duty, and I’m proud of that.”
Board of Selectmen candidate Marcy Minnick, who is running for her second term, joined Zagrodzky outside of the town hall. She said that it is important that the same members of the Board of Selectmen will stay on board for the next couple of years, especially following the town’s acquisition of Great Island.
“In a town where the town is changing so much, it’s important that that happens,” she said.
Zagrodzky, who will be named first selectman by the end of the day, said it is also important that the current town leader, Republican Monica McNally, will stay on as a board member.
“She’s focusing on Great Island. That’s ultimately her legacy,” he said. “Now she can focus exclusively on getting the right answer for that property.”
Asked why she decided to switch from the executive position to the Board of Selectmen, McNally told CT Examiner that it’s hard to focus on the details of a project as first selectman.
“I think there’s some things that I want to do that require a lot of time, and it’s hard as first selectman. You have a lot of responsibilities,” she said. “And I’m kind of a detail, diving-in kind of person.”
Still, McNally said she is confident that both Zagrodzky and the other board members will successfully lead the town for the next two years.
“I am sure he’s going to do a fantastic job here,” McNally said. “And I’m really happy that our whole board – all five – are staying. I think that we have a really good working relationship.”
Alongside the three Republicans, Democratic board members Michael Burke and Sarah Neumann are running for reelection uncontested.
Burke said he is not in town for election day as he works in New York, but sent CT Examiner a statement on his campaign.
“Election Day is always an important and impactful day no matter what the particulars are of the race. It is a singular privilege to be the ballot,” Burke said. “I look forward to the next two years as a Selectman in Darien and will work to ensure that our town values service to our citizens and promotes inclusivity.”
MADISON – The Madison Schools Renewal project was front and center for many voters as they went to the polls today at Polson Middle School.
Though most voters didn’t say who they voted for, they indicated that their vote was influenced by whether or not capital improvement projects like the $61.15 million new elementary school project were moving at the speed they were happy with.
“I think there’s a sense of whether or not what we’re doing is correct and if a change is needed,” said Simon Gharibian. “I think we’re doing okay. I think there are some areas we could probably do better on. I haven’t seen a lot of movement there. I’m getting a little nervous because all the costs are going up and I haven’t seen any progress.”
Gharibian said that with inflation in construction costs the town needs to move faster to develop projects like the new elementary school and the new Academy Community Center to battle those costs.
“The longer they delay and hem and haw about planning, the more expensive the end result is going to be,” he said.
Gregory Makoul said his vote was to make sure the town follows through with its plans.
“The town has a good plan ahead of it, but it’s taken a long time to make some movement on the Academy and school project that are finally getting uncorked,” he said. “I put my trust in the people I think can get it done.”
Marilyn Riordon questioned why a new school had to be built in the first place.
“I wasn’t exactly sure why we needed another grammar school,” she said, saying repairs to the old one would have been preferable to building an entire new one.
Dawn and Tim Aston expressed their support to First Selectman Peggy Lyons’ leadership.
“We like the existing administration as it is,” Tim Aston said. “I was impressed with Peggy Lyons. The whole team is doing a great job.”
Dawn Aston said she liked how Lyons has invested in the community, particularly investing in the Surf Club, the schools, the community center, and using money from the Inflation Reduction Act on improvements on Main Street.
Though most voters focused on the major capital improvement projects, some people were interested in maintaining the town’s quaint nature.
“A lot of the important issues are how the town will continue to grow,” said Valerie Kolivodiakos, “keeping the town the quaint way it looks. There’s got to be a balance and keeping it the way it looks.
She expressed her gratitude to the candidates who visited her during their campaigns.
“Several of the candidates came to the house in the old fashioned way,” she said. “It was nice to have candid discussions and understand their views on some of the issues. It was good. It prompted me to get out here and vote.”
HARTFORD — Jason Pepin, who works for Eric Coleman’s campaign, said it’s been quiet at Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy. Too quiet.
“Unfortunately, it’s not been busy enough,” said Pepin.
Coleman is a write-in candidate for Hartford’s mayoral election. Pepin said he’s been a judge and a selectman, and that one of his ideas is having a publicly-owned electric company in Hartford.
Joe Young, who was at the magnet school representing Nick Lebron’s campaign — a common council member and mayoral candidate — described the atmosphere there as “kinda dead.” He said he’d been there since 6 a.m. and estimated he’d seen about 150 people come to vote.
Young said he felt Lebron had a good chance of winning – with 13 or 14 candidates for mayor, he said, they’d split the vote.
Meanwhile, at Hartford International University, candidate for treasurer Matt Hennessey, a Democrat, said he thought Arunan Arulampalam, the Democratic nominee and favorite to win, had a good chance.
But he said the big challenge for Arulampalam would be getting an actual majority of the votes — he noted that he’d only gained 40 percent of the votes in the primary election.
Meanwhile, Hennessey said he’s running for treasurer to address a $600 million hole in the city pension, which he said “no one seemed to have noticed” until earlier this year.
Amicar Hernandez, a candidate for common council, said he’d been to 9 polling places so far.
“I’ve seen the excitement. I see the emotion, the energy,” he said of the voters.
He estimated that the turnout was around 500 so far, as of about 2 p.m.
Meanwhile, at Rawlson Elementary School, a battle of megaphones is going on between supporters of Arulampalam and Supporters of Coleman camped out outside the voting area.
Marilyn Cruz-Aponte, who is supporting Hennessey’s challenger, Carmen Sierra, said Sierra wants to protect city assets, and that she also wants to help the public understand how to budget through things like financial literacy workshops. She said this was particularly key in a city like Hartford.
