Norwich — Alderwoman Deberey Hinchey defeated Alderman Charles Jaskiewicz by 222 votes in Tuesday's Democratic mayoral primary, a result Hinchey attributed to a dedicated campaign team that "worked and worked and worked" for victory.
Hinchey won the primary 877 to 655, with the John B. Stanton School precinct — the home precinct for both candidates — showing the only lopsided results. She won the Stanton precinct 336 to 165.
She now faces incumbent Republican Mayor Peter Nystrom and Libertarian candidate William Russell in the Nov. 5 election. If Hinchey prevails, she would become the city's first female mayor.
"It was just a lot of hard work by a lot of people," Hinchey said at her jubilant victory party at Billy Wilson's Ageing Still, a bar on Broadway. "I tried to do a real grassroots campaign."
Hinchey said she walked through neighborhoods where residents said they never had been visited by a politician before. She said in a couple of incidents, she helped residents with issues.
"People say they don't care, but this shows they do care," she said.
Turnout was slow throughout the day citywide, except in the Stanton precinct, but topped 20 percent by the time the polls closed.
Jaskiewicz, a first-term alderman, past chairman of the Board of Education and currently a member of the State Board of Education, said he was "shocked" by the results. He said he felt he had brought good, strong progressive ideas to the city, and had run a true grassroots campaign.
Several times Tuesday night, Jaskiewicz referred to the professional campaign consulting firm Hinchey had hired to help run her campaign. Hinchey also raised more money than Jaskiewicz, $24,780 to $14,230 through Sept. 1, with much of it used to pay Manchester consultant the Vinci Group's monthly fees and to cover campaign literature, mailings and materials.
After calling Hinchey to concede the race shortly before 8:30 p.m., Jaskiewicz addressed his disappointed crowd at Jack's Brick Oven Pizza on West Main Street.
"We didn't have a consultant paying people to walk (neighborhoods) for us," Jaskiewicz said.
He said professional consultants might be the way of the future for campaigns, even in a small city such as Norwich.
Hinchey defended the use of an outside consultant.
"This is a very important position," she said, "so I used the resources I had to run a professional, grassroots campaign. We did a good job bringing people into the campaign."
Jaskiewicz stopped short of endorsing Hinchey in the November election and said he couldn't say whether he would seek political office in the future. He said he would relax with his family, take a vacation and decide future plans later.
"Maybe my niche is to stay on the State Board of Education," he said.
Hinchey credited longtime Norwich resident and civic activist Lottie Scott for encouraging her to run for City Council four years ago and then for pushing her into the mayor's race. She joked that through college, she always stayed in the background in politics, "stuffing envelopes."