Trumbull’s Tesoro beats Herbst for second term

TRUMBULL — After a contentious election cycle, Vicki Tesoro has won a second term as first selectman.

Less than an hour after the polls closed, Democrats in town were already declaring victory in several races, including the town’s top spot.

Tesoro beat challenger Mike Herbst, a Republican, former coach in town and father of former First Selectman Tim Herbst. Unofficial tallies showed Tesoro winning 6,670 to 4,049, a margin of about 12 percentage points. Democrat Anthony Musto defeated Jeff Craw for the town treasurer post and Mary Markham won the town clerk race against Edna Colucci.

Around 9 p.m., Herbst acknowledged he had lost. Unofficial tallies also showed Democrats rolling to majorities on the Town Council, Board of Education and Planning & Zoning Commission.

At a jubilant Democratic campaign party at Tashua Knolls, Tesoro said she was amazed by the margin.

“You never really know, but we felt good about things based on the feedback we were getting,” she said. “As we were out knocking on doors, people were saying they want a town where there is civility and we work together.”

Tesoro said she was proud that her team had run a positive campaign.

“No matter how far the other side went to the negative, we stayed positive,” she said.

Minutes after conceding, Herbst said the character of the town has changed since he arrived over 40 years ago and brought up a major campaign issue — the number of apartments proposed and approved in town. Herbst was vocal this year about his dislike for developers’ sudden interest in high-density housing.

He said he’d give Tesoro a call, but didn’t have her number.

The election was dominated by arguments over apartment development in town. Herbst blamed Tesoro for apartment complexes approved on Oakview Drive and Reservoir Avenue, plus the creation of the Mixed Use Design District that could allow Westfield to build up to 160 apartments on lower Main Street.

Tesoro pointed out that the Oakview complexes had been approved before she took office, as had the creation of a Multi Family Overlay district that allowed up to 600 apartments on former industrial sites. The mixed use district was approved after she took office, but was passed by a Planning and Zoning Commission that Republicans controlled 3-2.

Herbst’s negative campaigning was also thought to be a factor in the race, with Tesoro slamming Herbst’s campaign statements that claimed crime and EMS response times had increased during Tesoro’s term.

Police Commission Chairman Ray Baldwin, and Vice Chairman Angelo Magliocco issued a joint statement calling the claims “factually inaccurate and totally irresponsible.” In addition, the EMS Commission issued a unanimous statement saying Herbst’s claims were “ludicrous accusations which he is only using for his political gain.”

Tesoro had touted her administration’s accomplishments during the campaign, playing up the town’s bond rating and financial stability, factors that her GOP critics attributed to her predecessor, Tim Herbst, Michael Herbst’s son.

Tesoro said voters rejected the message of “us” versus “them.”

“Good for Trumbull,” she said. “Our residents want to live in a town that’s welcoming.”