In Tuesday’s municipal elections, Latinos made gains in several Connecticut towns, most notably in Meriden and Windham, and a couple of young candidates, seen as rising stars, emerged victorious.
The Latinos who ran for mayor in Bridgeport, Waterbury and Hartford proved no match for strong Democratic candidates. However, in Meriden, the Hispanic vote may have proven the difference in helping a 26-year-old independent backed by the Democrats defeat of the Republican mayoral incumbent.
At least 60 Hispanics ran for the office of mayor, first selectman, councilor or alder, and school board in 14 towns with most winning, some in close races, and in a few cases, defeating other Hispanics. Without results from East Hartford or South Windsor, CTLatinoNews has determined that 33 of the 60 seeking election were victorious. Democrat Eloisa Melendez, 21, won her second term to the Norwalk council and Kristian Rosado, 23, a newcomer who Republicans see as a rising star, was elected an alderman in New Britain.
Several Latinas had strong showings at the polls. In Bridgeport, Lydia Martinez, who gave up her council seat to run for city clerk, appeared to be the top vote-getter, pulling in nearly 12,500 votes or about 500 more than the Democrat’s mayoral winner, Joe Ganim, who won a heated contest by several thousand votes.
Ganim, who was mayor from 1993 to 2003 before serving seven years in prison for corruption in office, was a big winner in the heavily Hispanic east side of the city. His appeal, according to state Rep. Christopher Rosario, who represents much of that area, was “nostalgia of days past.”
It was a breakthrough day in Meriden where there will be two Hispanics on the city council, both of whom are Democrats, for the first time with the victory of Michael Cardona.
“It is wonderful,” said Council member Miguel Castro, who was elected last year. “Having a colleague that not only can relate, but as Hispanic, together we can continue to address the needs of our community, increase the sense of urgency and advocate for our amenities and values,” he added.
In addition, the Hispanic vote helped 26-year-old Kevin Scarpati, who ran as an Independent and was endorsed by the Democrats, edge the incumbent Portugal-born Manny Santos, in a tight race, which according to the Meriden Record Journal, may trigger an automatic recount. Of Scarpati’s Hispanic support, Castro said, “It wasn’t major but enough to tip the scales.”
It was former Mayor Joe Ganim’s day and Black Rock store owner Rick Torres, a Cuban-American Republican making his third try at being elected mayor, ran a distant third behind runner-up Mary-Jane Foster. Torres also ran for the City Council but was unsuccessful in retaining his seat.
Hispanic winners, all Democrats, included incumbent Milta Filiciano and newcomer Aidee Nieves, who replaced Lydia Martinez who was elected city clerk, in District 137; incumbents Jose Casco and Alfredo Castillo in District 136 and Eneida Martinez in District 139.
Democrats were the top vote getters in every race, including two candidates who were elected to the new Board of Aldermen.
Puerto Rico-born Jose Morales, a Republican, saw his attempt to become the first Hispanic elected mayor was overwhelmed by Democrat Neil O’Leary who racked up about 68 percent of the vote to win his third term, the first under the new four-year setup. Morales also finished behind an independent candidate.
This was the first election of the 15 members of the Board of Alderman by districts. In each of five districts three seats were filled, with the maximum of two going to one party under the minority representation rule. Democrats easily won all 10 seats available to them.
Victor Lopez Jr. was one of two Democrats elected in District 2. Francis Guerrera, 22, edged Republican running mate Reuben Rodriguez for the third seat.
Sandra Martinez-McCarthy was one of two Democrats selected in District 5, but according to the Waterbury Republican American it was unclear who between the Republicans–Jose Morales, who also ran for mayor, and Roger Sherman–will get the third seat. In District 4, Jay Gonzalez finished in fifth place.
Democrat Luke Bronin easily out-polled Independent Joel Cruz, Jr. and two other candidates to be elected mayor. He will succeed Puerto Rican Pedro Segarra, who he beat in the pivotal Democratic primary in September.
Voting totals were unavailable early Wednesday, with the registrar of voters’ office indicating that the results would be available later in the day. WTNH television showed Bronin with about 75 percent of the vote with more than half of the precincts counted.
