Published November 06. 2013 4:00AM
The Republican strategy in New London to essentially run against incumbent Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, even if he wasn't on the ballot, clearly didn't work Tuesday. In meetings with the editorial board, Republican candidates told us they were getting much negative feedback about the mayor and expected it to translate into Republican votes.
While some faces change, this Democratic city kept Democrats in control of the council, 6-1. Ironically, the one Republican to win, former councilor Martin T. Olsen, had to fight to get his party's nomination.
In control of the council and mayor's chair, New London Democrats need to cut the infighting and address issues of public safety, revitalization of the downtown, and support for city neighborhoods, all within continuing fiscal constraints - no easy task.
In Norwich, incumbent Republican Mayor Peter Nystrom could not overcome the registration numbers in another strongly Democratic city, losing to council Alderwoman Deberey Hinchey. Mayor-elect Hinchey used an outside political consulting firm to help her identify and reach the voters she needed to get to the polls. This approach may grow more common in local elections, not necessarily a welcome trend.
Some voters certainly liked Mayor-elect Hinchey's pledge to work full-time in the part-time-funded position ($45,000 salary). It seems unfortunate however, that the current mayor should be penalized for holding down a job in addition to his mayoral duties.
On balance, there were not major policy differences between the two. The biggest challenge remains how to revitalize Norwich's downtown district and its surrounding, densely populated urban neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, Mayor-elect Hinchey would do well to continue keeping the pressure on state officials to abandon the unfair policy of locating ex-convicts, discharged from a state program in Montville for rapists, into apartments in Norwich neighborhoods.
Voters in North Stonington again proved they are more comfortable with what they know, re-electing First Selectman Nicholas H. Mullane II for a 14th term.
Fellow Republican Robert L. Testa tried and failed for a third time to unseat the popular incumbent, running as a petitioning candidate. It appears that this time, however, Mr. Testa did win a seat as a selectman, though there will be a recount. If the vote stands, expect the meetings to be a bit testy with Mr. Mullane and Mr. Testa exchanging opinions.
Mr. Testa tried to make the case that the town needed a fresh outlook and new approaches to try to expand a stagnant tax base, and this newspaper agreed. North Stonington voters didn't see it that way, opting to go with Mr. Mullane's experience, hard work and record of fiscal prudence.