Passero secures second term as mayor, Dems sweep council
New London — Incumbent Democratic Mayor Michael Passero secured a second four-year term in office on Tuesday with a resounding victory over his two opponents.
Passero celebrated the win alongside a host of Democrats who were elected to fill 13 of the 14 available seats on the City Council and Board of Education. School board candidate Jason Catala, who is facing criminal credit card fraud charges, was the lone Democrat not to win a seat.
It was a lopsided win for Passero, who was challenged this year by Republican City Councilor Marty Olsen and a political newcomer, Green Party candidate Frida Berrigan. Unofficial vote totals show Passero had 2,063 votes to Olsen's 1,161 and Berrigan's 394. Berrigan, because of missing a state filing deadline, had conducted a write-in campaign.
At Democratic headquarters on Bank Street against a backdrop of chants of "our city, on the rise," Passero announced "Democrats in this city are amazing."
Passero, a retired city firefighter and former part-time labor attorney, said he plans to get back to the work of boosting investment in the city and tackling quality-of-life issues. Passero's campaign had touted the growth in the city's grand list, an increase in the city's fund balance and most recently a rise to the city's bond rating — all signs of financial stability.
"We still have a lot of work to do, addressing the disproportionate property tax issue," Passero said.
Olsen, whose slogan through the campaign was "we can do better," gave up his seat on the City Council to take a shot at the mayor's seat. He thanked fellow Republicans for a good campaign fight.
"I wish him and the city well moving forward," Olsen said of Passero. "I've had a terrific run serving the city. It's been a ball and an honor. Losing an election doesn't mean I'm running out of town."
Voters returned all three of the Democratic incumbent City Council members back into office — Alma Nartatez, John Satti and Efrain Dominguez. In a sweep of the City Council, Democrats added newcomers Kevin Booker Jr., James Burke, Curtis Goodwin and Reona Dyess.
The Democrats defeated Green Party member Ronna Stuller and Republicans Michael Fred Hudson, Alexis Major, Karen Paul and Adam Sprecace.
Democratic town Committee Chairwoman Martha Marx said the councilors better represented the city because of the diversity in age, gender, race and sexual orientation.
James Burke, 28, said he had helped recruit the new candidates.
"I'm so proud of every single person I'll be sitting with for the next two years, and maybe longer," Burke said.
Berrigan, at Green Party headquarters on State Street, called the experience of running for office a "pleasure and a challenge," and gave the Green Party credit for boosting voter turnout and "buoyancy and excitement" about the elections.
"I got a gift to be able to do this with all of you," Berrigan said.
Berrigan left open the possibility of making another run at office.
Turnout at this year's election was on par with past elections, about 22 percent of the 16,095 registered voters turned out. Twenty-three percent of voters turned out in the 2015 when Passero defeated former Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio in a primary and Republican Bill Vogel in the general election.