2015 Election: Official election results in from registrar's office
Correction: An earlier version of this story said this year's election was the closest in town history. In fact, there have been two narrower voter outcomes for the Office of First Selectman. In 2001, Ray Baldwin was elected to the post by 76 votes; and, in 1981, Paul Timpanelli won by 129 votes. In 2003, Baldwin won by 357 votes.
First Selectman Tim Herbst defeated Democratic challenger Vicki Tesoro by 352 votes — 5,851 to 5,499 — at the top of the ticket, winning his fourth term as the town’s top official with 51.5% of the vote, according to the official registrar’s report that sent to the state secretary’s office Wednesday morning.
It took the registrars of voters two additional hours after the polls had closed to proclaim the winner of the race, as 700-plus absentee ballots kept Republican and Democratic party members on the edge of their seat Tuesday night.
“Ms. Tesoro is, without question, the strongest candidate that the local Democratic Party has run since 2009 and we recognized from the very beginning it was going to be a competitive race,” said Herbst, who was on the losing side of a narrow election last fall when he ran for state treasurer. “Every election is different: Sometimes you’re the challenger; sometimes you’re the incumbent. You run on your record and you give it your best shot. …
“It was a competitive race and we knew it was going to be a competitive race, and we approached it that way,” the first selectman added. “At the end of the day, a win is a win and I’ll take it.”
Tesoro acknowledged that she knew from the first day of her campaign that it would be “an uphill battle,” but said that she was proud of how close the race ended up being for the Democratic Town Committee.
“To come as close as we did, I think, is a victory for us,” she told The Times Tuesday night after giving her concession speech.
“I did think it was going to be close, but I didn’t know it was going to be this close,” the former Town Council minority leader added. “I’m just very proud of all of our candidates.”
Maintaining majority, losing a leader
Although the GOP claimed 15 of the 21 seats on the Town Council and five of the seven open Board of Education seats, it wasn't a complete romp for the Republican Town Committee, which enjoyed a landslide victory in the last municipal election, in 2013.
Town Treasurer John Ponzio lost his race for re-election, as Democratic challenger and former state senator Anthony Musto won narrowly, 5,633 to 5,511 — the difference being just 122 votes.
“The first thing I have to do is talk to John Ponzio,” said Musto after receiving confirmation that he had won the race. “I need to be able to understand where all his accounts are, and I’m sure he will extend me that same courtesy.”
Herbst said nobody on his ticket was underestimating Musto, a three-term state senator who also served a two-year term as town treasurer under Democratic First Selectman Ray Baldwin.
“We knew the treasurer’s race was going to be close,” the first selectman said after his victory speech. “We definitely saw it as a competitive race.”
“I couldn’t have done my job over the last six years without him,” he added afterwards.
For his part, Musto said he could work alongside Herbst despite their differing political ideologies.
“There shouldn’t be any problem,” the newly elected official said. “We each have two different jobs to do — my job is to manage the money and earn the best return we can. …
“We both want to make sure that the town pays its bills and makes as much money as possible off its investments,” he added.
Also at the top of the ticket, Town Clerk Suzanne Burr Monaco won re-election, beating out Democratic challenger Cindy Katske 6,002 to 5,151.
In total, 11,414 votes were cast in the 2015 election, producing a 47.7% voter turnout — up significantly from 9,159 votes that were recorded in the first selectman’s race in 2013.
Six races ended up being decided by fewer than 100 votes, and more than a dozen races were decided by fewer than 500 votes after all ballots were counted Wednesday morning.
By comparison, in 2013, Herbst dominated Democratic challenge Martha Jankovic-Mark by 3,757 votes.
He said that voter complacency caused the tight race to be tighter this year.
“We’ve had higher turnouts in the past, and I think what we found is that we had a lot of voters who thought they didn’t need to come out to the polls,” Herbst said.
“We worked very hard to gin up more of a turnout in this election,” he added. “If we didn’t, I might be up there giving a concession speech.”
Tesoro had a different spin on the close result.
“I wish Mr. Herbst well in his next term,” she said. “I hope he can get behind this type of a victory and realize that we need to create a town that really is a bipartisan community.”
Dominating down the ballot
Elsewhere on the ballot, the Republicans reigned supreme, notching five of the seven open seats on the Board of Education, sweeping the Board of Finance race and winning election for 15 Town Council members — two fewer than the party held over the previous two-year term.
“This a good night on several levels,” Herbst acknowledged in his speech.
“We achieved super majorities in all four elections I’ve run — that’s no easy task,” he boasted afterward. “We took back the Board of Finance and we retained a 5-2 majority on the Board of Education.”
The GOP members who will take over the town’s education budget include former finance board member and Republican Town Committee chairman Paul Lavoie, former Town Council member Suzanne Testani, and Marie Petitti. Vice Chairman Loretta Chory and current board member Jeff Donofrio won re-election on the Republican ticket with 6,050 and 6,074 votes, respectively.
Former Republican Susan LaFrance, running on the Democratic ticket, failed to earn re-election on the education board, but her DTC running mates Mike Ward and Lucinda Timpanelli were successful, receiving 6,105 and 6,058 votes, respectively.
Newcomers Kathleen Fearon and Sujata-Gadkar-Wilcox both trailed the lowest voted candidate, Petitti, by more than 200 votes.
