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Norwich — Democratic mayoral candidate Deberey Hinchey became the city’s first female mayor Tuesday, defeating incumbent Republican Peter Nystrom by 218 votes in a race that was too close to call until the final precinct — the mayor’s home district — was reported.
Libertarian candidate William Russell received 369 votes, finishing a distant third.
As she did in her primary victory over fellow Democratic Alderman Charles Jaskiewicz, Hinchey won big in her neighborhood precinct, by 120 votes, with a 113-vote margin in the city’s largest voting precinct, which covers much of the urban center, including Nystrom’s neighborhood.
Final totals weren’t released until nearly 10 p.m. Hinchey was mobbed by supporters as she entered Billy Wilson’s Ageing Still shortly thereafter.
“Wonderful,” Hinchey said with a smile. “It feels wonderful. On the way over, I got a call from the governor… We worked so hard. We campaigned everywhere.”
Nystrom, a Republican with a long record of winning in the heavily Democratic City of Norwich, was visibly disappointed at the loss late Tuesday. He served as a state legislator for 18 years, with two stints on the City Council and one four-year term as mayor.
“I’m disappointed,” he said outside the registrars’ office at City Hall. “You run for elections. You win some and you lose some.”
Both candidates said they worked very hard and ran on the issues, with no attack ads.
One major difference in this year’s race was Hinchey’s decision to hire a professional campaign consulting firm at a cost of well over $10,000 for the primary and general election campaigns. Nystrom said he could not compete with the more than $24,000 she raised and didn’t try. In October, the city’s two registrars filed an election complaint with the state against the firm, Vinci Group, accusing the firm’s owner of coercing voters and attempting to intimidate registrars.
Hinchey said she based her campaign on making personal contact with as many voters as possible. She said in some cases, residents told her she was the first candidate to come to their doors.
“We wanted voter contact, and that’s what we did,” she said.
Hinchey pledged to resign from her job as a clinical social worker in Mansfield to devote herself to the mayoral position full time, a point of contention during the campaign. Nystrom works full time for United Parcel Service, but argued that he was able to devote many hours to the mayoral position as well.
Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman both issued statements following Hinchey’s victory.
“I would like to congratulate Mayor-Elect Deb Hinchey on her history-making win tonight — becoming the first woman elected mayor of Norwich,” Malloy said. “She’s been an advocate for investing in downtown infrastructure for economic development, while also supporting local services that guarantee a great quality of life. I look forward to working with her and partnering with her administration.”
Wyman said Hinchey is dedicated to working on important issues that affect the local economy, such as “education, downtown revitalization and public safety. I'm excited to see what strides she will make during her first term,” he said.
The City Council during the first two years of Hinchey’s four-year term will include a mixture of experience and new blood.
Democrats Terell Wilson and Bill Eyberse won seats, along with incumbent Democrats Mark Bettencourt, the highest vote-getter, and Francois “Pete” Desaulniers. Republican incumbent Sofee Noblick and Republican former Alderman Bill Nash also won.
With the mayor having a vote on the seven-member City Council, Democrats once again will have the maximum allowed 5-2 majority.
“It’s still a little surreal,” Wilson, 21, said after confirming his victory. “It’s been kind of overwhelming.”
Wilson might be new to city politics, but not to elected leadership roles. He served five years as president of the NAACP state chapter’s Youth and College Council. He said he will bring the youth perspective, giving a voice to the generation that will inherit the city in the years to come.