Mayor John DeStefano Jr. coasted to re-election Tuesday, winning a record-tying eighth term.
With official tallies from seven of New Haven’s 30 wards still outstanding as Democrats at an election celebration Tuesday night posted results called in from polling stations, the incumbent mayor had garnered 71 percent of the vote. Republican challenger H. Richter Elser ’81 finished second with 17 percent, and Green Party candidate Ralph Ferrucci received 12 percent of the vote to earn a third-place finish.
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In brief remarks at the election celebration at Playwright, DeStefano said the returns demonstrate that New Haven citizens are committed to working together as a unified community. While New Haven “is not always an easy city,” he said he was honored to be trusted once again with the job and that he still retains the same enthusiasm for working on behalf of the Elm City as he did when he was first elected.
“You don’t do this for 14 years and not have a sense of the place,” he said. “Irrespective of race, neighborhood or incomes … we have a shared agenda: hope for our children and respect for our neighbors.”
Democratic Party leaders said low voter turnout — with only 8,866 residents casting votes with reports from seven wards outstanding — reflected a lack of imposing competition against DeStefano.
Facing what many observers called token opposition, DeStefano ran on a platform of continuing the growth the city’s economy has experienced during his tenure and implementing new policies to reduce youth crime and boost the performance of New Haven’s public schools.
While turnout for the race hovered around 20 percent, Democratic Town Chairwoman Susie Voigt said that figure was about what she had expected, given the dynamics of the contest, in which few doubted the mayor would win.
“Voters are smart,” she said “We saw a large turnout in Ward 25 [where there were] two serious opponents.”
Voigt said DeStefano has been a “strong, powerful mayor” whose vision has resonated with voters. DeStefano has proven he can adapt to the city’s changing needs, the most pressing of which currently is the large number of undocumented immigrants, she said.
“That’s the mayor I want to have, and clearly that’s the mayor the city wants to have,” Voigt said.
DeStefano’s two opponents dedicated their campaigns to trying to disprove such claims.
Throughout the race, Elser criticized DeStefano’s support of the Elm City Resident Card, a program he has previously said is “a distraction to the city,” and called for a tighter budget and integration of successful charter schools into the city’s public school system.
Meanwhile, Ferrucci focused his campaign on pushing the city to force Yale to make a greater financial contribution to the city’s budget. He also addressed police department corruption and the need for community centers.
Despite his defeat, Elser said he will continue to be involved in the city through his seat on New Haven’s Board of Zoning Appeals.
“I’m disappointed, but things are what they are,” he said.
Ferrucci could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
Former President of the Yale College Democrats Brendan Gants ’08 said though he spent much of Election Day calling voters in Ward 1 to push them to head to the polls, he can understand the low voter turnout in this race.
“It’s always good to do your civic duty to show that voters are still paying attention,” he said. “I think voters are engaged enough that if there is a problem, they’ll see it … But it just seemed there was a citywide consensus the mayor deserved another term.”
At the Democratic Party election celebration at Playwright after the polls closed, supporters of the mayor mingled with aldermen who trickled in as their victories were officially announced.
Since the mayor’s victory was never in much doubt, the crowd applauded most vigorously upon hearing that incumbent Ward 25 Alderwoman Ina Silverman ’80 had warded off a challenge by Republican Tom Malone. The race stood out for its high turnout — while most wards saw only a few hundred people show up at the polls, Ward 25 had more than 1,100.
In the only race in which an incumbent was defeated, Democratic Ward 10 Alderman Ed Mattison lost to Green Party candidate Allan Brison.