“I think everyone on our ticket who gained a seat is going to do a wonderful job in their positions,” Tesoro said of Ward and Timpanelli’s victories.
The script didn’t change much with the 21 open seats on the Town Council.
In District 1, Republicans Vincent DiMasi and Donna Seidell won re-election with 1,556 and 1,690 votes, respectively. Newcomer Jack Testani, former chairman of the Trumbull Police Commission, will take over his wife’s District 1 seat after receiving 1,696 votes.
However, it wasn’t all a success story for the GOP in District 1, as Ennio DeVita failed to knock off Democrats Bill Mecca and Dawn Cantafino, who earned new seats for the DTC.
The Democrats, who were running a completely new slate of candidates in District 1, won two of the five seats, with Shelia Charmoy, and Jon Greene trailing the next closest opponent by only 150 votes. To show how close of a race it was, Mecca edged out DeVita by 33 votes — 1,465 to 1,432 for the final seat.
In District 2, GOP members Edna Collucci and Tony Scinto won re-election with 1,091 and 1,106 votes, respectively. Similar to District 1, newcomer Robert McGowan also earned a spot on the Town Council with 1,007 votes — the lowest number received by a candidate who was elected.
Democratic Town Council member Mary Beth Thorton won re-election with 1,184 votes — the most of any District 2 candidate, while Thomas Whitmoyer did enough to edge out incumbent Cindy Penkoff.
Angela Bulkley and Kevin Shively joined Penkoff in falling short of McGowan’s total as all three candidates received less than 1,000 votes. Again though, all three fell within a 35-vote window of that final seat.
In the final two districts, it was again the Republicans who came away victorious.
Current members Michael London, Carl Massaro, and Lori Rosasco Schwartz were all winners in District 3, earning 1,585, 1,681, and 1,723 votes, respectively. Newcomer Mark Block won a seat with 1,529 votes.
Tesoro, who was a District 3 Town Council member, lost her seat when she announced her run for the office of the first selectman. Democrat Jason Marsh won her seat, edging out candidates Dean Fabrizio, Roy Fuchs, and Marshall Marcus.
In District 4, which has six seats, the Democrats won only one spot as Lisa Valenti notched 1,690 votes.
Current member Scott Wich failed to win re-election, and fellow DTC members Joe Schlig, Paige Harrison Francis, and Jim Meisner also ran unsuccessfully against the Republican ticket.
Republicans Rick Constantini, AnnMarie Evangelista, Mark LeClair, and Joe Pifko all won re-election, with 1,733, 1,868, 1,655, and 1,607 votes respectively. Candidate Matt Caron received 1,639 votes, good enough for a sixth-place finish among the 10 candidates for District 4’s six seats.
In keeping with theme of the night, Caron topped Harrison-Francis by 106 votes.
'Strength of our ticket'
The Republicans swept the Board of Finance race, which Herbst said was one of his prouder accomplishments of this campaign.
Chairman Elaine Hammers received the highest total, earning re-election with 6,465 votes. Trailing her by only six votes was fellow Republican Bill Haberlin, who's served as a Board of Finance alternate the last two years.
RTC member Scott Zimov edged out Democratic incumbent Lainie McHugh 5,630 to 5,535 votes.
"You saw three Democratic incumbents lose their spots tonight, and that speaks a lot about the strength of our ticket," Herbst said.
Democratic challenger Scott Kokosa also lost, earning only 5,230 votes.
PZC and ZBA
On the Planning and Zoning Commission, the two parties exchanged victories as Democrat Daniel Helfrich won 5,475 to 5,207 over Republican candidate Rich Deecken for a five-year team beginning in 2015.
For the five-year seat beginning in 2016, Republican Larry Laconte Sr. topped Democrat Tony Silber 5,607 to 5,062, which could shake the commission's leadership going forward.
"We're Trumbullites first, and Republicans and Democrats second," Herbst reminded the room at Marisa's Tuesday night during his victory speech.
"We must go forward together —to ensure that the reality of Trumbull lives up to the promise of Trumbull," he added.
Running uncontested for a 2015 seat on the Zoning Board of Appeals, Republican Richard Mayo won with 7,254 votes. In the contested race for a 2016 seat, Republican Rob Saunders edged Richard Puskar 5,511 to 4,991.
Board of Assessment Appeals, Constables
In the Constable race, there was another Democratic-Republican split as Raymond Baldwin won with 5,958 votes as RTC members James Battistelli and Vincent Pioli edged challenger David Kayne.
Incumbent Jeffrey Craw took down Democratic challenger Timothy Cantafio 5,207 to 4,793 for a seat on the Board of Assessment Appeals.
According to the official registrar's report, Trumbull has 23,927 active voters — 11,414 of which turned out to the polls Tuesday or submitted votes by absentee ballots.
District 4 is the largest of the four voting areas in town with 6,902 registered voters. Turnout was strong in District 4 this year as 3,331 residents voted — good for a 48% voter turnout that mimicked the percentage for the entire town.
Elsewhere in town, District 1 saw 2,946 of its 5,885 registered voters cast ballots, which was more than 50% voter turnout.
In District 2, only 2,084 residents voted out of a 5,290 registered population.
In District 3, 3,053 out of 5,850 voters turned out for a 52% voter turnout — the highest margin in the town this year.