A woman in a green headscarf told CT Examiner that she wanted Arulampalam to win. She said she’d lived in the city her whole life, and that people formerly in politics need to leave.
“I think Hartford needs to continue to get its act together,” she said. “You just have to look at people who have innovative, progressive, clear ideas.”
A woman named Sandy said she voted for Coleman because he supported “changes.”
“He looks like a person who would do a good job,” she said.
STAMFORD — The bitter fight in Tuesday’s election is over whether Stamford’s charter should be changed to set checks on development or allow it to continue at pace. In District 2, it translated into where Frances Lane and Javier Colorado could stand with their “vote yes” signs.
Lane and Colorado, who favor checks on development, said they observed the sign indicating how far away from the poll entrance they were allowed to stand, and took up a spot in the parking lot.
But, they said, the election monitor told them they could not be in the parking lot of the polling place, which is inside The Salvation Army building on Selleck Street. A police officer arrived, Lane said.
“He was very nice,” Lane said. “He said he had to ask somebody at the Democratic City Committee and somebody in city hall.”
After the police officer did that, he told Lane and Colorado they had to stand on the sidewalk outside the fence surrounding lot, they said.
“We can’t talk to voters from here; it’s too far away,” Colorado said.
The two Democrats said they can’t help but think they had to move because they are on the opposite side of the charter issue as establishment Democrats, including Mayor Caroline Simmons’ administration and the Democratic City Committee, the two entities the officer said he would consult.
“They would tell him, ‘Don’t let the ‘yes’ people get too close,’ especially since there aren’t any ’no’ people here,” Lane said.
KILLINGWORTH — Education, finances and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, were on the forefront of voters’ minds this morning as they came to the polls.
Voters are electing a new First Selectman, members of the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance, Board of Education, and other town positions.
Georgana Munz, a teacher at Killingworth Elementary School where the polls are being held, said education was the most important thing for her this election, saying that she wants to make sure the school district continues to move in the right direction.
Heather Ferrer, a high school teacher, said she voted to protect her students’ education and make sure there is good communication with the finances going forward with proposed improvements at the high school.
“I thought they did well,” she said of the candidates she met. “Some of them went door to door. It made more of an impact on my decision.”
Though she wouldn’t comment on who specifically she voted for, she said, “I would say I am more conservative than not.”
Lisa Mello said her vote was based on concerns regarding the town’s finances.
“We’re a little town,” Mello said, and having leadership making good financial decisions to keep the town that way is the reason she loves to live in Killingworth.
“I lived in many states,” she said. “I love living here. The small town feel, the safeness of it, the people. I want to keep it that way while also taking care of buildings that need to be taken care of, make sure the fire department is taken care of, the town hall, things like that.”
She said, though, that this year was the hardest year she’s ever had during an election season in getting information about candidates and the issues.
“It took a bit of research,” she said. “I hopefully made the best decision based on the information that I could find.”
“Killingworth is a great small town,” said Michael Defonzo.
He said he wants someone leading Killingworth who can put the town “on the map as a quaint small town.”
A big concern for Defonzo is PFAS, and said he voted for a candidate he believes is going to fight the most and advocate the most for the small town, and fight for more resources, better testing and equipment to deal with the situation.
NORWALK – Democratic City Council candidate Josh Goldstein said that as a city-wide representative, he needs to keep all Norwalkers in mind.
While many City Council candidates run in one district, Goldstein – a current member of the council – is one of the 10 candidates campaigning at-large. Outside of Kendall Elementary School, he told CT Examiner that officials like him need a different approach.
“Each district has about 20,000 people because there are five of them and we’ve got a city of around 90,000 to 95,000 people. As a city-wide city councilman, I have to think about what’s in the best interest of all of the people,” he said.
Asked which issues are universally top of mind for residents, Goldstein pointed to quality of life issues like traffic and parks, taxes and affordability.
In order to encourage young professionals and families to move to Norwalk, he said officials need to reduce housing costs as much as possible.
“We want to do everything we can to responsibly grow and reduce housing costs as much as possible, because there are many people in the city for whom housing costs are over 50 percent of the income they bring in,” Goldstein said. “Which is striking.”
Leading up to the election Goldstein said he had been knocking on doors and gauging voter priorities. While campaigning, he said, he realized that Norwalk residents are largely pleased with the city’s progress in the last few years. He anticipated that Democrats will continue their winning streak beyond the Tuesday election.
“If they decide to go in a different direction, that is their right. I don’t think that’s what they’re going to do,” Goldstein said. “I think our odds are pretty good, and that the Democratic Party is going to be able to maintain a healthy majority.”
NEW BRITAIN – They sat only a few feet apart in the area designated for campaigning outside of the New Britain Pulaski Middle School polling place Tuesday afternoon, but surrogates for Republican Mayor Erin Stewart and her Democratic challenger, Chris Anderson, were miles apart when it came to the vision for New Britain.
Republican Alderman Robert Smedley Jr. came on the council 10 years ago, the same year that Stewart, then just 26, was elected to her first term as mayor. And, Democratic New Britain State Rep. Peter Tercyak is currently serving his 10th term in the State Legislature.
Both men were seated with their supporters – about 10 for each campaign – speaking to residents who both entered and left the polling station. In total, poll watchers said that – as of about 12:45 p.m. Tuesday – 368 people had cast their ballot at Pulaski, about on par with the number of voters at that time of the day in 2021.
