The biggest story of the night was Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura’s unprecedented write-in landslide. Jarjura, who lost a bitter primary fight to rival Karen Mulcahy, spent over $20,000 running as a write-in candidate. Unbelievably, he won by more than 2,500 votes. Nearly 8,000 people lifted the little door on their voting machines and penciled his name in. Waterbury, it seemed, had no intention of being parted from its mayor.
Other incumbents didn’t fare as well as Mr. Jarjura. In Middletown, Mayor Dominique Thornton lost a close race to Republican challenger Seb Giuliano, while in Norwalk Democratic Mayor Alex Knopp lost to Republican Richard Moccio, and in Torrington incumbent Democratic Mayor Owen Quinn lost to 22-year-old Republican Ryan Bingham.
Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy, a candidate for governor next year, found himself in a much tighter race than expected, winning with just 51% of the vote. The other Democratic candidate, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, won with 76% of the vote. "This sign of overwhelming support in New Haven is the first step in winning the Governor's race," said DeStefano in a press release Wednesday. DeStefano campaign director Shonu Gandhi had this to say when I asked about Malloy's close victory in Stamford:
With yesterday's landslide victory, it is clear that John DeStefano has won the first phase of the Democratic [gubernatorial] contest. With an overwhelming 76 pecrent re-election win, over a million dollars more than his nearest opponent and the only union endorsements in the race, John is clearly the strongest Democratic candidate to run against Jodi Rell. Bottom line: John DeStefano has the most money, strongest endorsements, and the strongest base of any Democratic candidate running for Governor.
So who came out on top last night? What does it mean for next year? There are some very slight trends that I'm seeing here, although I haven't had time yet to go through all the data. Republicans seem to be doing better than expected in mid-sized cities like Torrington, Danbury, Norwalk and New Britain. Democrats seem to be making inroads into some of the small towns. Independent parties and town-specific parties also did better than they have in the past, capturing boards in East Hampton, Winsted and Willington. Independent candidate (and former mayor) Rodney Mortensen won a landslide victory in Newington. In New London, anger about eminent domain helped the One New London party win two of seven council seats.
Each party should be feeling both good and bad about last night. Both major parties made gains in what could be considered enemy territory. Republicans seemed to come out on top with some high-profile victories in traditionally Democratic areas like New Britain, Middletown, Torrington, Danbury and Norwalk. However, Republicans have yet to translate their gains at the top of the ticket into victories on town boards and councils. Each of these mayors will have a Democratic legislative body to deal with. The opposite seems to be happening in some of the small, traditionally Republican towns like North Branford, where a Democrat is the new First Selectman. The rest of the board, however, is in Republican hands.
An openness towards Republican candidates in small to medium-sized cities could be trouble for Democrats next year. The House of Representatives is in no danger of seeing a Republican majority any time soon, but the Senate, which has only 36 members, may be.
Election 2005 provided a lot of surprises and a lot of the same. Many towns opted to keep incumbents right where they were. Now the focus shifts to 2006, and to state races.
I am working on a new town council control map, but it won't be finished for a while yet. I am still compiling all the results.