State officials are hoping for a larger-than-normal turnout Tuesday as voters go to the polls to select leaders in 132 Connecticut cities and towns.
The most closely watched race is in Waterbury, where two Democrats and a Republican are battling for the right to succeed jailed Mayor Philip Giordano.
There is also expected to be a tight race in Danbury, where former city council leader Christopher Setaro and state Rep. Mark Boughton are fighting to succeed longtime Mayor Gene Eriquez, who is not seeking re-election.
In Norwalk, Mayor Frank Esposito, who is seeking his eighth two-year term, faces a strong challenge from state Rep. Alex Knopp.
Gov. John G. Rowland has endorsed fellow Republican Dennis Odle in Waterbury, the governor’s hometown. But Rowland concedes that the political newcomer’s chances of winning are remote.
Odle, an IBM executive who has never run for office, faces Democrat Michael Jarjura — the party-endorsed candidate — and Larry DePillo, who lost a September primary by just 14 votes but qualified for the general election as a petitioning candidate.
There is no mayoral election in Bridgeport, where Democrat Joseph Ganim has presided since 1991. Ganim, who was indicted last week on 24 felony charges in connection with a wide-ranging corruption investigation, was elected to a four-year term in 1999.
Continuing a recent trend, 46 races for mayor or first selectman have only one major party candidate.
Still, state and local officials are hopeful that a renewed wave of patriotism since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will boost turnout.
“Not since the attack on Pearl Harbor has there been such a strong demonstration of national pride and unity,” said Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz. She predicts overall turnout will exceed the 41 percent mark reached in the municipal elections of 1999.
Bysiewicz has reason for optimism. During primaries in 31 cities towns the day of the attacks, turnout increased over two years ago.