Smedley and Tercyak both spoke to CT Examiner about what the voters are telling them and why they think their candidate will prevail when the votes are counted later tonight.
“So many folks are coming here and they are talking about economic development in the city, our transit-oriented development plans and the mayor’s leadership,” said Smedley, who was joined by his father, son and niece on the campaign trail for Stewart. “People are talking about how they buy into her leadership and our motto, which is ‘Building, Caring, Leading.’’’
Smedley said he arrived at Pulaski at 6:30 a.m., or 30 minutes after the polls opened, with plans on staying in his spot at his campaign’s table until 8 p.m., when the poll will close.
Smedley said that – as of 1 p.m. – he had spoken to about 70 people.
“They love Erin because of her vision of the city,” said Smedley, noting that vision relies heavily on economic growth and business development. “That vision is progressive; it’s moving forward with new developments and supporting our school district and our parks.”
Smedley pointed to the groundbreaking last month for The Strand, a downtown development with about 80 units. He said the school district has seen increased funding and said park improvements include Stanley Quarter Park, where the pond was dredged up and there is a new paved walking path.
Tercyak said that the more people hear about Anderson, a relative newcomer to the city who has served on the Common Council, the more people like him.
“Folks who have never met him ask if he’s a nice guy and folks who have met him tell me what a nice guy he is,” said Tercyak, who acknowledged Stewart has name and face recognition but said he still feels Anderson can win tonight. Anderson is a real estate accountant.
“The conversation we are hearing from people ultimately turns to taxes, taxes and taxes,” said Tercyak. The theme of taxes and the tax hikes many New Britain residents are seeing on their homes has been the cornerstone of Anderson’s campaign.
“It’s an extra $1,000 a year [in taxes on homes] for a lot of people here; people are getting squeezed,” Tercyak said. “How many years can people say ‘I just can’t afford it anymore?’’
Tercyak, who pays around $12,000 a year on taxes for his New Britain home, echoed Anderson who says out-of-town developers are getting sweetheart deals to do business in the city.
“We could be a little bit fairer in how we treat developers from out-of-state,” Tercyak told CT Examiner. “We should be making their taxes more reflective of the people already here… New Britain is attractive enough and it shouldn’t be impossible to find a developer who would do a good job and is willing to pay more in taxes than they do now.”
Tercyak said it’s nothing personal against Stewart, saying the race is about ideas.
“I’m not saying she is a bad person, because she is not a bad person,” Tercyak said. “We just disagree over policies that matter like taxes and tax reform.”
STAMFORD — In Stamford’s District 8, a voter seeking information about the charter changes in Tuesday’s municipal election brought a notebook.
He approached a group of people holding “vote yes” signs outside his polling place at K.T. Murphy Elementary School and asked them a bunch of questions. Then the voter went over to the group holding “vote no” signs and did the same.
In a similar scene, Board of Education candidate Antonia Better-Wirz, who is urging people to vote no to the charter changes, addressed a voter in Spanish. As soon as Better-Wirz was finished, the voter was called over by a member of the “vote yes” side, city Rep. Anabel Figueroa of District 8. Figueroa also spent a few minutes speaking to the voter in Spanish.
It had been happening all morning, said Jeffrey Wirz, who was campaigning with his wife.
“They get 30 seconds talking to us, then they get 30 seconds talking to the other side,” Wirz said.
The complicated charter changes address the contentious topic of development, which has been moving fast in Stamford for a decade.
“Clearly the people who are coming out to vote are undecided,” said Michael Arcano, another Board of Education candidate and proponent of “vote no.”
NORWALK – Republican mayoral candidate Vinny Scicchitano backed himself in his race against Mayor Harry Rilling, urging residents to vote based on the candidate – not political party.
While the city is currently run by Rilling, a Democrat, and the Democrat-led City Council, Scicchitano said he feels good about his odds.
“Every polling station I’ve been at, I’ve received a tremendous amount of support, handshakes, hugs,” he said. “Everything has been incredible.”
No matter the party, the challenger said no one group should have rule over an entire city. Standing outside Fox Run Elementary School on Tuesday afternoon, he urged Norwalkers to look beyond political affiliations and focus on the issues.
“The previous mayor – and I quote him a lot – he said, ‘A pothole doesn’t know whether you’re a Democrat or Republican. You just want it fixed.’ And when it comes to local issues, that’s what counts,” Scicchitano said. “We’re not here on the national scene. Voting for someone based on their party affiliation may not be beneficial.”
Scicchitano said he has tried to put party aside in his run for mayor, and keep things civil with Rilling. He said he has been friends with the mayor for a long time, and wouldn’t want his run for office to impact that.
“He’s been a friend of mine. I hope we can maintain this friendship, no matter who wins,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. It’s about issues. It’s about directions. It’s about ideas.”
NORWICH — Outside the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, three students from Norwich Free Academy are standing in support of the new police station.
Their advisor, Shiela Hayes, says that the city has worked hard to get more female police officers, and that one of the problems with the current police station is that it doesn’t have lockers or changing spaces for women on the force.
The students are members of NFA’s NAACP Robert Sine Duncan Youth Council.
Fernando Flores, a sophomore at NFA, told CT Examiner that he was considering policing as a career, but that it was “plan C or D.”
“If [the police] are working for us … we want them to be comfortable,” he said.
Naema Charles, a senior, said she had thought about becoming an officer when she was younger, but that this had become “an afterthought” because she knew that female officers were not always taken seriously by men.
