After falling short two years ago, Republican Rich Dziekan scored a decisive victory Tuesday over two-term Democratic incumbent Mayor Anita Dugatto.
Dziekan, a retired Hamden police officer, beat Dugatto by an unofficial vote count of 1,802 to 1,295.
That’s a remarkable turnaround from 2015, when Dziekan lost to Dugatto by 112 votes.
Dziekan won with overwhelming east side support from the Third Ward en route to a 507-vote victory.
The GOP now has a 5-4 majority of the Board of Aldermen, barring any changes from close-race recounts.
“We won because we’re all Derby people and we want to get Derby going,” Dziekan said at GOP Headquarters on Elizabeth Street. “The people heard us. I’m so grateful for their support and trust. It’s a big win for Derby.”
On a night when dozens of Dziekan supporters stuffed an Elizabeth Street storefront, the crowd quickly parted when Dugatto entered the room to congratulate Dziekan and vow to start his transition Wednesday.
She congratulated Dziekan on his win and promised a smooth transition.
Watch the video to see Dugatto and Dziekan together. Story continues below.
Andrew Baklik, Dziekan’s campaign manager, pointed to the Marshall Lane Manor issue as a deciding factor in the race.
The city’s planning and zoning commission is reviewing a proposal to convert Marshall Lane Manor, a former nursing home at 101 Marshall Lane, into a dormitory for foreign-born high school students who would attend private schools outside Derby.
The unusual proposal generated controversy in the neighborhood. Dziekan’s cousin is one of two neighbors who have filed legal action to stop the proposal.
“Rich took a stand on it,” Baklik said. “Knocking on those doors, people there expressed concern about it, and Rich felt that was the best way to go—to support them. And they rewarded him with their votes.”
Tuesday was the final round of a tough political year for Dugatto.
The majority of her fellow Democrats on the Board of Aldermen did not want her to run for re-election, and neither did the majority of the Derby Democratic Town Committee.
They wanted to run Alderman Carmen DiCenso against Dziekan because they felt Dugatto could not defeat Dziekan in a rematch.
But Dugatto pressed on, defeating DiCenso by a narrow margin in a September primary.
At her headquarters on Derby Avenue Tuesday, Dugatto urged her supporters at her campaign headquarters to stay positive.
She repeatedly mentioned they had laid the groundwork for good things to happen in Derby. Presumably Dugatto was talking about the “Downtown Now” plan for the city’s long-stagnant redevelopment zone, for which the city received a $5 million grant from the state.
Watch Mayor Dugatto address her supporters in the video below:
“Keep it going. We all live here. We all live here,” Dugatto said. “We want the best for our city. So then let’s make sure we get the best for our city. Alright?”
The 500-vote difference between Dziekan and Dugatto was surprising, even to Derby political veterans such as Second Ward Alderman Ron Sill, a Democrat who was re-elected.
“I thought it would be real close,” Sill said.
The split in the Derby Democrats obviously didn’t help Dugatto’s re-election campaign.
“Whenever you have a split in the party with a primary, there are repercussions,” Sill said.
Derby election officials said a recount will happen in Derby’s Second Ward, where Democratic incumbent Art Gerckens lost his seat by six votes. Gerckens was a loyal Dugatto supporter.
Unofficial results showed Republicans taking a 5-4 majority on the Board of Aldermen.
Sill and Democratic Alderman Joe DiMartino were re-elected in the Second Ward. Gerckens is being replaced by Republican Jim Petrino.
Democrats Barbara DeGennaro and Thomas Donofrio were re-elected as Alderwoman/man for the First Ward. They are joined by Republican Bev Moran, who previously served under Republican Mayor Anthony Staffieri.
This is Donofrio’s second term on the Board of Aldermen. He was unaffiliated two years ago but ran on the Republican line in 2015. He jumped to the Democrats this year to support DiCenso’s primary bid against Dugatto.
Democratic incumbent Stephen Iacuone was not re-elected to the First Ward, according to unofficial results.
The Derby Third Ward — home of the Marshall Lane Manor controversy — went all-Republican, with firefighters Louis Oliwa, police officer Charles Sampson, and Jim DiMartino (brother of Second Ward Alderman Joe DiMartino) all getting elected.
The Republicans kept a 6-4 majority on the tax board.
Democrat Christine Robinson was not re-elected to the Derby school board, but the rest of the incumbents were re-elected.
Mayor-elect Dziekan pledged to work with both parties, citing the previous administration’s inability to unify the Board of Aldermen and the city.
