Buscetto looking for answers after primary defeat

New London - A day after Democrats in the city chose a progressive candidate to run for mayor, City Councilor Michael Buscetto III was trying to piece together why voters rejected him.

"I don't know if people know what they just voted for,'' Buscetto said Wednesday. "It's only been a short time that we've gotten to know Daryl."

Buscetto, the Democratic Town Committee-endorsed candidate, was served a decisive blow Tuesday when voters decided on political newcomer Daryl Finizio over him, 1,108 to 744.

About 30 percent of the city's 6,074 registered Democrats voted in the primary.

Finizio, who said he received 120 messages on Facebook, 10 pages of emails and 24 voicemail messages following the vote, said Wednesday he was looking forward to meeting even more residents before the November election.

The candidate who wins the general election Nov. 8 will become the city's first full-time, strong mayor in decades.

"The message today is, it's not over,'' Finizio said. "We need to work even harder now. There are no guarantees of a win. We have a long way to go and a lot more people to meet."

In dissecting Tuesday's vote, Buscetto said a lot of people sat out the primary, assuming they could vote for him in November. Some, he said, organized a campaign to vote against him.

He criticized City Councilor John Russell, who he said registered homeless people and then drove them to the polls to vote for Finizio.

"No to both,'' Russell said Wednesday when asked about the allegation. "Even though there is nothing wrong with it, I didn't do it."

Russell said he knew some homeless people who voted, and he knew they got rides to the polls.

"He's trying to blame everyone but himself for his own loss,'' said Russell, a petitioning candidate for City Council who supported Finizio in the primary but is backing Martin Olsen, another petitioning candidate, for mayor in the general election.

Buscetto also said Police Chief Margaret Ackley - with whom Buscetto has been sparring for about a month after she publicly accused him of unethical behavior and of meddling in police affairs - switched her party affiliation and voted against him, he said.

Finizio has been supportive of Ackley throughout the ordeal, and the chief showed up after the vote Tuesday to congratulate him on his win.

Buscetto said he also saw several Rhode Island license plates at the polls on Tuesday and that some voters may have changed their addresses to vote.

"There were some questionable activities,'' he said.

But he stopped short of calling it election fraud and said he couldn't prove anything. He said he would not file any complaints.

"There's too much negativity,'' he said.

Finizio said he did not know anything about out-of-state license plates and people who don't live in New London trying to vote.

"We hear things. Everyone hears things,'' Finizio said. "We don't go after any of that. It was a hard-fought campaign with both sides working the streets. I think it was a fair race with everyone working hard."

Buscetto said Democrats chose a candidate who would push for a land value tax, invite all the homeless to visit New London and refuse to sell a portion of Riverside Park to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

He has not decided whether he will support Finizio in November.

"I'm not in favor of Daryl's position on homelessness. That's a huge sticking point. That's a big one. That will slow economic development,'' Buscetto said.

He is also opposed to the land-value tax program and questioned Finizio's honesty.

"When he said he helped found 100 companies, (then) at the second debate he said he did LLC paperwork, so that was a lie that he founded 100 companies,'' he said. "That's what I mean, I don't know if people really know him."

Buscetto said he wasn't sure whether he would continue in politics or help the city as a private citizen.

"I didn't lose a family member. I didn't lose a friend. I lost an election,'' he said.

Finizio said he planned to work even harder at getting his message out to residents.

"During the primary, time was limited. ... But by November 8th, I will have knocked on every door," he said. "Most people in municipal elections put party politics aside and want the best candidate."

He said he also planned to combine his efforts with the party and help all other Democrats get elected.

"We're not going to rest,'' he said.

Finizio will now face four other candidates for strong mayor: Olsen, the current ceremonial mayor; Republican City Councilor Rob Pero; and petitioning candidates Andrew Lockwood and Lori Hopkins-Cavanagh.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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