“Just because they’re women doesn’t mean they should be less feared than anyone else,” she said.
Charles said she wants to study organic chemistry and become an orthodontist.
Voters weren’t necessarily in agreement, though.
A voter who gave the name “Brian” said he voted against the police station.
“It’s a lot of money, and I think that facility’s not that old,” he said.
A woman named Rebecca, who said she was in the mental health field, said she wouldn’t give any money to the police.
“I think they should be defunded, and the money should go to social resources,” she said.
Also present at the poll site was Current Common Councilman Swarnjit Singh, a Democrat, who is running for re-election. Singh said he’d heard from voters that some people had gotten confused about what poll site they should be at because of the redistricting.
Singh said that, if reelected, he wants to do more to build up the waterfront, including cleaning up brownfield areas so developers can come in.
“[There’s] a lot of untapped potential Norwich has when it comes to its waterfront,” he said.
Singh said he knows that many immigrant-owned small businesses need help, particularly those who have to deal with language barriers, and that he wanted to see how the town could best assist them. He also said he wanted to see the completion of some mixed use projects in the downtown.
“I’m a very optimistic person, so I look forward to helping these kinds of projects,” he said.
CLINTON – Though party lines may be how some voters cast their votes today, people leaving Clinton Town Hall today after casting their ballots were mostly in agreement that they were not in favor of a proposed charter revision.
The charter revision has 31 proposed amendments including changing the dollar amount minimum for appropriations to go to referendum from $300,000 to $700,000 to authorizing the Town Council to use intergovernmental bids for items exceeding $100,000.
“I did vote no,” said Michelle Calini on the charter revision, who felt that if the charter revision went forward it would give the town council carte blanche to spending.
Lori Martindale said she hopes the charter revision doesn’t pass either, saying there’s been no accountability as it is in spending in town.
She also said there needs to be more communication by town officials to the community.
“I just know I don’t like the direction we’ve been going in this past year.”
Jim Willis, previously from East Hartford, said this is his first time voting in Clinton and he also voted against the charter revision.
“It seems both parties are against it,” he said.
National politics have trickled down to how some people are voting as former President Donald Trump is still influencing people’s votes.
Willis, who had been a registered Republican for a long time, said his vote had more to do with being anti-Trump.
“I have not read anything about local politicians being on that,” he said, “but it filters up and they change at the top.”
“I would never vote for a Republican unless it was Adam Kinzinger or Liz Cheney,” said Martha Salvati. “I’m so sick of it.”
Education is another issue of focus for voters.
Michelle Calini said she wants what’s being taught to children to be addressed.
She said first and foremost she doesn’t want the school system to get too progressive.
EAST HADDAM – Spending and the East Village development was foremost on voters’ minds as they were leaving the polls this morning at East Haddam Municipal Office Complex.
Bill Helveston, who said he voted for incumbent First Selectman Irene Haines, told CT Examiner he wants the town to stay on an “even keel” and to watch spending.
“I hope they keep going the same route they’re taking,” he said.
He said that the people in office are doing what they have to do, and he has grown tired of people who complain on social media instead of being proactive.
“The people that are complaining have to step up and instead of sitting on the computer,” he said. “Having talked to people from both parties, they complain about people and animosity sometimes, but the negativeness can stop if you get off the couch and volunteer to do something.”
Randy Barrett said what influenced the way he voted is the state of affairs in the East Haddam Village area, and what he feels is a failed development plan.
“I couldn’t vote on the incumbents based on that performance,” he said. “I’d like to see a more formal approach to it. I happen to live down there. It’s got to be kept up with the times.”
He said he would like to see the town government be more collaborative with each other.
“There seems to be a conflict politically as to what to do down there,” he said.
Barrett said the town needs to think about its development plans and how the town will look several generations down the line.
“The property should remain that of the town, not rewarded to the developer,” he said of the East Haddam Village area. “You have to think ahead several generations. It changes the culture and the nature of the town if you don’t go about it properly and allow commercial encroachment in town. I’d rather see the family owned commerce stay in town.”
Maureen Pierson said she has never missed a vote since she was 18 and said she voted for the candidates she felt would bring more transparency and frugality to the town.
“I think it is time for more transparency and more frugality and to involve more of the town’s people’s opinions rather than just do things kind of under the table subversively,” she said. “It’s a small town and it’s a great town. I want it to function as the good community that we are. We don’t need a rift.”
WESTPORT – While there is no race for first selectman to drive voter turnout this year, Democrats and Republicans alike said a write-in candidate for the Board of Education has brought many residents to the polls.
Jill Dillon, the unaffiliated write-in candidate for the school board, decided to run earlier this month due to frustration with the two Republican school board candidates – Camilo Riano and Jamie Fitzgerald.
Outside of Saugatuck Elementary School late this morning, current Republican school board member Robert Harrington asked voters to write in their vote for Dillon. He told CT Examiner that while he often disagrees with his fellow Democratic board members, he cannot stand by some of the Republican candidates’ stances.
“I find some of the stances and extremism of the two Republican candidates to be unacceptable. My view is, they’re very welcome to have those views. My real complaint is with the Republican Party,” Harrington said. “They decided to nominate those two candidates and, by default, we’ve become associated with those views.”
Asked how the two have too extreme, Harrington claimed that Riano and Fitzgerald have accused the superintendent of grooming Westport students, exploited the conflict in Israel and suggested that many Westporters are antisemitic, and called the current school board chair, Democrat Lee Goldstein, “un-American.”
