Ethan Wolin, Contributing Photographer

New Haven’s current Democratic leadership notched victories across the city on Tuesday, routing a challenger slate that forced uncommon elections for Democratic Town Committee co-chairs in eight wards but lost in every race.

The elections marked the third time in seven months that New Haven voters reaffirmed their support for a Democratic apparatus allied with Yale’s UNITE HERE unions. Roughly 1,200 New Haven Democrats cast ballots at polling places amid Tuesday’s rain, handing party-backed candidates four times the number of votes earned by opponents running with the insurgent group New Haven Agenda.

“The candidates that we supported all had decisive and convincing victories,” said Vincent Mauro Jr., the Democratic Town Committee chairman. “It speaks to the faith and stability that the party has shown, along with its partnerships with labor and the Board of Alders.”

New Haven Agenda represented the first coordinated effort since 2012 to replace Democratic ward co-chairs, who vote to endorse party nominees and organize voters in their wards. The bloc of 12 candidates focused on criticizing UNITE HERE’s dominance in city politics and a host of neighborhood concerns.

Jason Bartlett, a defeated Ward 6 co-chair candidate who chaired the New Haven Agenda slate, acknowledged in an interview shortly before the polls closed that he and the other challengers faced tough prospects against an established party infrastructure spanning ward committees, City Hall and the State Capitol.

“You don’t have to win even one seat to start opening up the party to more people and putting your ideas on the table,” Bartlett said. “In terms of my personal objectives, part of it was just getting people to participate. That to me is a win.”

In recent weeks, candidates on both sides of the contest canvassed voters on the phone and in person, seeking support for elections that occur only infrequently, when more than two candidates qualify for the ballot. Elections took place in Wards 3, 4, 6, 7, 12, 18, 28 and 30, covering the Hill, parts of downtown and East Rock, Quinnipiac Meadows, East Shore, Beaver Hills and West Rock.

The incumbent co-chair slate, called Dems for Dems, celebrated its landslide wins at the AFL-CIO Central Labor Council building in Fair Haven with beers and cheers for co-chairs arriving from long days at their polling places. The gathering featured speeches by Mauro, Mayor Justin Elicker and Scott Marks, director of the union-affiliated organization New Haven Rising.

In his remarks, Mauro said complaints about undue influence wielded by UNITE HERE were “all horseshit” and touted the coalition — evident in the jubilant crowd — that critics say amounts to a political machine.

Leslie Radcliffe, a voter in the Hill and member of the Ward 4 Democratic committee, said she was impressed by the turnout, given the low-profile nature of co-chair roles. Ward 4 had over half the turnout Tuesday as in the mayoral general election in November.

“For a little known topic, a little known position, it did stir up some good trouble,” she said. “It was good that there were challengers and that there was attention brought to it.”

Radcliffe voted for her incumbent co-chairs, Jennifer Chona and Howard Boyd, but said she wished candidates on both slates had spoken more with residents.

Clarence Cummings, who won reelection as a Ward 3 co-chair, told the News that he met his two opponents, Inez Alvarez and Martha Dilone, for the first time at the polling place. He said he hopes they attend ward committee meetings going forward — a message echoed by other supporters of the victorious slate.

“Typically, you don’t have a lot of contested elections for ward co-chair,” Elicker said in an interview. “Bringing attention to that position is also important.”

The top vote-getter from in-person machine ballots on Tuesday was Gary Hogan of Ward 28, which covers most of Beaver Hills; he earned 252 votes.

Ethan Wolin covers City Hall and local politics. He is a first year in Silliman College from Washington, D.C.