After heated mayoral races across cities in Connecticut, many Democrats and incumbents emerged victorious in their cities’ respective general elections on Tuesday.

Hartford mayor Luke Bronin won reelection in the state capital, defeating his opponents with over 75 percent of the vote in the heavily Democratic city. Former Democratic Mayor Eddie Perez received 12 percent of the vote, and J. Stan McCauley, a Democrat endorsed by Republicans in Hartford, received just eight percent.

Bronin survived a primary challenge in September and took 60 percent of the vote when facing Perez, before cruising to victory in the general election in a city blue enough to deter any serious Republican opposition. McCauley framed his campaign around issues with Bronin’s mayoral administration, including Bronin’s failed run for governor and personnel issues inside city hall, but ultimately came up short. At his victory party on Tuesday, Bronin emphasized the progress Hartford has made under his leadership and promised to continue those efforts.

“We can be proud that Hartford has a new energy and direction and momentum,” he said. “But we won’t be satisfied until Hartford is the strong and vibrant economic and cultural heart of this state.”

In Bridgeport, Connecticut’s largest city, Mayor Joe Ganim won reelection against state senator and write-in candidate Marilyn Moore and Republican Josh Rodriguez. In one of the most divisive and contentious races in the state, Ganim barely topped Moore in September’s primary amid cries of voter fraud. Ganim, already a controversial figure due to the seven years he spent in prison after his first stint as mayor, returned to the top office in Bridgeport in 2015. He also ran in the Democratic primary for governor in 2018, losing to Gov. Ned Lamont by over sixty percent.

After losing the September primary, Moore decided to launch an unlikely bid as a write-in candidate. Additionally, a few independent organizations filed a lawsuit against Ganim, claiming irregularities with absentee ballots which overwhelmingly favored the incumbent mayor and put him over the top against Moore. However, last Thursday a judge in the Superior Court ruled that a do-over election wasn’t necessary. Then, on Tuesday, Ganim bested Moore by more than a 2–1 ratio. The lawsuit is now waiting appeal in the Connecticut Supreme Court.

At his election night celebration, Ganim said he was excited to continue the work he had begun, especially given his margin of victory.

“The people in Bridgeport … returned us to City Hall in over a two to one ratio,” Ganim said, “with almost ten thousand votes, winning what looks like almost every precinct in the city.”

In Hamden, a town of about 61,000 people, Mayor Curt Leng also won reelection over Republican Jay Kaye. Kaye, a former Democrat, framed his campaign as a run towards the middle in the heavily Democratic town.

Hamden was fairly unique among larger Connecticut municipalities in that the Democratic victor beat a Republican on Tuesday. In New Haven, Bridgeport and Hartford — the three biggest cities in the state — the Democratic candidates easily defeated other Democrats that they had already beaten in the primary. Leng, who also faced a primary opponent in September, coasted to victory against Kaye, winning over 60 percent of the vote.

Leng told the News that he plans on focusing on kitchen-table issues that will directly help families of Hamden.

“Over the next two years,” Leng said, “I plan on being laser-focused on improving Hamden by investing in our neighborhoods, streets and sidewalks, fighting to help our seniors with tax relief and quality services, expanding opportunities and prevention efforts for our young people and supporting and strengthening our public safety and emergency management services.”

Less than five miles from Yale, Democrat Joe Carfora secured victory against Republican “Big Steve” Tracey by a margin of less than 700 votes to become mayor-elect of East Haven.

East Haven, unlike Connecticut’s largest cities, frequently has close elections between Democrats and Republicans. The current Republican mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. won by about 100 votes in 2017.

East Haven, like many towns and cities throughout Connecticut, also had significant down-ballot races on Tuesday. Democrats were broadly successful, winning all six available seats on the Board of Education, along with all four on the Board of Finance and 11 of 15 on the Town Council, as Republicans held onto the Town Clerk position by 28 votes. Tuesday’s election marked the first time Democrats enjoyed widespread success in East Haven since 2011 when Maturo won the mayoral race by 34 votes.

Despite Democratic dominance in the Nutmeg state’s largest cities — in which Republicans often don’t nominate a competitive candidate — East Haven is similar to many smaller towns throughout the state. According to the Hartford Courant, of 165 municipal elections on Tuesday, Democrats and Republicans each flipped seven or eight top offices. This included marquee victories on both sides, as Republican State Rep. Brenda Kupchick beat Democratic incumbent Michael Tetreau for first selectman in Fairfield following an illegal dumping scandal. Although political analysts frequently consider municipal elections to be an indicator of national partisan trends, many races often revolve around more localized issues.

In Middletown, 27 year-old Ben Florsheim won a clear victory against former Republican Mayor Seb Giuliano with 53 percent of the vote. Florsheim, who graduated from Wesleyan University in 2014, was running in what was considered to be one of the most fiercely contested races of the year in Connecticut in the town of about 48,000 residents. Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy congratulated Florsheim on Twitter following the announcement of his victory, calling him his “friend.”

According to the Secretary of State’s office, voter turnout was 32 percent across the state in Tuesday’s municipal elections — less than half of the 65 percent turnout in 2018.

Emmett Shell | emmett.shell@yale.edu