Harrington and Goldstein, who is running for re-election this year, have had many disagreements on the board, including on a timeline for redistricting discussions. But Harrington said he would never publicly ridicule his opponent.
“I’m looking forward to being reelected and disagreeing with her again,” Harrington said. “But we will do so constructively.”
Harrington said it’s hard for write-in candidates to go up against those endorsed by the two parties, but said he thinks Dillon has a good chance of winning.
Inside the school, election moderator and Representative Town Meeting member Dick Lowenstein said he’s seen a steady stream of voters taking longer than usual filling out their ballots, which he attributes to Dillon’s campaign.
“To my knowledge, we’ve never had a write-in vote with such publicity,” Lowenstein said. “I don’t see the votes, so I’m guessing a lot of them are voting for the write-in. And it takes time, so that’s why the line is so long.”
As of 12 p.m., 686 voters in Districts 1 and 2 had cast their votes.
Earlier this morning at Greens Farms Elementary School, Westport Democratic Town Committee Chair Michelle Mechanic told CT Examiner that she has been traveling between polling places, and has seen fantastic turnout.
“I’ve had friends text me and say, ‘Oh my god, it feels like a presidential year. The line is long,’” Mechanic said. “And then with a write-in candidate, that’s pretty unprecedented.”
STAMFORD — Stamford’s District 3 is ground zero for the bitter charter change battle dominating this year’s municipal election.
The fight is over control of zoning decisions in the fast-developing city, and District 3 is home to working-class families and Harbor Point, a project of multiple luxury apartment high-rises.
The fence around the polling place, Lathon Wider Community Center, told the story — every “vote no” sign plastered on it was matched by a “vote yes” sign.
Turnout in the district is low historically, said Democratic State Rep. David Michel, who represents the area, but it was better than usual as of late Tuesday morning.
Michel was talking to voter Norman Hughes, who lives across the street from the community center in a multifamily house overshadowed by Harbor Point.
Hughes said it was the first he’d heard of charter change, except for a call he’d gotten telling him he should vote no. The developer of Harbor Point, Building and Land Technology, has erected a large number of banners urging residents to vote no.
Hughes listened to Michel’s argument that “yes” would give residents some additional power over development decisions.
“It makes a lot of sense,” Hughes said. “I don’t know why anyone would tell me to vote no.”
CLINTON — Standing under a tent a little after 9 a.m. the Democratic candidates for Town Council Hank Teskey and Brian Roccapriore and Zoning Board of Appeals candidate Maureen Noonan talked about the need a council majority to guide the work of Town Manager Karl Kilduff.
WESTPORT – Democrat Danielle Dobin, chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, said she is running instead for the Board of Finance this year because Westport faces “tremendous” fiscal challenges.
Posted outside of Green Farms Elementary School, Dobin told CT Examiner that while the town has a robust corporate tax base, it needs to lower its debt.
“We have $110 million of debt now,” Dobin said. “There’s a capital forecast released by the first selectwoman calling for spending over $470 million after the next few years. Clearly, we need to prioritize.”
While Planning and Zoning has “so much oversight” over key town operations, she said, they’re not a funding body. She said a position on the finance board would give her a voice in town spending during a critical time for Westport.
Asked how her time on Planning and Zoning could help her on the finance board, Dobin said the two bodies are often symbiotic.
“The board of finance sets the tax rate, the mill rate. P&Z is really responsible for growing the grand list in a real way,” she said. “I think I bring a totally different perspective to evaluating the grand list, assessing where we’re going to be next.”
NORWICH — Police Lieutenant John Perry is standing outside the Rose City Senior Center, ready to explain to people why the city needs a new police station.
Voters are being asked on the ballot to approve $44.75 million in bonding for a new station that Perry says is desperately needed. He’s been on the force 21 years, and says it’s the same building his father worked in back in 1979.
“It’s just so outdated,” he said. He added that the building can’t support the new tech they are putting in, and there’s no room to interview victims or bring in the community.
But, he said, the question he keeps getting from voters is about something other than cost — location.
“No one wants to have their neighborhood impacted … and that’s understandable,” he said.
While the ballot measure only concerns whether to approve the funding for the location, voters are concerned about an earlier proposal that would locate the new center very close to the senior center, where the skate park is now.
“I know they need it, but the location they proposed, I’m against,” said a woman wearing a white cardigan.
Another woman, Teresa, told CT Examiner she thinks placing the police station where the skate park is would cause disturbance to the schools nearby.
A third voter, Laurie, said she’s in favor.
“I think they need more space,” she said.
And a voter named Lois said that if they were going to take away the skate park, they needed to create a new place for children to gather.
“There’s not a lot for kids to do around here,” she said. “And you wonder why they get in trouble.”
Board of Education candidates Kevin Saythany and Mark Kulos, both Democrats, are also outside at the polls. Saythany tells CT Examiner that he’s heard on the campaign trail that people want to make sure students get the resources they need, and that student grades go up. Kulos added that they needed to focus on getting new schools built “as quickly as possible” – the district has several building projects in process.
As for the recent investigation into the superintendent — Saythany said it was going to “take its course” and that they could then get back to focusing on teachers and students.
Kulos said his focus with the investigation was to make sure it was done “thoroughly” and “properly” and that they set up a strong process for communications between the union and the Board.
About 350 people had voted as of 10:20 a.m.
STONINGTON — Over at District 4 at Mystic Middle School, Katie Gauthier, a Republican running for the Board of Education who was holding one of her campaign signs, stood out front under cloudy skies at 8:15 a.m.
