STAMFORD — Voters Tuesday rejected the proposed changes to the city charter, including ones that would have set some limits to the mayor’s authority over development.
They voted 11,101 to 8,485 against the charter changes after a bitter campaign that pitted a well-funded political action committee urging residents to vote “no” against a grassroots political action committee urging residents to vote “yes.”
The vote count includes poll results, absentee ballots, and ballots submitted by people who registered to vote on Election Day, Democratic Registrar of Voters Ron Malloy said Tuesday night.
The charter question drove turnout higher than usual for a municipal election, 28.3 percent, Malloy said. It’s typically about 20 percent when only local candidates are on the ballot.
Stamford has the highest number of registered voters in the state — 72,798, Malloy said. Most voters, 18,556, showed up at the polls; 1,934 voted by absentee ballot; and 51 people registered to vote and cast ballots on Election Day, he said.
The vote was a victory for Democrat Mayor Caroline Simmons and the Democratic City Committee, which fought hard against the changes supported by a majority of Democrats on the Board of Representatives.
In a statement issued by her staff, Simmons said: “A diverse coalition of Democrats and Republicans, elected and community leaders, all came together to oppose this charter revision. The reason was simple: they believe Stamford is currently making progress in creating a more inclusive, affordable and thriving city, and they don’t want that progress to stop. Voters’ rejection of this measure reflects a clear desire for government that is responsive to every neighborhood, family and resident. Today’s results are a clear call to action for everyone in city government that our constituents believe we already have the right tools at our disposal to govern effectively. So let’s get to work delivering the functional, responsible, responsive government that Stamford residents deserve.”
Democratic city Rep. Nina Sherwood, the majority leader of the Board of Representatives who led the “vote yes” campaign, repeated that the change that sparked the political battle would have closed a loop hole in the existing charter that allows mayoral appointees to remain on the zoning board long after their terms expire, leaving them accountable to the mayor more than the citizens.
“The election results are the product of what special interest money and excessive manipulation of facts can accomplish in an election in which people are just trying to do what’s right for their communities,” Sherwood told CT Examiner on Wednesday. “Telling people taxes will go up and government will grind to a halt was a lie. I’m impressed that 8,485 people who waded through the tsunami of misinformation saw it for what it was, and voted to empower their own voices. At least, all of this had exposed who really pulls the strings in this city — and it’s not the people.”
“Mayor Simmons likes to say we are the economic engine for the state, but the people of Stamford are being used to enrich a small group of wealthy, well-connected people who profit prolifically from the way things are, while the quality of life for the people goes down, and taxes go up,” said Sherwood.
A recount and candidate races
Tuesday’s election also resulted in a recount for the District 18 Board of Representatives seat, where Democrat and newcomer Karen Camporeale challenged Republican incumbent Steve Garst. Camporeale is ahead, 802 to 796, a difference of six votes, triggering an automatic recount.
The recount should take place one day next week, most likely Tuesday, Malloy said.
It will be Camporeale’s second recount. She won the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, defeating Jennienne Burke by two votes, a result that held up in the recount.
Voters Tuesday also decided on candidates for the Board of Representatives, Board of Education and Board of Finance.
On the finance board, Democrats Mary Lou Rinaldi and Geoff Alswanger won reelection, and Democrat Laura Burwick, who was appointed to the board last year to fill a vacancy, won a four-year term.
On the school board, three Democrats – newcomers Antonia Better-Wirz and Gabriela Koc, and incumbent Andy George – garnered enough votes to win seats. The Republicans, Nicola Tarzia and Michael Arcano, were defeated. Board President Jackie Heftman, another Democrat, ran unopposed to fill a seat vacated last year.
Five seats on the Board of Representatives also were open because of vacancies.
Beyond the recount between Garst and Camporeale in District 18, two Democrats, Dakary Watkins in District 5 and Kindrea Walston in District 9, ran unopposed.
In District 7, Democrat Christina Strain defeated Republican Michael Battinelli.
In District 20, incumbent Democrat Carl Weinberg defeated Republican Vito Quivelli.
Tiffany Pippins, a Democrat, ran unopposed for constable. Pippins will fill a two-year vacancy.
This story has been updated to include comments by Sherwood