Par­ties split — but white men won big Tues­day

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Kait­lyn Kras­selt

Tues­day’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions saw Democrats and Repub­li­cans cap­ture an equal num­ber of ci­ties and towns from each other, de­spite Democrats hop­ing for a rip­ple from the 2018 blue wave that flipped sev­eral state leg­isla­tive seats.

But the real win­ners were white males, who will lead all ex­cept one of Con­necti­cut’s eight big­gest ci­ties, where a com­bined 36 per­cent of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion is white.

The lone ex­cep­tion is Re­pub­li­can Erin Ste­wart in New Bri­tain, who is white. Of the men, the youngest, Hart­ford Mayor Luke Bronin, is 40 years old.

In fact, across all of Con­necti­cut’s 169 towns and ci­ties — each with their own unique form of govern­ment — just 44 towns will be led by women, down from 45 with the loss of New Haven Mayor Toni Harp.

And only a tiny num­ber — pos­si­bly as small as one — will be led by peo­ple of color.

“Some­times it’s eas­ier to go with what you know than giv­ing some­one else an op­por­tu­nity,” said Suzette DeBeatham­Brown,

the mayor of Bloom­field, a black woman from Ja­maica.

She said she’s aware of no other peo­ple of color who are top elected of­fi­cials in Con­necti­cut ci­ties or towns af­ter Harp steps down — “and that makes me re­ally sad to think about.”

DeBeatham­Brown was re­elected to the town coun­cil Tues­day and ex­pects to be reap­pointed mayor next week as the big­gest vote­get­ter.

“I do be­lieve di­ver­sity in lead­er­ship is ex­tremely im­por­tant,” she said. “I be­lieve that we need to cul­ti­vate a cli­mate where can see all peo­ple as valu­able and not be so com­fort­able with the sta­tus quo.”

Po­lit­i­cal ob­servers say the racial and gen­der makeup of the chief ex­ec­u­tives in the state’s largest com­mu­ni­ties is the re­sult of many fac­tors, in­clud­ing long­stand­ing road­blocks for peo­ple of color to gain po­lit­i­cal power.

Nancy Wyman, chair­woman of the state Demo­cratic Party, ac­knowl­edged the lack of di­ver­sity among lead­er­ship in the state’s big­gest ci­ties — all of which have mi­nor­ity ma­jor­ity pop­u­la­tions, ac­cord­ing to cen­sus es­ti­mates. But she said she’s op­ti­mistic for the fu­ture be­cause of di­ver­sity on lo­cal boards and coun­cils across the state.

“Yeah, you look at the big ci­ties right now and right now they came out and elected white men, but the un­der­tick­ets in the big ci­ties are very, very di­verse and what we have seen through­out the state, and how many can­di­dates that came out and won, it is amaz­ing,” Wyman said.

Wyman said she’s watch­ing closely the dozen towns the Democrats “flipped” from Re­pub­li­can con­trol. “Some with women, and what’s be­hind them is the di­ver­sity, which is ab­so­lutely great to see. When we look at un­der­tick­ets like Nor­wich, where we took on so many of the coun­cil seats, and in Derby and East Haven, which we never would have ex­pected to have done... It is an ex­cit­ing time for us be­cause it builds the base for us and they keep mov­ing up the ticket.”

She added, “We re­ally were kind of happy about what hap­pened on Tues­day night.”

The eight largest ci­ties in the state, in or­der, are Bridge­port, New Haven, Stam­ford, Hart­ford, Water­bury, Nor­walk, Dan­bury and New Bri­tain.

Women and can­di­dates of color were de­feated in Septem­ber Demo­cratic pri­maries in Hart­ford by in­cum­bent Luke Bronin; in New Haven by Justin Elicker; in Middletown by Ben Flor­sheim; and in Bridge­port by in­cum­bent Joe Ganim, among other places.

In New Haven, Mayor Toni Harp de­cided af­ter sev­eral weeks not to drop out of the race and ac­tively cam­paigned un­der the en­dorse­ment of the Work­ing Fam­i­lies Party un­til Elec­tion Day, but fell way short. Elicker named a large tran­si­tion com­mit­tee that’s headed by three women.

In Bridge­port, state Sen. Mar­i­lyn Moore, whose cam­paign hit nu­mer­ous road bumps along the way, was forced to con­clude her un­suc­cess­ful run as a write­in can­di­date.

Repub­li­cans also lack di­ver­sity among chief elected of­fi­cials and, like Wyman, the GOP state chief says that party has di­verse can­di­dates who both ran and were elected to lo­cal boards and town coun­cils.

“We’ve been work­ing with ci­ties, work­ing with in­di­vid­u­als, in terms of re­cruit­ing can­di­dates in gen­eral,” said Re­pub­li­can Party Chair­man J.R. Ro­mano, who ac­knowl­edges Re­pub­li­can can­di­dates strug­gle to ma­te­ri­al­ize and earn votes in the state’s deep­blue ci­ties.

“I do think there’s a sense of irony that the largest ci­ties in the state of Con­necti­cut are all white, wealthy men,” Ro­mano said.

Both par­ties picked up roughly a dozen mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, flip­ping top elected of­fi­cials in many of the state’s sub­urbs and small ci­ties.

Repub­li­cans hold the top elected seat in 88 towns and ci­ties, rep­re­sent­ing a to­tal pop­u­la­tion of 1.54 mil­lion peo­ple. Democrats, though they hold the top seat in just 77 towns and ci­ties, rep­re­sent a to­tal pop­u­la­tion of 1.96 mil­lion peo­ple, while un­af­fil­i­ated chief elected of­fi­cials rep­re­sent about 72,000 peo­ple in four towns.

That shows the power of the ci­ties, which have kept Democrats in all of the statewide of­fices and all of Con­necti­cut’s Con­gres­sional seats and in solid con­trol of both cham­bers in the Gen­eral As­sem­bly.

There doesn’t seem to be any par­tic­u­lar rhyme or rea­son to the towns that flipped. Some, like Fairfield and Old Lyme, which were both won by Re­pub­li­can can­di­dates un­seat­ing Demo­cratic in­cum­bents, were plagued by lo­cal scan­dals. A small Blue Wave might ex­plain wins in Litch­field and Madison for the Demo­cratic Party.

But for the most part, Tues­day night proved that in mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions, all pol­i­tics is lo­cal.

Wyman said she doesn’t be­lieve the so­called “Trump ef­fect” im­pacted the re­sults of Tues­day’s elec­tions across the state, in­stead ow­ing her party’s wins and losses to lo­cal is­sues. How­ever, she said she does be­lieve the pres­i­dent’s un­pop­u­lar­ity across the state drove a surge in new can­di­dates for lo­cal of­fices, as well as vol­un­teers and fi­nan­cial sup­port for the party.

Ro­mano, too, gave credit to the hard work of lo­cal can­di­dates and town chair­men for the par­ties suc­cesses on Tues­day.

“It’s hard to read any­thing statewide from this,” Ro­mano said. “For all the suc­cess we had as a party, it re­ally goes on how hard our lo­cal can­di­dates and lo­cal town chair­men worked to ac­com­plish those vic­to­ries.”

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Sur­rounded by fam­ily and sup­port­ers, Bridge­port Mayor Joe Ganim smiles as he de­liv­ers his re­elec­tion vic­tory speech at Testo’s Res­tau­rant in Bridge­port on Tues­day.

Peter Hviz­dak / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

New Haven Mayor­elect Justin Elicker in his cam­paign head­quar­ters on Wed­nes­day.

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