“I sent my husband home for these rain boots and a warmer coat,” she said.
She said she started the day at 6 a.m. at Stonington Fire House, District 1. Asked about the flow of voters, she said, “seems steady.”
Nancy Seifert, who stood outside holding a campaign sign for First Selectman candidate Michael Spellman and running mate Frank Todisco, said she’d been at the polling location since 7 a.m.
“We’re hoping for a good turn out — we’ve got a lot of great candidates,” she said.
Inside, poll moderator Audrey Brown said voter turnout was “encouraging” with 300 having voted at about 8:00.
“It’s fairly steady – busier than expected for a local election,” she said.
At St. Michael’s Church, District 3, in Pawcatuck, poll moderator Jamie Ravenelle said the flow of voters had been “fairly busy” for a non-presidential election, with 179 ballots at 9:00 a.m.
“It’s a good turnout. It’s picked up since the rain stopped,” Ravenelle said.
He said the polling location was prepared for voter participation.
“We’ve got a lot of ballots. We’re prepared for whatever the turnout is,” he said.
At 10:00 a.m. at the Stonington Fire House, District 1, moderator Catherine Deichmann said the flow of voters was “excellent,” with 325 ballots cast.
“We usually have lulls but we haven’t had lulls today,” she said.
Deichmann observed that the voting also served as a social event in the neighborhood.
“It’s like a community day in a small town. A lot of conversations are happening, we like that,” she said. “There’s a lot of interest in this election.”
NEW BRITAIN – Early morning rain apparently didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of voters who cast their ballots at St. Maurice Church Hall on the city’s west end, as poll watchers and others told CT Examiner that more than 150 people had voted there for the first 3 ½ hours the polls were open.
And, Republican Registrar of Voters Peter Gostin told CT Examiner that, as of 10 a.m. there was a 6 percent turnout throughout the city. “It’s slightly higher than two years ago,” Gostin said. In 2021, New Britain saw a total turnout of 28 percent, including absentee ballots.
CT Examiner spoke to eight voters at the Church Hall on Wightman Street, the polling place of Republican Mayor Erin Stewart, and seven of those said they’d be voting for the mayor. Several of those voters said they were either splitting their ticket – voting for Stewart for mayor and Democrats for other offices – or were registered Democrats who were happy with the job the five-term mayor has done in the city.
Voters were greeted with signs for Stewart and her slate as well as for Democratic mayoral candidate Chris Anderson and his slate of candidates. Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by about 4-1 and the city’s west end, one of the areas in the city with a higher percentage of registered Republicans.
George Sapieha, a registered Democrat and brother-in-law of Democratic New Britain State. Sen. Rick Lopes said he’s breaking with many in his family and voted for the 36-year-old Stewart.
“Yes, I come from a Democratic family, but she’s [Stewart] been doing a good job; the city is on the right track,” said Sapieha, who lives on Oakwood Drive. “I vote for the person and the job they’ve done. Over the last 10 years, the city’s cleaned up as crime is down and businesses are coming in. Look around downtown, there are more restaurants and we even have some new breweries in the city.”
Like many of those interviewed, Sapieha said he didn’t know much about Anderson, a relative newcomer to the city who previously served on the Common Council.
“I have zero knowledge of him. I have no clue about him. I do like the job she’s done,” he said.
Gloria Frost, a Cornwall Road resident, told CT Examiner she’d be voting for Stewart for the top of the ticket but “I’m voting for the Democrats the rest of the way.”
“I know what Erin has done and I’m impressed,” said Frost, of Stewart, who has served as mayor for 10 years. “I like that she can work with Democrats and Republicans; she can work with both sides. I’m also happy with what she’s done for education funding but the top of my list is how she works with others.”
Stewart has made the cornerstone of her campaign the fact that many on her slate are either registered Democrats or registered unaffiliated.
Long-time city attorney Michael Carrier said he switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party two years ago.
A lifelong city resident, Carrier said he remembers how the city used to be compared to how it is today.
“She’s [Stewart] turned the city around,” Carrier told CT Examiner. “Growing up downtown was vibrant but, starting in the 1970s, factories moved out and the highway came in and everything changed for the worst. She’s made the city more welcoming for New Britain to be a place to live and work. I’m proud of the city.”
Amy Bershaw was the only person CT Examiner interviewed that voted for Anderson. Still, Bershaw said, “Erin Stewart has done a great job.”
Bershaw said she voted for Anderson, a 34-year-old real estate accountant, because “it’s time for a change. She is getting too established. Change is good and it’s the same status quo now.”
Anderson’s campaign has focused on taxes and he’s gone door-to-door talking to residents about how much the taxes on their homes went up.
Bershaw said taxes are a top concern for her.
“Taxes are so high here,” she said. “Mine are $8,000 a year; about a 15 percent increase [over the previous year]. Everyone talks about taxes, year after year.”
City resident and accountant Frank Marrocco told CT Examiner that he’s voting for Stewart because the city has “prospered so much since she took office. She has really turned the city around from what it was 10 years ago.” Stewart’s campaign has leaned heavily on touting new business growth and development in recent years; Anderson has countered that Stewart has favored giving tax breaks to wealthy developers.
Jennifer Pagan, a city resident and native of Michigan, said she’s voted for Stewart “every time.”
Pagan also said she is splitting her ticket.
A city teacher, Pagan said, “Erin has a vision and foresight. The city was stagnant and she has revitalized it.”
Pagan said she voted for Democratic Board of Education candidate Sal Escobales because he is a teacher and president of the local teacher’s union.
