While Tuesday’s mayoral and aldermanic elections yielded few major surprises, the results still represented a significant victory for New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and the Democratic Party he has tried to reshape.
DeStefano will begin his sixth term with 28 of the 30 seats on the Board of Aldermen occupied by Democrats, as his party picked up one ward each from the Green and Republican parties. One of those Democrats will be incumbent Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04, who was reelected to another two-year term with just over 75 percent of the vote against independent candidate Dan Kruger ’04.
While DeStefano’s direct involvement in Healey’s campaign was largely limited to a campaign appearance on the eve of the election, the mayor’s campaign offices on Chapel Street provided the base for many aldermanic campaigns across the city.
After his victory, the mayor, who received 84.5 percent of the vote running against Guilty Party candidate Ralph Ferrucci, repeatedly emphasized the importance of a “team” of Democrats in winning elections on Tuesday while noting that the team might not always agree.
“We’re acknowledging that we don’t agree on everything, but we’re going to work together,” DeStefano said.
But while DeStefano repeatedly made that point in his victory speech, many of the Democrats who frequently clashed with DeStefano on the board were ousted in the September primary, including Ward 21 Alderman Willie Greene and Ward 28 Alderman Brian Jenkins. The mayor pledged this week to quickly pass measures that had been stymied by some of his more outspoken opponents on the board, including an initiative that would give domestic partnership rights to same-sex couples.
With DeStefano embarking on a campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2006, he also mentioned the importance of a unified Democratic Party in extending its reach around Connecticut in his victory speech.
“This party needs to stand up, not only here, but throughout the state,” DeStefano said.
But Republican Town Committee Chairman Richter Elser ’81, who is mounting an effort to challenge U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro next year, said the success of the mayor’s allies may put more pressure on DeStefano to succeed as he looks towards Hartford.
“In some respects, you could say that this election was about a concentration of power within the Democratic Party,” Elser said. “If you look at the Democratic primary, it was clear that if you were not on the mayor’s team, you were not going to get the support of the Democratic Party.”
Healey, who defeated Kruger by a margin of 403 to 128 despite a campaign that featured a spirited debate over his record, said the mayor had helped lead a group of Democrats seeking a more “progressive” agenda.
“They’ve been strong in shaping a new direction,” Healey said. “It’s been up from the bottom and down from the top.”
But while the Democrats were largely successful on Tuesday, the election was perhaps even sweeter for New Haven’s labor movement, which was active in several races across the city. Two of the only candidates endorsed by the mayor who lost during this year’s election cycle were defeated with the help of some of the leaders of Yale’s unions: Ward 26 Alderwoman Lindy Gold, who lost in the primary to Sergio Rodriguez, and Andre Nicole Baker, who lost to incumbent Green Joyce Chen in Ward 2.
Union spokeswoman Deborah Chernoff said the unions were “very pleased” with the results of the election.
“We think [the winning candidates] are people who are not only labor friendly, but also very competent and engaged in civic life and are going to do good things for the city,” Chernoff said.
Chernoff said all of the union-endorsed candidates won except for Susan Campion, a Democrat who lost to incumbent Republican Arlene DePino in Ward 18.
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