Elections Government

Democrats Sweep West Hartford Municipal Election

Democrats retained six seats on the West Hartford Town Council in the 2017 municipal election. From left: Liam Sweeney, Beth Kerrigan, Leon Davidoff, Shari Cantor, Dallas Dodge, and Ben Wenograd. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

[Update, Nov. 8. Voting results are now official.] Incumbent West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor has been re-elected as the Democrats retain all six seats on the Town Council and elected all three of the party’s Board of Education candidates.

By Ronni Newton

The mood inside Rizzuto’s was celebratory Tuesday night, as West Hartford Democratic candidates gathered with their families and supporters, watching and cheering as the results came in from the town’s nine districts confirming a resounding victory for their party by maintaining all six seats on the Town Council by a landslide.

Mayor Shari Cantor was the top vote-getter by a margin of more than 900 votes – receiving 8,996 votes according to unofficial totals tabulated by the Secretary of State’s office that were verified Wednesday morning.

Deputy Mayor Leon Davidoff and councilors Beth Kerrigan and Ben Wenograd were also re-elected. Dallas Dodge, who was appointed to the Town Council when former mayor Scott Slifka resigned in 2016, was elected, and newcomer Liam Sweeney also earned a seat.

“I want to say what an honor it is to serve with an incredibly committed great group of people,” Cantor told the crowd. “West Hartford is so remarkable because of the past leadership that we’ve had.” Cantor noted that she is the town’s fifth female mayor.

“Thank you so much for supporting our whole slate … our win is your win,” Cantor said. “Top six again – it’s remarkable.”

Cantor also gave a big “thank you” to Judy Casperson who is retiring from the Town Council.

Davidoff told the crowd that this is a great night to be a Democrat and more importantly to be a citizen in West Hartford. “We showed again what West Hartford wants. What West Hartford wants is citizens who are engaged, citizens who listen, leaders that listen, leaders who are engaged. They want a West Hartford that represents all of that,” he said. “We want to be an inclusive community that’s compassionate … that is the envy of the region and West Hartford is the envy of the region with our schools, our business climate and our townspeople. West Hartford is for everyone.”

State Sen. Beth Bye also addressed the crowd at Rizzuto’s, urging the Democrats not to take this vote for granted.

“This is a change election, so understand that winning like this as incumbents in a change election is huge. The people of West Hartford said thank you … Don’t take this for granted,” Bye said. “This message tonight … is a vote of confidence in a year of change and that takes a lot of great leadership over a lot of years.”

On the Republican side, incumbent Chris Barnes led the Town Council race with 4,825 votes, and will likely become minority leader. Current Minority Leader Denise Hall did not seek re-election.

Newcomer Mary Fay received the second-highest number of votes among Republicans, followed by incumbent Chris Williams who was re-elected to his second term. Julie Krug and Ryan Langan were not elected.

Gathering at Beachland Tavern, the mood of the Republicans was subdued.

“I’m disappointed. We need to work harder,” Republican Town Committee Chairman Dennis Swanton said. “The facts are on our side, we just need to get them out there better.”

Swanton noted that the numbers are against the Republicans in town, and it’s hard to fight a three-to-one ratio of registered Democrats to Republicans.

Swanton said he is proud of the candidates who did win. “Chris Barnes will a great minority leader, Mary Fay is going to be an excellent newcomer,” he said.

“I’m disappointed in the result,” Barnes said of the overall election. “I think we ran a great slate of candidates. I was hoping for a better result. I thought we could pick up a seat or at least close the gap in town so it’s extremely disappointing that the bulk of the voters didn’t agree and come out that way particularly in the current tax and spend environment that we’re in, particularly with the state budget issues and the challenges that we face – that all of our residents face.”

Barnes said he looks forward to working with his colleagues to contain or cut spending and to provide tax relief to residents.

From left: Democrats Lorna Thomas-Farquharson, Cheryl Greenberg, and Deb Polun were elected to the West Hartford Board of Education. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Four seats on the Board of Education were also up for grabs, and the three Democratic candidates won handily.

Board of Education Chair Cheryl Greenberg was re-elected. Democrats Deb Polun and Lorna Thomas-Farquharson ran for the vacancies created by the retirement of Democrats Mark Overmyer-Velazquez and Tammy Exum, and both were elected.

Greenberg noted that it was not only a Democratic sweep on the Board of Education, but also an all female sweep. “We ran as a slate, we won as a slate, we love each other,” she told the crowd at Rizzuto’s, acknowledging that they are following in the “footsteps of giants” Overmyer-Velazquez and Exum.

The Republicans maintained one seat, but Jay Sarzen, who was running for re-election, lost to newcomer Robert Levine by about 300 votes according to the unofficial results.

Information about voter turnout was not available late Tuesday night.

Winners shown in bold:

Candidates (alphabetical order) Total Votes, official tally including Absentee Ballots
Chris Barnes (R)  4,825
Shari Cantor (D)  8,996
Leon Davidoff (D)  7,840
Dallas Dodge (D)  7,182
Mary Fay (R)  4,666
Beth Kerrigan (D)  8,026
Julie Krug (R)  4,392
Ryan Langan (R)  4,287
Liam Sweeney (D)  7,504
Ben Wenograd (D)  7,369
Chris Williams (R)  4,532
Cheryl Greenberg  8,484
Robert Levine  4,754
Deb Polun  8,001
Jay Sarzen  4,443
Lorna Thomas-Farquharson  7,578

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  • If it is true that there is a three to one margin of registered democrats to republicans, I’m not sure why the republicans were sad and the democrats so happy. Shari Cantor got the most votes but by a two to one margin. That to me shows a good balance in the voting, not the landslide portrayed. It would behoove the council to recognize the shifting philosophy and govern the town accordingly. In words of Fiorello LaGuardia: there is no Republican or Democrat way to pickup trash.

  • Congratulations to all those who won. Now to the business of governing! As a West Hartford citizen, I am concerned that the depth of the dialogue during this campaign season was either that spending needs to be cut or that West Hartford is a “great investment”. On average the mill rate in West Hartford has increased by 3.7% per year (including last year which was our revaluation year–which typically reduces mill rates when property value increases). We will not be having another revaluation until 2022. With Intergovernmental Revenues expected to be down from last year to the tune of ~$1M and increased debt service and pension cost expectations, it will be largely unavoidable that our mill rate will increase by 3-4% each year. By 2020, we are probably going to have mill rate above 45 mills. Other than being “fiscally responsible”, what specific action plans does the Town Council have to keep mill rates flat or do we feel that a 45 mill rate is the appropriate level of investment for West Hartford.

    • It would be great to see a council member address your questions here. You are not the only one with these concerns.

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