New London Democrats solidify slate of City Council candidates

New London — Voters winnowed a field of eight candidates down to seven at a Democratic primary on Tuesday and returned incumbent Councilor John Satti to the November election ballot.

Rich Baez, a political newcomer, elementary school teacher and former police officer, secured the fewest number of votes and was knocked off the slate as a result.

The candidates to appear on the November ballot are: Anthony Nolan, Don Venditto, Michael Tranchida, Martha Marx, John Satti, Alma D. Nartatez and Efrain Dominguez. Unofficial vote totals show several of the candidates separated by just one vote. Nolan appeared to be the top vote-getter, followed by Venditto and Tranchida.

Satti, who has been at odds with a few of his fellow councilors in the weeks leading up to the primary, was not among Democrats who gathered to hear vote totals and share congratulatory handshakes and hugs at a makeshift headquarters off Williams Street on Tuesday. The explanation from some was that was Satti simply was not an endorsed candidate at that point.

Satti, and not Nolan, initially was endorsed as a candidate by his party’s selection committee but was dropped from the slate after a vote from the floor at a party caucus. Satti subsequently had gathered the required number of signatures to become a petitioning candidate and force Tuesday’s primary.

A retired probation officer who runs a local lawn care business, Satti said he has worked for decades with the Democratic Party and he expected to be welcomed back after his win.

“As Democrats, I’m sure we’ll all pull together. I look forward to working with all of the people on the slate. Let’s move on to the November elections,” Satti said.

All but one of the endorsed Democratic candidates, Nartatez, are sitting members of the all-Democratic council. A member of the Planning and Zoning Commission who has never before run for a political office, she said she was anxious to continue her effort to reach out to voters and gather more support for the Nov. 7 election.

Voter turnout was low. Just 847 votes were cast on Tuesday, or under 11 percent of the 7,817 eligible Democrats. Democratic Registrar of Voters Bill Giesing said he expected as much. Turnout at primaries for local candidates are notoriously low but get a boost locally when there is a mayoral race involved, like there was in 2015. Turnout that year was about 27 percent.

Democrat Marie Gravell, who was a member of the selection committee for the Democratic candidates, said she was surprised by the low turnout and said the polling places had a different feel without a steady stream, or at least trickle, of people.

Democrats could have benefitted from a bit more publicity, something like a meet-and-greet, to at least introduce the newcomers, who likely suffered from the lack of name recognition, she said.

“My gut feeling is people are focused on the November election,” she said.

At the District 2 polling place at Harbor School, school teacher Liz Quiñones also thought many people were just unaware of the primary because of the lack of publicity and relative quiet from among the candidates.

“Unless you are in the mix and know a lot of the people personally, I think you might not have known,” she said.

Quiñones said she was reminded of the importance of voting in 2015, when she did not cast a ballot and the result was a tie between two school board candidates, one of whom she had supported.

“So it really does count,” she said.

The Democratic slate of City Council candidates will square off against six Republicans in November: Kat Goulart, Michael Fred Hudson, Stephen Mullane, Martin Olsen, Tim Ryan and John Russell.

The school board slates appear to still be in flux. Two Democrats, Wanda Cotto and Robert DeRobbio, withdrew from the race this week. The party is pursuing replacement candidates.

g.smith@theday.com

Unofficial results

Unofficial vote totals from Tuesday's Democratic primary:

Rich Baez, 424

Efrain Dominguez, 487

Martha Marx, 498

Alma Nartatez, 488

Anthony Nolan, 550

Michael Tranchida, 521

Don Venditto, 539

John Satti, 497

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