It’s not just about New Haven, Stamford

Voters go to the  polls today in all but four of Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns, with the post of chief elected official at stake in 126 communities, including open mayoral seats in two of the state’s largest cities, New Haven and Stamford.

Republican Michael C. Fedele, the former lieutenant governor, is competing with Democrat David Martin in an expensive contest to succeed Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia, the one-term Republican who followed Gov. Dannel P. Malloy into city hall.

In New Haven, Republicans are sitting out the race to succeed John DeStefano, who is retiring after 20 years with the distinction of being the city’s longest-serving mayor. State Sen. Toni Harp, the Democrat, is in a runoff with one of the Democrats she defeated in a primary: Alderman Justin Elicker, now on the ballot as a petitioning candidate.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch is at midterm, but his city is embroiled in a bitter fight for control of the Board of Education. Voters can choose among eight candidates for five seats, with Democrats, Republicans and the Working Families Party each nominating candidates.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and the city council also are at midterm, leaving only a tepid contest for the school board: Four candidates are vying for three seats. Hartford voters also face three referendum questions, including one that would authorize a system of publicly financed local elections.

Republicans control a majority of city and town halls in Connecticut, though the communities controlled by Democrats include the large cities and suburbs that have given the Democratic Party control over every statewide office, every congressional seat and solid majorities in the General Assembly.

Republican State Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr., who could not be reached for comment Monday, has told other news outlets that he sees the 2013 municipal elections as a steppingstone to 2014.

Democrats disagree, saying local elections are dominated by local personalities and issues and rarely reflect broader political tides.

“It is the place where politicians are the least partisan,” said Roy Occhiogrosso, a Democratic consultant and adviser to Malloy. “It’s also the place where in some ways it’s the most personal, because the people who hold the top elected office in the cities and towns, you see them all the time.”

But Chris Healy, the former Republican state chairman, said the elections today could affect 2014 in small ways: It is always an organizational advantage to a candidate for statewide or congressional office when the local mayor or first selectman is of the same party.

“You saw a little bit of this in the last congressional primary two years ago,” Healy said.

Danbury Mayor Mark D. Boughton helped deliver his city in the GOP 5th District primary for Lisa Wilson-Foley, who nonetheless lost the nomination to Andrew Roraback.

“No matter what happens, both sides will say, ‘It’s local issues,’” Healy said.

In Danbury, Boughton is expected to win easily over Democrat Paul McAllister. His re-election could be a steppingstone: He already has an exploratory campaign for governor.

In Waterbury, Mayor Neil O’Leary, a first-term Democrat, also is favored for re-election, which could be an assist to Malloy’s re-election next year. He is challenged by Republican Jason Van Stone.

There are open seats in Bristol and Branford, where long-serving Democrats are retiring, Art Ward in Bristol and Anthony “Unk” DaRos in Branford. In Bristol, Republican Ken Cockayne is facing Democrat Christopher Wilson. In Branford, the candidates are Republican Jamie Cosgrove and Democrat Andrew J. Campbell.

In New Britain, Republican Erin Stewart is trying to unseat Mayor Tim O’Brien, a Democrat, and win the seat once held by her father, Tim Stewart.

Not every seat is contested: Democrats are giving the GOP a free pass for mayor or first selectman in 24 communities, and Republicans nominated no candidate in races for 19 top spots. In addition to New Haven, where the GOP is nearly invisible, the party also failed to find an opponent in Middletown for Daniel T. Drew, even though a Republican was mayor until Drew’s win two years ago. 

The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. in every community but Andover, Bethany, Union and Woodbridge, the last four towns to hold municipal elections in the spring

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