This story has been updated.
Democrats won key Connecticut mayoral elections Tuesday, flipping Republican seats in Danbury and Derby, while retaining open seats in two of the state’s largest cities, Hartford and Waterbury.
In Danbury, Roberto Alves unseated first-term Republican Dean Esposito, a victory that ended two decades of frustration for Democrats and marked a coming of age for minorities in a growing mid-sized city.
“It’s been about a collective, about coalitions, no matter what you look like,” Alves said of his victory, a comeback after a 290-vote loss two years ago. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from or who you are, we want politicians to be accountable.”
Alves, a Brazilian immigrant who came to the U.S. as a child and dove into local politics after becoming a U.S. citizen in 2017, won with 51% vote.
Democrats capitalized on GOP divisions in Derby, where the Republican primary victory of Gino DiGiovanni Jr., a criminal defendant in the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol, drew national attention to Connecticut’s smallest city.
Joseph L. DiMartino won Derby with 43.6% of the vote. DiGiovanni ran third with 22.6%, trailing Mayor Richard Dziekan, who got 25.1% as a petitioning candidate after losing the primary. Sharlene A. McEvoy was last with 8.6%.
Arunan Arulampalam carried Hartford with about 64% the vote, while Paul Pernerewski won a far closer race in Waterbury, each backed by the popular Democratic mayors they will succeed, Luke Bronin in Hartford and Neil O’Leary in Waterbury.
Like Alves, Arulampalam, 38, is an immigrant, born in Zimbabwe to Tamil parents who fled the ethnic violence of Sri Lanka. His wife, Liza, is the pastor of Hartford’s historic Center Church, and they are parents of five children, three of whom are adopted.
“This is what it looks like when a city comes together,” Arulampalam said, claiming support from all corners of the city. “This is what it looks like when we hope and dream and break down barriers.”
Arulampalam was opposed by Republican Michael McGarry and three petitioning candidates: Giselle Gigi Jacobs, Nick Lebron and J. Stan McCauley. A fourth, Mark Stewart Greenstein, quit the campaign, but his name remained on the ballot. Eric Coleman, a retired judge and former lawmaker, ran as a write-in candidate.
McCauley was the runner up, with 10% of the vote.
Pernerewski, 62, is the president of the Waterbury Board of Aldermen and a former assistant attorney general and general counsel of the Connecticut Airport Authority. He defeated Republican Dawn Maiorano, a first-time candidate, and two petitioning candidates.
Unofficial results showed Pernerewski with 49.6%, Maiorano with 45.08%, Keisha Gilliams with 4.55% and Karen Jackson with not quite 1%.
In New Haven, Mayor Justin Elicker easily won a third two-year term, defeating Thomas Goldenberg, who ran on the Republican and Independent lines.
“I ask you to join me as a group for the next two years, together as a community. We will work together,” said Elicker, who unseated fellow Democrat, Toni Harp, in a primary four years ago.
Elicker showed agitation at some of the tactics employed against him, including robo calls seeking support for Goldenberg by criticism of Elicker’s support for safe injection sites.
“New Haven, in an overwhelming majority, said, ‘This is something we do not stand for in our city,’” Elicker said.
“It’s very hard to get past the political party line,” Goldenberg said.
Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim declared victory early Wednesday morning.
Ganim’s victory is symbolic, however, because of a court-ordered repeat of the disputed Democratic primary he won on the strength of challenged absentee ballots. The runner up in the primary, John Gomes, was on the Tuesday ballot on the Independent Party line.
In Stamford, Mayor Caroline Simmons claimed a victory without being on the ballot at the mid-point of her first four year term. The Stamford Advocate reported the failure of a charter revision that would have shifted power from her to the Board of Representatives.
Democrats also won open mayoral seats in East Hartford and West Haven. Connor Martin succeeds Michael Walsh in East Hartford; Rep. Dorinda Borer succeeds Nancy Rossi in West Haven.
In Fairfield, Democrats claimed victory for Bill Gerber over the Republican first selectwoman, Brenda Kupchick. Republicans did not concede and said a recount was likely.
Republicans were not without victories Tuesday night.
They had wins in open races for mayor in Milford, where Democrat Ben Blake resigned to become an administrative law judge, and in Wallingford, where Republican Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. did not seek reelection after 40 years.
Republican Tony Giannattasio defeated Democrat Kerri Rowland in Milford. In Wallingford, Democrat Riley O’Connell, who ran a strong challenge to Dickinson in 2021, lost to Republican Vincent Cervoni.
In Canton, former Republican state Sen. Kevin Witkos won an open race for first selectman, defeating his high school English teacher, Democrat Bob Namnoum, in what Witkos called a cordial contest. The seat had been held by a Democrat.
Republicans also flipped Democratic seats in races for first selectman in Newtown and New Fairfield. Jeff Capeci won an open race in Newtown, while Melissa A. Lindsey narrowly defeated Patricia Del Monaco, who had been unopposed two years ago in New Fairfield.
In North Canaan, former Republican state Rep. Brian Ohler was elected first selectman, defeating Democrat Christian P. Allyn and retaining an open Republican seat.
Amy St. Onge, the Republican first selectman of Thompson, survived an intra-party fight to win a third term, winning a three-way race with 46.6% of the vote over Ken Beausoleil, whom St. Onge unseated in 2019 and beat in a 2021 rematch. He had 36.7%.
A complication this year was a write-in campaign by the GOP town chair, Bill Warner, who lost to St. Onge in a primary. Warner objected to efforts by St. Onge to regulate how firearms can be used and how chickens are kept on private property. Warner finished third, with 16.6%.
In Kent, where a Democratic incumbent did not seek reelection, the Democratic nominee, Lynn Mellis Worthington, finished second in a three-way race with two petitioning candidates: Rufus P. De Rham and the winner, Martin J. Lindenmayer.
Democrats made gains in several towns, winning open races for first selectman in Old Lyme and East Lyme and unseating a Republican first selectman in Brookfield and Colchester and a mayor in Newington.
Martha Shoemaker, a Democrat who lost two years ago in Old Lyme, won an open race against Republican John Mesham with 51.8% of the vote. Democrat Dan Cunningham won in East Lyme, defeating Anne Santoro, 51% to 49%.
In Brookfield, Democrat Steve Dunn unseated Republican Tara Carr, avenging his defeat by her two years ago. Democrat Jon Tristers defeated Republican Mayor Beth Kinsey DelBuono in Newington, and Democrats also won a council majority.By a huge margin, Democrat Bernie Dennler unseated Andreas Bisbikos in Colchester.
Democrats in Wethersfield and Glastonbury, where there are no races for chief elected official, flipped control of the town councils, as Republicans did in Enfield.
In Killingly, where six of the nine positions on the school board were up, all four Democratic candidates won seats. Two Republicans maintained their spots, although the board chair was voted out. The board has had a series of controversies, including bringing back the Redmen as a team name and accusations it was not addressing mental health issues.
In Stonington, a first selectman who goes her own way on elections prevailed.
Danielle A. Chesebrough, who was elected first selectman of Stonington without opposition two years ago, endorsed by Democrats and Republicans, had plenty of opposition this year running under the banner of the Forward Party.
On Tuesday night, she won with 41.3% of the vote, beating a Democrat, a Republican and a petitioning candidate.
A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that four of the nine seats on the Killingly board of education were on the ballot. There were six open positions, four of which were won by Democrats.