Elections Government

Democrats Sweep West Hartford Races, Republican Incumbents Re-Elected

West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor speaks to a post-election gathering of Democrats Tuesday night, thanking the team for their work and support. As the top vote-getter, she will likely continue as the town's mayor. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Incumbent West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor has been re-elected with the highest vote total as Democrats retain all six seats on the Town Council by a sizable margin, while Republicans retain all minority seats on the Town Council and Board of Education, shutting out A Connecticut Party challengers. [Updated, Nov. 9]

By Ronni Newton

Results of West Hartford’s municipal election were certified Thursday and submitted to the Secretary of the State.

The following are the final vote tallies, and were verified by the head moderator prior to being certified. The documents can be found here on the Town of West Hartford website.

There are slight variations in total votes for some of the candidates, although it did not impact who won seats in any of the races.

Screenshot of West Hartford vote totals from Secretary of the State’s Office

Screenshot of West Hartford vote totals from Secretary of the State’s Office

Original story

As the vote tallies began pouring in following the 8 p.m. closing of the polls Tuesday night, West Hartford Democrats, gathered at Tavern in the Square, were all smiles. When the final poll numbers were reported, there was clapping and cheering.

The slate of Democrats running for Town Council and Board of Education, as well as Town Clerk candidate Leon Davidoff – who was unopposed – cruised to victory in Tuesday’s municipal election by a wide margin according to unofficial vote totals.

Democrats will retain their 6-3 majority on the Town Council, and their 5-2 majority on the Board of Education.

West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor speaks to a post-election gathering of Democrats Tuesday night, thanking the team for their work and support. As the top vote-getter, she will likely continue as the town’s mayor. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Mayor Shari Cantor, who was running in her ninth election for Town Council  was once again the top vote-getter, with 9,642 votes according to unofficial totals that included absentee ballots. It is anticipated that after the new Town Council is sworn in on Nov. 21, Cantor will be re-elected as its president and retain the role of mayor.

The role of deputy mayor traditionally goes to the second-highest vote-getter, which this year was Ben Wenograd. According to Cantor, he will likely become deputy mayor. Liam Sweeney, who served in that role for the past two years, did not seek re-election.

Unofficial vote totals in West Hartford 2023 municipal election. [Updated with correct headings]

In her victory speech, Cantor thanked her family, the Democratic Town Committee, and many others who have served in the past and present for their support and their role in making the town a great place to live.

“It really, really makes a difference … good governance is not sitting by the sidelines. It’s stepping in, it’s weighing in, it’s contributing … and we are a great community because people respect us, because we listen, because we govern with respect, we’re trustworthy, we have a sense of humor, we respond to people, we don’t talk at people – we talk with them, and I think that people really understand that,” Cantor said.

Ben Wenograd (in red sweater) received the second-most votes for Town Council, and will likely become the deputy mayor. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

“You go out and you hear the negatives and then you look at the results. … The people of West Hartford like the direction we’re going,” Wenograd said. “West Hartford’s a place where everybody wants to live, and we’re doing our best to really make it a place where everybody can live.” He added that West Hartford is “the example for the whole state.”

In addition to Cantor and Wenograd, Democrat Carol Anderson Blanks was re-elected to the Town Council. Deb Polun and Tiffani McGinnis, Democrats who were both appointed to their Town Council seats, were elected by wide margins, and newcomer Barry Walters was also elected.

All expressed their thanks to their families and other supporters, and their excitement for the future.

Republican incumbents Mary Fay, Mark Zydanowicz, and Alberto Cortes were all re-elected. Aaron Sarwar, who has previously run as an independent candidate but was running as a Republican this year for the first time, was not elected.

Rick Bush, running as an A Connecticut Party candidate, also did not win a seat.

“I just want to thank all the West Hartford voters today for coming out and supporting me,” Zydanowicz said Tuesday night at a post-election gathering of Republicans at the Shish Kebab House. “It’s been a long election cycle and you never know how it’s going to turn out. Back on Town Council and I’m so happy to be there,” he said, excited to be part of West Hartford and serving the community.

Cortes also expressed his thanks to those who re-elected him. “I’m excited, I’m grateful for the support that I’ve got from the community tonight. I look forward to serving and moving forward for the next two years,” he said.

Republican Town Committee Chair Shawn Daly said he was “pleased and excited about the results of the race. We had one goal in mind, which was to make sure we kept A Connecticut Party out and that we kept our incumbents in to continue the fight that they have with the Town Council and the Board of Education … and the voters spoke loud and clear.”

Unofficial tallies from the polls, plus absentee ballots, showed Fay, the current minority leader, ahead of Zydanowicz by 45 votes. The unofficial results that appeared later in the evening on the Secretary of the State’s Election Night Reporting system, however, have Zydanowicz ahead by 42 votes. The role of minority leader is up to the caucus to determine, and is not automatically based on who gets the most votes, Daly said.

Screenshot of Secretary of the State’s Election Night Reporting system.

“We know it’s an unwritten rule, we know the Republicans are going to caucus, and from there they’ll decide,” he said, noting that the Democrats several years ago did not follow that tradition in choosing a deputy mayor. “I think it’s important that our Republicans come together as a team and decide what they think is best for the voters of West Hartford.”

Shannon Marimón, at right, is one of three newcomers elected to the Board of Education. Also elected were Jason Gagnon (second from right) and LaToya Fernandez (third from right). Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The Board of Education race was also successful for the Democrats, with newcomer Shannon Marimón leading the ticket with 8,636 votes. Democrat LaToya Fernandez, also a first-time candidate who was appointed to the Board of Education in September, won a seat. Democrat Jason Gagnon, a newcomer who was running unopposed to fill the remaining two years of a vacant term, will also join the Board of Education.

“I just want to extend a huge thank you to everybody,” said Marimón. “I think we’re all just super excited to be on the Board of Ed, and start actually getting to the work of not only continuing the amazing reputation of our school system but taking it to a whole new level in terms of what we see for the future of our children and our families.”

Republican Board of Education member Ethan Goldman was re-elected. Republican Kyle Zelazny, and A Connecticut Party candidates Roni Rodman and Kristyn Rosen-Jacobs, did not win seats.

Mark Merritt, a former Republican who leads A Connecticut Party, said the party earned more than 1% of the vote and will retain a line on the West Hartford ballot.

“We’re still keeping the message going of an alternative,” he told We-Ha.com Tuesday night. “Unfortunately the voters go in and vote the party line,” he said, even with a controversial candidate who was still elected.

Merritt said ACTP did not do as well as they thought they would in this election, “but we will continue to press forward. We did a strategic move to try to get on Town Council,” he said, trying to get a foothold.

Democrat Leon Davidoff, who was appointed Town Clerk in the spring following the retirement of Essie Labrot, ran unopposed and was elected to the position, with the highest overall vote count on the West Hartford ticket.

Democratic Registrar of Voters Elizabeth Rousseau said based one unofficial results, voter turnout was 31.4% for this election. Turnout was light throughout the day, but picked up toward the evening, with the end result almost exactly the same turnout percentage as in the last municipal election, when 31.6% of voters cast ballots.

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