On Tuesday in Hamden, progressive Democrats pulled off a near sweep of municipal elections, winning 19 of the 20 races on the ticket. Despite the wins, local Republicans boasted their strongest showing in recent years up and down the ballot, and Democrats’ winning margins were lower than expected. 

While Democrats have a near 5-1 registration advantage in Hamden, Democrat Lauren Garrett won the mayoral race with just 54.2 percent of the vote, while her Republican opponent Ron Gambardella finished with 43.6 percent. Democrats also won elections for Town Clerk, four at-large Town Council seats, five Board of Education seats and eight of Hamden’s nine council districts. In the ninth district, incumbent Republican Marjorie Bonadies fended off a challenge from social worker and Democrat Nancy Hill. The eighth district will likely see a recount as Democrat Ted Stevens leads Republican Pat Destito by just seven votes. 

Dominique Baez ’12, who was re-elected for her second term as an at-large member on the Town Council, saw Tuesday’s results as the end of a long struggle for progressives.

“There was a big switch around with the DTC [Democratic Town Committee] two years ago,” Baez said. “We were really energizing voters who were ready for a change. Our voters, our residents are ready for change. And the Democratic Party here in town is ready to give it.” 

The News spoke to six Hamden voters and four candidates for office.

Several voters said that they had a desire for change, saying that they were concerned with the direction the town was headed in. The top issue for most voters the News spoke to, regardless of party, was the poor state of the town’s finances, which both parties made an issue of this election cycle. 

Hamden has the highest debt per capita in Connecticut, and in 2019 it reported $1.1 billion in long-term liabilities. Candidates for all offices also highlighted street conditions, concerns about rising crime and the town’s COVID-19 response as centerpieces of their campaigns. 

Phil, a voter in the ninth district who refused to share who he was voting for, made it clear that he was against mask mandates. He described having difficulties voting in 2020, as he was required to put a mask on at the polling location. Phil refused to give his full name to the News.

“You’re not saving anybody unfortunately,” Phil said. “That’s the mindset that everyone has, but it’s been proven over and over again.” 

Kylie, who is also a voter in the ninth district, said masks were a motivating issue for her as well. “I personally believe that masks are helpful,” she said, “and I would like everyone to be safe.” Kylie voted for Democrats up and down the ballot. 

For some, such as Republican town clerk candidate Melinda LaVelle Saller, the Democratic Town Committee had become too radical for their liking. 

Saller had previously served on the Board of Education as a Democrat, but this year chose to run as a Republican because “the Democrats are running a socialist party.” Saller said that in contrast to socialists, she stood for democracy and bipartisanship as an elected official. Furthermore, Saller took issue with “defunding the police,” calling it “absurd” and citing it as another factor that pushed her towards voting for Republicans. Saller lost her election 7,620-373, but she predicted that this year was the starting point for the Republican Party’s growth in Hamden.

Three candidates in the election, Abdul Osmanu in council district three, Justin Farmer in council district five and Mariam Khan ’24 in the Board of Education race, were endorsed by both the Central Connecticut and National chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America. All three won their respective races, becoming the first socialist slate to hold office in Connecticut in 60 years. Osmanu and Khan also made history as the youngest legislator and Board of Education member in town history, both at 19 years old.  

When asked about what issues were motivating his voters, Osmanu pointed to high taxes, though he saw that as the outlet of voter frustration, not the source. 

“People will complain about their taxes,” Osmanu said, “because we’re not seeing any actual benefit. They’re not seeing services allocated to they’re part of town correctly.” 

He hopes to increase public works projects in his district, especially when it comes to improving sidewalks and potholes.   

Toward the end of the night, Paul and Chris Cartier voted, going into the booth with the shared goal of electing more conservatives and cleaning up the streets. “Too many potholes,” Paul noted. While they were unsuccessful on Tuesday, the Cartiers remain engaged, saying they always vote in every election. 

The winning candidates will be sworn into office on Sunday, Nov. 28th. 

Full election results can be downloaded here.

Nathaniel Rosenberg is City Editor for the News. He previously served as Audience Editor, where he managed the News's newsletter content, covered cops and courts and housing and homelessness for the City Desk. Originally from Silver Spring, MD, he is a junior in Morse College majoring in history.