“I know what he stands for,” Pagan said of Escobales. “He knows what’s working and what’s not working from the ground level.”
Brian Anderson, who recently retired after working 35 years for the city’s Fire Department, told CT Examiner that “I saw what her dad did for fire and police and for the whole city. She’s done the same. We have a new police chief [Matthew Marino] and she’s always stood up for the Police Department.”
Anderson, who is not related to Chris Anderson, said he changed parties and became a Republican four years ago, primarily due to Erin Stewart.
Anderson was referring to Erin Stewart’s father, Timothy Stewart, a Republican who served as mayor for four terms.
Drew Gallup, a registered Independent, said he voted for Stewart because “the city is run well. She keeps costs at bay and provides services. I know people that know her and, as long as she is the mayor, I will keep voting for her.”
Stewart showed up to vote at the polling place at about 9 a.m. with her 3-year-old daughter, Lina Mutone.
“I am feeling confident, but never comfortable,” Stewart told CT Examiner. “I never believe that I have it in the bag. I treat every election like I’m 10 points behind.”
FAIRFIELD – Bill Perugini, a Republican on his third run for constable, said the Republican Town Committee has offered an especially great slate of candidates this year.
“We’re fortunate in our town that we have so many qualified candidates running for office, and their hearts are in the right place,” Perugini told CT Examiner.
Standing outside of Sherman School, Perguini said Republican candidates include residents with doctorate degrees, chief executive officers, attorneys, professors and medical doctors who are ready to contribute to the “vibrancy” and “effectiveness” of Fairfield government.
Having served two terms as a constable and with a background in law enforcement, Perugini said he is running for a third time because he is committed to the community.
“I had an experience with someone who served papers, and they weren’t very professional or compassionate,” he said. “And I just thought, if there’s anything I could do, I would.”
FAIRFIELD – While campaigning for the Representative Town Meeting in District 9, Jim Bowen said he has driven his 300-pound, four-seater bike for a total of 12,000 miles – all in the spirit of name recognition.
As an unaffiliated candidate, Bowen told CT Examiner it can be difficult to stand out in an election. Luckily for him, his friend had the bike on hand.
“Any way you look at this bike, 360 degrees, you see my name,” Bowen said. “If you’re driving a car, you see my name. It’s like a license plate. You’re walking? You see my name.”
Bowen said he started to ride the bike around Fairfield in early August, and did so for the next three weeks. After that, he said, people finally began to recognize him.
A retired Air Force Colonel and aerospace engineer, Bowen said he’s running for the RTM to have a say in town budget decisions.
“The RTM controls the town budget, which sets property taxes. And that’s a big deal to me as a retired guy,” he said.
FAIRFIELD – Democrats huddled outside of Sherman School reported a steady flow of voters all morning, and reflected on an earlier visit from Gov. Ned Lamont.
“We’ve done all we can do, and everyone has worked really, really hard,” said Bill Gerber, the Democratic candidate for first selectman.
Gerber was joined by his running mate Christine Vitale, State Rep. Jennifer Leeper, D-Fairfield, and State Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, D-Fairfield. And earlier that morning, Gerber said Lamont had paid the group a visit.
“It was great. We spent some time talking about the United Illuminating poles,” Gerber said. “Jenn Leeper was talking to him about that and telling him our concerns about some of the cost estimates that United Illuminating put forward that don’t make any sense.”
On Sunday, residents and officials gathered at Pequot Library to oppose the proposed replacement of aged transmission lines along the Metro North railroad by United Illuminating. If elected, Gerber said he’d want to slow the utility company’s process down and re-evaluate.
Standing beside him, Vitale, a school board member running for the Board of Selectmen, told CT Examiner that she has enjoyed connecting with voters on issues like the United Illuminating project, Penfield Pavilion and town infrastructure.
“Either way, I think that just the campaign season was a really valuable time for both sides to connect with voters, and to bring a lot of issues that really haven’t been in the forefront,” Vitale said.
MIDDLETOWN — Democratic Councilwoman Jeannette Blackwell and Mayor Ben Florsheim are standing outside Wesley Elementary School at around 8 a.m.
Blackwell says that this area is a strong district, primarily Democratic, and that she expects they’ll “knock it out of the park” here.
A man with two small children in hoodies walks by, and she waves.
“Got those babies!” she calls. “I know those babies!”
Florsheim says things have been pretty positive so far. At one point, a man in a grey shirt walks up to Florsheim and shakes his hand.
“Keep up the good work,” he says.
Republican Councilman Tony Gennaro also stops by the district to vote. He tells CT Examiner he’s feeling good about the day.
“I think people have noticed what I’ve done,” he says, adding that he’s worked “in a bipartisan way” but also been tough on colleagues on both sides.
Gennaro said it’s been a tough four years trying to govern through COVID, and adds that he feels people have drifted too far to the left and right, and that he’s “caught in the middle.”
“At the end of the day, what I try to do is pull people together,” he says.
Lynette Gaunichaux, the moderator, says they’ve had about 109 voters come out by 8 a.m.
She says this is a pretty steady district, which she likes to see.
“Whether Republican or Democrat, people show,” she says.
Outside, a woman who just voted says what’s important to her is keeping taxes low, especially with everything that’s been going on since COVID.
Keri, a mom whose child goes to Spencer, and who is hosting yet another bake sale, says she supports Mayor Florshiem.
“I love what he has done, just bringing new life in,” she says, pointing to Florshiem.
She said she likes the work that’s been done in the downtown.
