Republicans in the small Connecticut town of Derby will decide Tuesday whether to unseat their three-term incumbent mayor in favor of a local official recently charged in federal court for his involvement in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Meanwhile, Connecticut Democrats will choose mayoral nominees in three of the state’s four largest cities.
In Derby, located about 10 miles west of New Haven, incumbent Republican Mayor Richard Dziekan faces a primary challenge from alderman Gino DiGiovanni, Jr., who was charged by federal prosecutors in August with illegally entering the U.S. Capitol during the riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
DiGiovanni, who was elected alderman 10 months after the attack, has acknowledged being at the Capitol that day but has denied any wrongdoing. He has the local Republican Party committee's endorsement, which Dziekan did not seek. Dziekan was first elected mayor in 2017 after unseating Democratic incumbent Anita Dugatto in a rematch of their 2015 contest. The mayor of Derby serves a two-year term.
In Bridgeport, the state’s largest city, incumbent Democratic Mayor Joe Ganim faces a challenge from his former aide John Gomes. Ganim is seeking an eighth term as mayor. He first served from 1991 to 2003 before spending seven years in federal prison for corruption and extortion charges stemming from his time as mayor. Voters returned him to office in 2015 and 2019. Gomes served in Ganim’s second administration as the city’s Acting Chief Administrative Officer until he was demoted in 2016 and later as an Assistant Chief Administrative Officer until his termination in July 2022. Gomes has suggested publicly that his ouster was in retaliation for being rumored as a possible mayoral hopeful. Ganim previously faced a primary challenge in his 2019 re-election bid, when he narrowly defeated state Sen. Marilyn Moore by 270 votes.
In the state capital of Hartford, three Democrats face off for their party’s nomination to replace outgoing two-term Democratic incumbent Luke Bronin. Arunan Arulampalam, CEO of the Hartford Land Bank, has the endorsement of the local Democratic Party committee. Eric Coleman is a former state senator and retired Superior Court judge. State Sen. John Fonfara is chairman of the General Assembly’s finance committee.
In New Haven, Democratic incumbent Justin Elicker seeks a third two-year term as mayor. He faces a challenge from Liam Brennan, the city’s Inspector General and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Obama and early Trump administrations. Elicker won his 2019 primary with 58% of the vote against the incumbent Mayor Toni Harp, who went on to run in the general election under the Working Families banner. He did not face a primary challenge in 2021.
The winners will advance to the Nov. 7 general election. Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven are Democratic strongholds, and Tuesday’s primary victors will be heavily favored in the fall. President Joe Biden carried all three cities in 2020 with vote margins of at least 60 percentage points.
In Derby, the Republican primary winner will advance to the November general election to face Democrat Joe DiMartino, a former alderman. That contest could be competitive regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s primary. In 2021, Dziekan narrowly won re-election over DiMartino by a 48-vote margin. Donald Trump performed well in Derby in 2016, winning the town in the GOP primary with 75% of the vote and outperforming Hillary Clinton in the general election — 52% to 45% — despite losing statewide by almost 14 percentage points. Biden won back Derby for Democrats in the 2020 general election with 51% of the vote.
Here’s a look at what to expect on primary night:
The Connecticut municipal primaries will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 12. Polls close statewide at 8 p.m. ET.
WHAT’S ON THE BALLOT
The Associated Press will provide coverage for three Democratic mayoral primaries in Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven and one Republican mayoral primary in Derby. Additional primaries for mayor, town council, board of education and other local offices will be held across the state. Republicans will have primaries in 14 communities while Democrats will be on the ballot in 12.
WHO GETS TO VOTE
Connecticut has a closed primary system, which means only registered party members may participate in that party’s primary. Democrats may not vote in Republican primaries, and Republicans may not vote in Democratic primaries. Unaffiliated or independent voters may not participate in any party’s primary.
Off-year municipal primary elections tend to be relatively low-turnout events. In a competitive contest, particularly in small-to-midsize towns, the margin between the first- and second-place candidates may be a relatively small number of votes. This may slow the race-calling process as a handful of absentee, provisional or other untallied ballots could play a decisive role in determining the result.
The AP does not make projections and will declare a winner only when it’s determined there is no scenario that would allow the trailing candidates to close the gap. If a race has not been called, the AP will continue to cover any newsworthy developments, such as candidate concessions or declarations of victory. In doing so, the AP will make clear that it has not yet declared a winner and explain why.
Connecticut law requires an automatic recount if the margin is less than 0.5% of the total votes cast or fewer than 20 votes but not more than 1,000 votes. The AP may declare a winner in a race that is eligible for a recount if it can determine the lead is too large for a recount or legal challenge to change the outcome.
WHAT DO TURNOUT AND ADVANCE VOTE LOOK LIKE
In the November 2022 general election, there were 2.2 million active voters registered in Connecticut. Of those, 36% were Democrats, 21% were Republicans and 41% were not affiliated with any party.
Turnout for the 2019 Democratic mayoral primaries in Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven all hovered between 13% and 15%. The Bridgeport and Hartford mayoral primaries that year each had roughly 10,000 total votes cast; the New Haven mayoral primary had about 12,000 total votes cast. Past Republican primary turnout data is not available for Derby as the incumbent, Dziekan, was uncontested for the nomination. There were roughly 2,800 total votes cast in three of the last four mayoral general elections in Derby.
Advance voting in Connecticut is limited to voters who are unable to cast a ballot in person on Election Day. Absentee ballots must be received by Election Day. In the 2022 general election, 16% of Hartford voters cast absentee ballots, compared to 14% in Bridgeport and 11% in New Haven. A new law signed by Gov. Ned Lamont in June allowing early in-person voting will apply to elections held on or after Jan. 1, 2024, and will not affect Tuesday's mayoral primaries.
HOW LONG DOES VOTE COUNTING USUALLY TAKE?
In the 2022 primaries, the AP first reported results in Harford at 8:08 p.m. ET, or eight minutes after polls closed. First results in New Haven were available at 8:11 p.m. ET, in Bridgeport at 8:13 p.m. ET and in Derby at 8:43 p.m. ET. The election night tabulation ended with 100% of the vote counted by 10:44 p.m. ET in Derby, 12:17 a.m. ET in Bridgeport, 12:37 a.m. ET in Hartford and 12:44 a.m. ET in New Haven.
Associated Press writer Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut, and Election Decision Editor Stephen Ohlemacher contributed to this report.