Clearly, the people had her back.
Despite not being supported by most of her party leaders and the majority of the Board of Aldermen, Mayor Anita Dugatto defeated Alderman Carmen DiCenso in a Democratic primary for mayor Tuesday.
The unofficial tally was 525-495 in Dugatto’s favor.
Turnout among Derby Democrats was at 42 percent. There were 2,382 eligible Democrats.
Dugatto will now face Rich Dziekan, the Republican nominee, in the general election scheduled for Nov. 7.
Dugatto said her message to the city’s voters is simple.
“I’m still here and I will still work hard for them,” Dugatto said after greeting about 30 jubilant supporters at her headquarters on Derby Avenue.
In a prepared statement early Wednesday, Dziekan wondered how the Derby Board of Aldermen will able to get things done when the majority of them oppose the mayor from their own party.
He asked DiCenso supporters for their support in November.
“I hope to keep the positive momentum of my campaign going, and I hope those that have supported Carmen in his bid will consider turning a blind eye to party politics and rally behind my desire to become Derby’s next mayor,” Dziekan’s statement read.
In the video below, Dugatto addresses her supporters immediately after the results arrived at her campaign headquarters:
Dugatto said she knows she’ll have to bring the Democratic Party together to beat Dziekan. It’s a rematch. Dugatto bested Dziekan by 111 votes two years ago.
“We’re going to give everyone a tube of superglue and we’re going to superglue all (of) us Democrats together,” Dugatto said.
Immediately after the results arrived at DiCenso’s headquarters on New Haven Avenue, the former Derby High School football coach said he wasn’t sure whether he would support Dugatto in the Nov. 7 election.
It could have been the sting of a surprise defeat on his part, because DiCenso congratulated Dugatto in person and hugged her several times. But he didn’t fully commit to unity when prompted by the mayor. He said “alright” and asked for a few days to relax.
Watch the video below.
In an interview with The Valley Indy, DiCenso, who gave up his position as the president of the Board of Aldermen to run for mayor, said he had no regrets with his campaign.
“Life goes on,” he said. “There’s nothing I would have done differently.”
Initial tallies from the Dugatto campaign, the DiCenso campaign, and the Registrar of Voters through an email from the town clerk had Dugatto winning with 575 votes, but that was a mistake, Derby Town Clerk Marc Garofalo said.
The initial report from the polls in Derby had Dugatto winning with 254 votes at the Irving School polling place.
Dugatto only received 204 votes there, Garofalo said in an email. So the initial 575 votes widely reported Tuesday for Dugatto was reduced to 525 votes within an hour.
Dugatto was elected mayor in 2013 after defeating four-term Republican incumbent Anthony Staffieri by 400 votes.
She is a dentist, and owns Sunflower Dental Care on Elizabeth Street. She previously served on the Derby Board of Apportionment and Taxation, and was a leading opposition voice when the Republicans held the mayor’s office and a majority on the Board of Aldermen.
Going into Tuesday’s primary, both campaigns acknowledged it was all about getting out the vote. That sounds obvious, but it’s easier said than done when the pool of eligible voters is just 2,382 people.
Dugatto’s campaign was cautiously optimistic heading into the primary. They spent money on targeted mailers focusing specifically on female Democrats. See the flyer below as an example.
It was a strategy that helped Dugatto get elected in 2013 — focus on females who are not necessarily local political junkies, but want to support a mayor with a positive message.
Dugatto hinted she had become an outsider in her own party, one who wasn’t afraid to bump heads with the traditional Democratic Party leaders in the city.
Dugatto also brought DNA Campaigns — a professional campaign firm out of New Haven — on board on a $1,200-a-month retainer to manage the campaign. Andrew McIndoo, the campaign manager, probably earned his keep when he challenged the Democratic power structure on its endorsement of DiCenso back in July.
McIndoo pointed out the city’s Democratic Party could not vote by secret ballot, which quickly caused state Democrats to strip DiCenso’s endorsement and suggest a primary.
Dugatto also had the endorsement of the Naugatuck Valley Young Democrats, a new political group in the Valley. They volunteered for her campaign and wrote letters to the editor supporting the two-term incumbent.
Dugatto’s win was a big win for the new group — a sign of a new generation of Democrats in the Naugatuck Valley, two of its members said in separate Facebook posts.
Dugatto’s win had to be especially sweet for Second Ward Alderman Art Gerckens, who has been the only member of the city’s legislative body to stick by the mayor, while often arguing with the rest of his fellow Democrats.
DiCenso Had Strong Party Support
DiCenso, a former Derby High School football coach, owned B&L Men’s & Boy’s Store for 40 years. He’s married with three grandchildren.
He was first elected to represent the city’s Third Ward on the Board of Aldermen in 2011.
DiCenso’s campaign had been confident heading into Tuesday’s primary.
DiCenso is popular in Derby. He had received the most votes in the Aldermen races of 2011, 2013 and 2015.
He also had the support of 21 of the 36 members of the Derby Democratic Town Committee, along with six of the seven Democrats on the Derby Board of Aldermen.
One Alderman, Thomas Donofio of the First Ward, registered as a Democrat specifically to run with DiCenso. Donofrio was elected on the Republican ticket just two years ago.
DiCenso said he decided to run for mayor because he saw Dugatto’s popularity on the decline, as evidenced by the lack of support from her fellow Democrats. He had said several times he did not think Dugatto could defeat Dzieken, the GOP candidate, in the upcoming general election.
In an interview after the results arrived, First Ward Alderwoman Barbara DeGennaro, who supported DiCenso’s candidacy and has butted heads with Dugatto several times, also wasn’t ready to support Dugatto in November.
“The voters have spoken,” she said. “I won’t tell you I’m not disappointed. I’m very disappointed. We worked hard, and I can’t tell you anything we should have done differently.”
According to financial disclosure information filed Sept. 5, the Dugatto campaign outspent DiCenso by a more than 2-1 margin going into Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
The DiCenso campaign had raised about $10,200 as of Sept. 5 and had spent about $7,000.
The Dugatto campaign had raised $24,395 and had spent about $17,303 as of Sept. 5, which accounted for the multiple flyers Team Dugatto sent in the weeks leading up to the primary.
A 2007 Derby Democratic primary for mayor had 29.6 percent turnout.