The Derby Democratic Town Committee endorsed Carmen DiCenso for mayor Tuesday, snubbing two-term incumbent Mayor Anita Dugatto in a 21-15 vote.
Click play on the video above to watch DiCenso accept the town committee’s endorsement.
DiCenso said he’ll work to unify the party, while Dugatto vowed to collect signatures in order to force a Democratic primary in September.
“I feel very honored you have the faith in me to make Derby a better place,” DiCenso told a crowd of about 75 people inside the Veterans Memorial building at the corner of Atwater and Seymour avenues.
The video below shows the town committee vote.
Dugatto told reporters her appeal reaches beyond the local political power brokers.
“The winds of change are in Derby, and there are those who have vested interests that don’t like change,” she said.
Derby Republicans, meanwhile, are expected to endorse retired police officer Rich Dziekan during a nominating convention scheduled for Wednesday.
Dziekan’s responded to DiCenso’s nomination in a Facebook post:
“I would like to congratulate Carmen DiCenso on securing the Democrat Party nomination tonight,” he said. “However, I believe that my campaign offers the only true alternative to the failed policies of the Dugatto-DiCenso administration. I ask for the support of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents who support low taxes, pro business policies and complete transparency in government!”
The Democratic Town Committee’s endorsement was not a surprise. Although the Democrats control a majority on the Derby Board of Aldermen, they’ve been openly fighting with Dugatto pretty much since she was elected.
The fissure went public in early 2014, when DiCenso, the president of the Board of Aldermen, criticized Mayor Dugatto for going rogue on the city’s crumbling parking garage.
DiCenso is a quiet political force in Derby.
His name was repeatedly floated as a mayoral candidate over the years, but he opted not to run.
He’s currently the president of the Board of Aldermen, and the majority of the board sided with him Tuesday over Dugatto.
First Ward Alderman Thomas Donofrio, who ran on the Republican line in 2015, jumped ship to join his friend on the Democratic ticket.
DiCenso is also the top vote getter in Derby, a fact underlined during an analytical endorsement speech by Barbara DeGennaro, an Alderwoman representing the city’s First Ward.
Members of the town committee think DiCenso will be a more effective leader for the city compared to Dugatto. And they doubt whether Dugatto can survive a rematch with Dziekan, who lost to her by just 115 votes in 2015.
“I’ve been on the board (of Aldermen) for six years, and I’ve learned what I’ve needed to learn to run the city,” DiCenso told the Valley Indy. “One of the things I’ve learned is that I don’t believe Anita has the support she needs to beat Rich Dziekan this time.”
DiCenso’s nomination was supported by speeches from Second Ward Alderman Ron Sill, school board president Ken Marcucio, Sr. and DeGennaro.
Jim Butler, Kara Rochelle and Second Ward Alderman Art Gerckens gave speeches on Dugatto’s behalf.
They noted Dugatto inherited a mess when she first took office — a mess that’s still unfolding. She’s met every challenge thrown at her, Butler said.
In his speech Gerckens promised to be “positive,” and proceeded to use the word “positive” more than 60 times to berate DiCenso and laud Dugatto.
“I am positive Mayor Dugatto makes her own decisions,” Gerckens said. “I am positive her opponent does not. I am positive Mayor Dugatto has tackled tough, city-wide issues. I am positive her opponent has not.”
Gerckens, who is often at odds with his fellow Aldermen, was unanimously endorsed by the Democratic Town Committee to seek another term.
There were no conflicts with the under-ticket, and the slate is chock full of familiar names, including Keith McLiverty, who the Dems again endorsed for treasurer.
Here’s the list:
Board of Education
Daniel Foley, Jr.
Kenneth Marcucio, Sr.
Board of Apportionment and Taxation
Carlo Malerba, Jr.
First Ward Alderman
Second Ward Alderman
Third Ward Alderman
Sylvester Fusco Jr.