Primary challengers win in New Haven, almost win in Bridgeport
Incumbent big-city mayors on Tuesday got runs for their money.
Third-term New Haven Mayor Toni N. Harp lost, in the culmination of a bitter race, while Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim squeezed out a narrow victory on absentee ballots after losing at the polls in an indication of waning support for his political redemption.
Harp’s challenger, attorney Justin Elicker, a 44-year-old former alderman, received 6,900 votes, for a 2,400-vote margin in a race caught under the cloud of an active FBI investigation into City Hall.
Ganim apparently defeated state Sen. Marilyn Moore by around 300 votes, unofficially, after absentee ballots were counted. Moore, however, showed that voters might have finally cooled to Ganim after four years in his second stint after a federal prison term. Moore won by about 344 on city voting machines, unofficially.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin cruised to victory.
Former Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, now chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee, said that the party is likely to emerge stronger after the votes were tallied into the late evening.
“I just think that right now it’s exciting to see people come out, to challenge, to get involved,” Wyman said in a mid-afternoon phone interview. “I hope that tomorrow, we’re one party again. That’s our goal: to have a strong base for 2020.”
Her counterpart felt the same.
“My hope after the primary is the local party comes together to ensure that Republicans win in November,” said Republican State Chairman J.R. Romano, who added he had not heard of any problems at polling places. “There’s nothing more frightening than a town led by a Democrat.”
Gabe Rosenberg, spokesman for Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, said that turnout had been “low but steady,” depending on the towns and particular races. The failure of a backup tabulator machine in Hartford was quickly remedied, with moderators getting voters to place their completed ballots in a backup system for adding up later later in the day.
Democratic Mayor Curt Leng of Hamden won his primary over Lauren Garrett, a council member. There were also primaries in West Haven, as did Republican first selectmen in Somers, Southbury and Voluntown also face primaries.
In the Oxford Democratic primary for first selectman, Betty Hellman apparently beat Scott Flaherty by three votes, and the right to challenge incumbent First Selectman George Temple, unofficially.
Ganim lost the 2018 Democratic primary for governor to Ned Lamont, spending about $900,000 to win only one of the state’s 169 towns and cities.
Moore claimed that she had a backup plan, running as a Working Families Party line in November if she lost the primary. But Merrill’s office said Tuesday night that Moore fell short of the number of signatures needed to run an outsider challenge in the fall.
A discrepancy emerged late Tuesday night when Moore workers said they turned in many more pages than the 14 that were sent by city officials to Merrill’s office for certification. In addition, a ballot line secured earlier in the year could possibly open up, or she could mount a write-in campaign such as one that worked for former Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura in 2005.
In Hartford, Bronin, who also spent time on a campaign for governor in 2018, beat two primary challengers. Eddie A. Perez, the city’s former mayor who was forced to resign in 2010 after a corruption conviction, and Brandon McGee Jr., a state representative from Hartford, both attempted to unseat Bronin.
While most voting went smoothly reporters in two cities faced inappropriate obstacles at the polls.
A radio reporter, Cassandra Basler, said on Twitter at about 5 o’clock that three polling officials and a police officer approached her outside the Bassick High School polls in Bridgeport and said she wasn’t allowed there, even though her audio microphone was clearly marked with the logo of the WSHU, the local National Public Radio affiliate.
Merrill, the state’s chief election official tweeted at about 6 p.m. that reporters are allowed at polling places. “We have addressed this with the local election officials in Bridgeport,” Merrill said. Shortly before the polls closed at 8 o’clock, Rosenberg said that another reporter, in Middletown, has also been temporarily barred from a school, where classes were taking place.
At Bridgeport’s Thomas Hooker School, where Maria Pereira spent the day asking voters to support her bid for a City Council seat, the voter count just exceeded 200 at around 1 o’clock. Last election, more than 700 votes were cast at the school.
“This is crazy,” Pereira said. “There is just no enthusiasm for either (mayoral) candidate. Last time there was. This year, people are like ummph.”
Sarah McIver, moderator of the polling station at the Howard Avenue firehouse, in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, said the flow of voters was smooth, with no glitches and most who cast ballots were excited to be there as Justin Elicker challenged Harp for the party nomination.
Julie Anastasio, 39, who was outside the firehouse to support Elicker, said she wanted to “see positive change” in the city. Anastasio, who is working to become a school teacher in the city, was with her fiance, Neftaly Otero, said she has been helping to campaign for several months and wanted to see the city become more united. She said Elicker “has proven himself.”
There were 14 Republican primaries, including competitive races in East Haven and West Haven, as well as a three-way fight for the GOP mayoral nomination in Bridgeport, where John Rodriquez won with 275 votes. Brigdeport Republican voter registration is about one-tenth that of Democrats’ 46,000.