Courtesy of Lauren Garrett, Walter Morton

Incumbent mayor Lauren Garrett fended off challenger Walter Morton in the Hamden Democratic primary last Tuesday in an election marked by low voter turnout and lack of  widespread enthusiasm for either candidate.

Garrett triumphed by a margin of 593 votes, a 12.4 percent lead, over Morton. Garrett secured 2,689 votes in the primary, while 2,096 voters backed Morton. 

The incumbent ran alongside a slate of nine candidates for Hamden’s Legislative Council, most of whom serve in the mayor’s current administration and all of whom won their respective nominations.

“It’s good to work with people who have different perspectives on what the town’s needs are,” Garrett said of her slate mates. “We have people in social work, people who are teachers and one who is an engineer.”

Voter turnout across the state was up 4.63 percent this year from the 2021 Democratic primaries. But in Hamden, 10 percent fewer votes were cast than in the last election. Still, Hamden boasted higher turnout rates than other key Connecticut towns and cities that held municipal primaries Tuesday. New Haven saw 17.3 percent voter turnout and Hartford brought in just 13.7 percent compared with 23.5 percent in Hamden.

Morton cited low interest in the mayoral race as a potential reason why few people showed up to the polls. 

“I’m not sure if enough folks knew and there might have been some voter apathy,” he said.

Lauren Villanova is a registered Democrat who has lived in Hamden for six years. Villanova said she voted for Garrett when she beat former mayor Curt Leng in the 2021 primary but did not go to the polls this year. 

Villanova cited what she viewed as fiscal mismanagement by Leng as the factor that motivated her to vote two years ago, but she did not feel the same motivation to learn about this year’s candidates.

“I just didn’t vote because I didn’t take the time to educate myself on either candidate,” Villanova said.

Other Hamden residents told the News that they found themselves without the resources to vote.

James D’Andren, a 50-year Hamden resident, said he had hoped to cast a ballot but could not access transportation to get to the polls.

“It was hard for me to vote because I didn’t get a ride,” he said. “I needed to take a bus,” he explained, but none were available.

In the low-turnout primary, the incumbent held off Morton with a larger margin than when she primaried Leng two years ago. Garrett won by a margin of 11.52 percent in 2021. When she first ran against Leng in 2019, she lost the nomination by a 22.46 percent margin.

Garrett and her slate of legislative council candidates were all endorsed by the Democratic Town Committee.

When asked about his plan for the next two years in lieu of holding the mayoral office, Morton said his goal is to stay involved with those in the Hamden community.

On the campaign trail, Garrett is prioritizing promoting economic development and balancing the town’s finances amid continuing complaints from constituents about Hamden’s high taxes. To achieve these goals, she is focused on stabilizing the town’s mill rate, which is the ratio of taxation per $1,000 in property value. She has also focused on attracting new businesses and building more affordable housing units.

“What I’m hearing from people is that they cannot take continued tax increases,” she said. “I’m hearing from voters that we should prioritize economic development.” 

Garrett pointed to Ashley’s Furniture, Bob’s Stores and a new brewery as examples of businesses with plans to open in Hamden soon. She also expressed enthusiasm for new affordable housing that may be constructed on State Street pending state approval.

Garrett will face Republican Crystal Dailery in the general election Nov. 8.

Josie Reich covers Admissions, Financial Aid & Alumni for the News. Originally from Washington, DC, she is a sophomore in Davenport College majoring in American Studies.