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