“I put 110 percent into this race because I didn’t think the city was going the right way,” Dziekan said. “I grabbed my team and we’re ready to go. It’s not a one-man show.”
Turnout was 49.8 percent Tuesday, according to unofficial results.
Voter turnout in Derby was 47.1 percent in 2013, and 53.3 percent in 2015.
The Derby race convulsed over the weekend, when The Connecticut Post reported that Big Y might be moving to 656 New Haven Ave., formerly home to Walmart and an Adam’s grocery store.
The vacant space is a black eye for Derby, and was a bone of contention during an Oct. 24 mayoral debate.
The Republican and Democratic parties on the state level used the story to bash each other over the head in the campaign’s final moments.
The state Democrats said Big Y was leaving Ansonia. The state GOP created a video saying voters were being “duped by Dugatto.”
On Monday morning, The Valley Indy submitted a Freedom of Information request to Derby City Hall asking for documentation connected to Big Y and 656 New Haven Ave.
As of 1 a.m. Wednesday, neither the city’s lawyer, the mayor, nor the building official has released information.
UPDATE: At 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, the city’s lawyer released documents which show an account manager from a sign company asking Derby building official Carlo Sarmiento about the city’s sign regulations.
The correspondence, dated Oct. 20, include two renderings that show the Big Y logo atop the current sign at 656 New Haven Ave. The correspondence does not explicitly say Big Y is coming to town.
The story continues after the images.
Big Y corporate officials did not return calls for comment placed Monday and Tuesday.
Going into Tuesday’s race, Dziekan’s campaign had taken in roughly $18,000 in donations and spent about $15,000.
Meanwhile, Dugatto’s campaign received roughly $28,000 in individual donations and had a $10,500 loan ($5,000 of which came from Dugatto herself).
The campaign spent roughly $29,000.
That’s according to campaign finance reports filed Oct. 31.
The Valley Indy published 82 stories, press releases and letters concerning this year’s election in Derby. In addition, The Valley Indy organized two, 90-minute candidate debates, including an Oct. 24 debate co-sponsored by Derby Public Schools.
Video by Krystina Morgan.
Here are the results from the under-ticket races. Bold denotes winners.
D = Democratic line
R = Republican line
Anita Dugatto — D (incumbent) 1,295
Rich Dziekan — R 1,802
Marc Garofalo — D (incumbent) 1,690
Laura Wabno — R 1,313
Keith McLiverty — D (incumbent) 1,569
Anthony Staffieri — R 1,377
BOARD OF ALDERMEN
First Ward Aldermen
Barbara DeGennaro — D (incumbent) 343
Thomas Donofrio — D (incumbent) 351
Stephen Iacuone — D (incumbent) 305
Bev Moran — R 334
Adam Pacheco — R 314
Tony Szewczyk — R 304
Second Ward Aldermen
Evelyn Browning — R 377
Joseph DiMartino — D (incumbent) 476
Robert Forte — R 338
Arthur Gerckens — D (incumbent) 421
Jim Petrino — R 427
Ronald Sill — D (incumbent) 506
Third Ward Aldermen
Robert Bell — D 553
Jim DiMartino — R 782
Peter Olenoski — D (incumbent) 629
Louis Oliwa — R 728
Cheryl Pereiras — D 569
Charles Sampson — R 727
BOARD OF APPORTIONMENT AND TAXATION
Jerry Borrelli — R (incumbent) 1,756
Ray Bowers — R (incumbent) 1,825
James Butler — D (incumbent) 1,510
Christopher Carloni — R (incumbent) 1,880
Christine Forgette — D 1,309
Carlo Malerba Jr— D (incumbent) 1,598
Shirley Miani — D (incumbent) 1,475
Rose Pertoso — D (incumbent) 1,452
Sam Pollastro Jr — R (incumbent) 1,691
Kara Rochelle — D 1,375
Phylis Sochrin — R (incumbent) 1,681
Judy Szewczyk — R (incumbent) 1,731
BOARD OF EDUCATION
Debra Borrelli — R 1,536
Melissa Cannata — D 1,325
Daniel Foley Jr — D (incumbent) 1,550
Jim Gildea — R (incumbent) 1,674
Laura Harris — R (incumbent) 1,658
Mark Heuberger — D 1,117
George Kurtyka — D (incumbent) 1,413
Kenneth Marcucio Sr — D (incumbent) 1,527
Janine Netto — R (incumbent) 1,525
Rebecca O’Hara — R (incumbent) 1,538
Casey Picheco — R 1,548
Christine Robinson — D (incumbent) 1,288
Peter Duhaime — R 1,465
Sylvester Fusco Jr — D 1,342