“That area needs life, in my opinion,” she said.
MIDDLETOWN — More baked goods await voters at Spencer Elementary School, where 20 people have voted by 7:15 a.m.
One of the moms, Cindy, said that when she’s voting for Board of Education, she wants to see herself represented.
“I myself am a minority, so it’s important to have those voices heard,” she said.
Melinda said she wants people who will vote for “what’s best for our kids.”
Outside, a woman in jeans and boots with a butterfly clip in her hair tells CT Examiner that she votes Republican.
“I just hope for unity, mostly,” she says, before adding that she has to get to work.
Former Councilman Ed McKeon has also come to Spencer to cast his vote. He says he feels the Democrats have a strong ticket this year, but adds that he feels the Republicans are “radical in their thinking.” He notes that they have the same people running for multiple offices.
“People just don’t want to be associated with them,” he said.
OLD LYME – About 550 people have voted by 9:15 a.m. — a bit slower than normal, according to the moderator, who attributes the slow start to the rain this morning.
Several voters exiting Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School tell CT Examiner that they voted Democratic, but declined to offer further comment.
One voter named Jim, who says he’s unaffiliated, said he thought both first selectman candidates were highly qualified, but said that what pushed him over the edge was the vision for Hall’s Road.
“I feel it’s too ambitious for the town,” he said.
He said that while he didn’t want the town to “become a truck stop” he also felt that Old Saybrook and Niantic had done a good job with retail.
“I don’t think it’s us,” he said.
Jude Read, the Republican candidate for selectman, said it had been slow this morning, but that she was hoping it would pick up later.
“It’s a pretty contentious fight,” she said.
Jim Lampos, Democratic candidate for selectman, said he was feeling good so far, but that you never knew how things would go.
“It feels great, but I try to keep humble,” he said.
STONINGTON — “It’s been slow. At 6 a.m. we only had one person waiting. For state and national elections we have a line at 6 a.m.,” said Chris Rose, District 2 poll manager at the Board of Education District Office at 40 Field Street.
At about 7:30 a.m. the steady rain was, perhaps, letting up. Rose said the rain was a factor in the morning’s slow numbers.
Checking the digital readout of the voting machine, 69 people had cast their ballots. “That’s about twice the number of the first hour this morning,” Rose said.
Outside, a few candidates and their supporters – all in rain gear, some under a temporary tent, some holding umbrellas – waved at voters and raised their campaign signs as cars entered and exited the parking lot. Citizens quickly exited their cars, hurried inside to the polling station, and zipped back to their cars as the rain picked up again.
MIDDLETOWN — It’s quiet at MacDonough Elementary School. About 12 people have voted by 6:45 a.m, which the moderator, Wallace, tells me is a good number. It’s a small district, he says.
But the early hour hasn’t stopped several moms from setting up tables laden with cupcakes and cookies, and coffee. One of the moms tells me that they make anywhere between $400 and $1200 on Election Day — more, obviously, during presidential years.
One of the moms, Carrie, told me she is more likely to vote for Board of Education members who are willing to spend money on the schools.
Not that she wants people to waste money, she said, but “Things are more expensive than people remember.”
Angie, another mom, said talk of a charter school has been on her mind.
“It’s not going to benefit the kids that are here,” she said.
Outside, another voter, Thomas, said that he thinks both the mayor and the Board of Education are doing an okay job.
“There’s no controversy that would make me want to clean house,” he said.
A voter in a windbreaker who declined to give her name said she votes Democrat.
“As long as the Democrat wins, I’m good.”
BRIDGEPORT – Greeting voters at the Black Rock School this morning, Mayor Joe Ganim underscored the importance of voting on Tuesday, even after a judge called for a new Democratic primary to be held after the elections.
On Tuesday, Ganim told CT Examiner that every vote in the general election counts – regardless of the court decision.
“We’ll see what happens afterwards with regards to the court cases and things like that, but this is people’s right to vote,” Ganim said. “This is election day. And I’m hoping that people will obviously use the opportunity to come out and vote.”
Asked if he is confident that he’d win a second Democratic primary election, Ganim said he is not sure what the future will bring.
“I don’t think anybody really knows. There’s a ruling by the court, certainly, that we’ll look at. But we’re not going to be focused on that until after today.”
Last week, a Judge William Clark at the Fairfield Judicial District Superior Court overturned the Sept. 12 Democratic primary election which named Ganim the winner, citing video footage of the incumbent’s supporters seemingly committing absentee ballot fraud.
But if John Gomes – Ganim’s opponent — wins today’s general election as an Independent, there may not be another primary. And if Ganim or another mayoral candidate wins, Bridgeport voters will face a do-over.
In the meantime, Ganim touted the progress he said he’s made as mayor, including fiscal stability for the city, stable taxes, a decrease in crime and funding for education.
Just a few feet away, Gomes supporter Donna Curran – a former member of City Council – told voters that the city needs a real change in leadership. Having won two elections for City Council and lost two, she claimed that she’s experienced election fraud in her own races.
“I lost two because of absentee ballot abuse. So, when I heard about John’s candidacy and I met with him and his staff, I was very impressed,” Curran told CT Examiner. “He’s a man who spent 40 years in the city, raised his four children here and has business here. He loves the city, and of course, he hasn’t been in jail for nine years.”
According to a poll worker, there were 170 votes cast at the Black Rock School at 8:30 a.m. Curran attributed “low voter turnout” to a mistrust in Bridgeport’s election system.
“Corruption is a form of voter suppression,” Curran said.