Derby Democratic challenger Anita Dugatto defeated incumbent four-term Republican Mayor Anthony Staffieri by more than 400 votes Tuesday to become the first woman elected to the city’s top office.
Dugatto’s coattails extended to the city’s Board of Aldermen races, where the Democrats improved their majority from 5-4 to 7-2.
The GOP saw current board members Beverly Moran, Joseph DiMartino, Scott Boulton, and Richard Dziekan all lose re-election bids Tuesday.
Translation — every current Republican member of the Board of Aldermen was voted out of office, but whether a recount in the tight Third Ward race will be requested remains to be seen.
The Republicans’ two winners in Aldermen’s races were David Lenart in the Second Ward and Peter Olenoski in the Third Ward.
Incumbent Democratic Aldermen Barbara DeGennaro, Stephen Iacuone, Art Gerckens, Ron Sill, and Carmen DiCenso all won re-election. Democratic newcomers to the board are Anthony DeFala, Sr. in the First Ward and David Anroman in the Third Ward.
Democrats also held onto majorities on the Board of Apportionment and Taxation and the Board of Education.
Incumbent Republican Town Clerk Laura Wabno lost to Democratic challenger — and former mayor — Marc Garofalo.
“Everybody worked really hard and the community spoke,” Dugatto said after the win at her headquarters on Derby Avenue.
The Dems were confident walking in — even though Staffieri, as of the Oct. 10 filings, had raised much more money than Dugatto.
But the Dems used big data to target specific groups — and managed to get out the vote.
The mood inside Dugatto’s headquarters went from optimistic to upbeat to downright ecstatic as results came in showing Dugatto would defeat Staffieri.
“When we get all that energy moving in the same direction, we go somewhere!,” she said as supporters applauded.
“We are going to move Derby forward!” she went on, pumping her fist in the air.
A stunned Staffieri thanked about 100 supporters about 9 p.m. inside his headquarters on Main Street.
He wished Dugatto well and said his administration has laid a solid foundation for her.
The Democratic sweep spared Keith McLiverty, the city’s treasurer, who was endorsed by the Republicans but is unaffiliated. He defeated Democratic challenger Jennifer Desroches by 25 votes.
Turnout in the race was about 47 percent based on unofficial results released at City Hall Tuesday night, slightly higher than the 2011 race, in which about 45 percent of voters turned out.
Staffieri had won re-election by 38 votes in 2011, but his supporters looked at those results as an aberration.
Click the video below to watch Staffieri address his supporters.
Dugatto said her team will be more cohesive because of the Democratic takeover.
Since the 2011 election, Board of Aldermen meetings have become much more contentious, with Staffieri often exercising his veto power to crush any Democratic moves he felt were controversial.
Staffieri and Second Ward Alderman Gerckens engaged in some particularly harsh arguments during the past two years.
“We’ll have a better consensus,” Dugatto said. “But we will work across party lines. It’s all about getting the right things done.”
At Staffieri headquarters, campaign manager Judy Szewczyk got the first numbers on the phone about 8:10 p.m.
They weren’t good — results showed Dugatto had bested Staffieri at the Bradley School polling place, his home ward, by more than 150 votes.
Staffieri told the crowd to cheer up until more numbers came in, but the news didn’t get any better.
As it became clear that he would not be re-elected, a steady stream of supporters approached him one by one with hugs and well-wishes.
Though clearly stunned, the mayor thanked supporters in a brief speech about 9 p.m.
“I couldn’t have had a better team than I’ve had,” he said. “It’s been my pleasure to serve for eight years for the City of Derby.”
“I don’t regret any of it,” the mayor went on, saying his four terms have formed “a tremendous part of my life.”
Staffieri is a Vietnam veteran who was wounded in combat. He’s married with three grown sons.
“For me it’s a time to move on to another chapter in my life,” he said. “It’s like a reading a book. It’s another novel. There’s been many chapters in my life.”
Staffieri closed his remarks by encouraging his successor.
“I wish Dr. Anita well. I hope she takes care of our city and does great things with it,” the mayor said. “We laid the groundwork, I hope she’s able to follow through.”
Afterward, Staffieri said he couldn’t put the defeat down to any one factor or issue. Derby actually lowered its mill rate in July. A tax increase leveled fellow incumbent Mayor James Della Volpe in Ansonia.
“I really honestly don’t know. Going door-to-door, people were positive, they were happy with what we’ve been doing and achieving,” Staffieri said. “I’ve been straight, honest with them, forthright. I’m really perplexed.”
He said his immediate plans are “to unwind for a few weeks and just take it easy.”
Could he run in 2015?
“Never say never,” Staffieri said.
Anthony Stafﬁeri (Rep): 1,334
Anita Dugatto (Dem): 1,745 X
BOARD OF ALDERMEN
Anthony DeFala, Sr. (Dem): 388 X
Barbara DeGennaro (Dem): 422 X
Stephen Iacuone (Dem): 393 X
Beth Allaire (Rep): 232
Bev Moran (Rep): 272
Tony Szewczyk (Rep): 257
Arthur Gerckens (Dem): 502 X
Josie Bunosso (Dem): 374
Ron Sill (Dem): 625 X
Joseph DiMartino (Rep): 427
David Lenart (Rep): 461 X
Gerardo Borrelli (Rep): 272
David Anroman (Dem): 653 X
Carmen DiCenso (Dem): 839 X
Frank Rubino, Jr. (Dem): 599
Peter Olenoski, Jr. (Rep): 653 X
Scott Boulton (Rep): 583
Richard Dziekan (Rep): 651
DERBY BOARD OF EDUCATION
George Kurtyka (Dem): 1,790 X
Ken Marcucio, Sr. (Dem): 1,957 X
Christine Robinson (Dem): 1,714 X
Craig Drezek (Dem): 1,736 X
James Stadt (Dem): 1,515 X
Andrew Mancini (Dem): 1,959 X
James Gildea (Rep): 1,570 X
Denise Bottone (Rep): 1,503
Joseph Szewczyk (Rep): 1,318
Casey Picheco (Rep): 1,406
Rebecca O’Hara (Rep): 1,698 X
Laura Harris (Rep): 1,611 X
BOARD OF APPORTIONMENT AND TAXATION
Jason Cronk (Dem): 1,747 X
Edwin Fiallos (Dem): 1,597 X
Carlo Malerba, Jr. (Dem): 1,918 X
James R. Butler (Dem): 1,913 X
James R. Watson (Dem): 1,614 X
Daniel Sexton (Dem): 1,723 X
Sabatino (Sam) Pollastro, Jr. (Rep): 1,476 X
Judy Szewczyk (Rep): 1,644 X
Carolyn Duhaime (Rep): 1,639 X
William Cummings (Rep): 1,421
Christopher Carloni (Rep): 1,792 X
Harvey Finkel (Rep): 1,446
Laura Wabno (Rep): 1,437
Marc Garofalo (Dem): 1,534 X
Keith McLiverty (Republican line): 1,473 X
Jennifer Desroches (Dem): 1,442
Peter Duhaime (Rep): 1,231 X
Sylvester Fusco, Jr. (Dem): 1,592 X