Democrats James Sanchez and Julio Conception along with Working Families Party member Wildaliz Bermudez were among the nine new city council members.
Eloisa Melendez lead the Democratic slate to a sweep in District A, with 1,065 votes, according to results posted by blogger Nancy on Norwalk. The 21-year-old college student, also nominated by the Working Families Party, now enters her second term. Her vote total was down a bit from two years ago, but that was attributed to the lower voter turnout.
In the contest for at-large council seats, Republican Enriquez Santiago was not among the five winners.
Michael Cardona, a Democrat, was the top voter getter in the race for two at-large council seats and will join another Democrat, Miguel Castro, who was elected in 2013, on the governing body. Cardona has served on the school board for several years.
Latinos did “pretty good,” reported Carmelo Rodriguez, chairman of the New Britain Latino Coalition. Republican Willie Pabon won his second term and two new Latinos were elected as well. Newcomer Kristian Rosado in Ward 2 will now serve on the city council and Griselle Aponte was elected to the school board.
Among the Democrats, Manny Sanchez won his third term as alderman. However, those defeated included Jahaira Jiminez, running for alderman-at-large, and Carlos Pina, a school board candidate.
The Windham Democratic Town Committee had four Hispanics on their ticket, with all winning easily: Luz Osuba and Juan Flores Alvarez for school board; Nectalis Martinez, for town council, and Jose Cruz for Zoning Board of Appeals. Osuba was the top vote getter in the school board race.
Hispanics will have two members on the town council, compared to only one now: James Flores, whose term ends in 2017.
Dawn Niles,, party chairman, credited going door-to-door and a good get-out-the vote effort, which produced a good turnout in the heavily Hispanic Willimantic core of the town, and “enough in the villages to ensure victory.”
The two city council candidates, who Republicans told CTLatinoNews.com were Hispanics are, Rosita Vining and Pedro Carabello, both were unsuccessful.
Six Democrats running for the Board of Alders were unopposed. Three of those elected were incumbents: Dolores Colon, Santiago Berrios-Bones and Ernie Santiago. The three newcomers are Evelyn Rodriguez, David Reyes and Jose Crespo.
In the race for six school board seats, Emanuela Palmares, who is secretary of the state Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, fell victim to the minority party representation rule. She finished fourth among the six Republicans on the ballot, but only three could be elected, with the other three seats available going to Democrats who had fewer votes than the 31 year-old Brazilian-American newspaper editor and community leader.
Looking at this experience, Palmares wrote to friends and family on Facebook, “This has only served to increase my determination and passion to continue to be part of the political process and some day have the honor to represent all of you!”
Ligia Marroquin and Angelica Gorrio, two Hispanic Democrats, were unsuccessful in their bid for seats on the Board of Education.
Another Democrat, Virgil De La Cruz retained the District 2 seat on the 40-member Board of Representatives that he received last year by appointment.
Mayra Berrios-Sampson, a Democrat, fell short in her attempt to be the first Hispanic elected to the city council.
Efrain Dominguez Jr., a Democrat, was elected to the city council edging Republican Martin Olsen by three votes, a margin, which according to the New London Day, triggered an automatic recount. A similar close race took place for the Board of Education where Aracelis Vazquez-Haye, a Democrat, apparently fell three votes short.
Mirna Martinez, nominated by both the Republican and Green parties, was elected to the school board.
The Democrats’ two candidates with Hispanic origins did not fare well. Anthony Lopez finished sixth in the race for three school board seats. Frank Farricker, whose grandparents were from Spain, was easily defeated by five-term incumbent Peter Tesei, for the second time, trailing by nearly 5,000 votes.
Eva Bermudez Zimmerman, a Democrat, was unsuccessful in her run for re-election to the 12-member Legislative Council from District 2.
Michael Gonzalez won a seat on the town’s Board of Education
Janet Oliveras Vasel, a Republican, is the first Hispanic women to run for BOE in that town and was elected.
Steve Ortiz, of Willington to the Board of Education for Region 19.