Waterbury voters rejected their former mayor Joseph Santopietro, who was running for alderman, city council, in district one. Santopietro was arrested during his reelection campaign in 1991 and served six years in federal prison. Republicans nominated Santopietro even though he was convicted on fifteen charges of corruption and tax evasion for crimes he committed while he was the Mayor of Waterbury. Santopietro attempted a political comeback relying on his popularity in the Town Plot neighborhood and the new alderman by district rules. He finished fourth place in his district.
The city was more forgiving to Republican candidate George Noujaim, giving him a seat on the board of alderman once again in district four. Noujaim was on the board of alderman, Waterbury’s city council, in 2013, until he failed to show up for meetings and was forced to step down. The timing of his absence wasn’t missed by Mayor Neil O’Leary.
“This is the budget, and we are in crisis, and he is not here,” O’Leary said. “It’s one of the most important things an alderman does, and he is missing it. It’s a grave disservice.”
Noujaim said at the time, he couldn’t make it to the meetings because he was working in Florida.
“This was an unexpected opportunity I couldn’t turn down, not in this economy,” Noujaim said. “It won’t last forever. I am staying informed. I am participating. I am doing my part.”
I spoke with Margaret O’Brien outside a voting location in the east end. She ran as an Independent candidate for the Board of Education. O’Brien said the Independent Party had a lot of traction this election and was pleased in the number of candidates.
“We need to get new people in,” O’Brien said.
The low voter turnout had O’Brien skeptical about that happening. Even though 15 Independent Party candidates were on the ballot, not one was elected.
The voters stayed home. Waterbury had a 14% voter turnout in Tuesday’s election according to unofficial returns. Voters did not show up as hoped, despite attempts by candidates and community organizations to engage with the public.
Project Clean Water hosted a public debate for aldermanic candidates on Oct 30, 2017. One of the topics discussed by the candidates was voter turnout. Tuesday’s voter participation was described as “dismally slow” by State Rep. Stephanie Cummings, R-74th District.
Three years ago alderman by district was voted into effect, forcing candidates to engage with neighborhoods they represent. This election was the first time alderman had to run without a mayoral candidate at the top of the ticket and appeal to specific neighborhoods. Last election, voters changed the mayor’s position to a four year term, leaving alderman with two-year terms. Every two election cycles will include a Mayor on the ballot, so it might be normal to have lower participation on the off years, but 14% is still a disappointing number.
Waterbury election results:
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