WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — The race for Waterbury’s next mayor is already heating up, just one month after current Mayor Neil O’Leary announced he is not seeking re-election. 

We’re still 190 days until Election Day, but three people have thrown their hat into the ring to become the city’s 47th mayor. 

Paul Pernerewski, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, said his key priorities include economic development and education.  

The husband and father of three sons has served on the city’s board of aldermen the past 22 years, including the last 14 years as president.   

“I’ve just had experience over the last 20 years,” Pernerewski said. “I’ve been working within the city, and I’ve worked very closely with Mayor O’Leary, with the administration. I understand how the city works, and I can hit the ground running and make sure we keep the momentum going forward here in Waterbury.”  

Dawn Maiorano is seeking the Republican nomination and is focused on cutting taxes and building economic development.    

The Waterbury native is part of her family’s funeral home business, which has served the community for 120 years. 

“It’s time for business-minded leadership,” Maiorano said. “I’ve been in the community forever, so I’m community-based, I have a business head. I want to get in there and I want to not run the city as ‘business as usual.’ Business as usual is not working for us.” 

Both candidates said they want to be tough on curbing crime.  

“The easy answer is, ‘It’s a state-level issue. It’s state level, the legislature made the laws, and we have to follow them,’ Maiorano said. “But you know what? It’s my responsibility, as the new mayor, to go and put pressure on these state legislators and to say, ‘Let’s do something.’” 

“These criminals are getting back out over and over again — it’s about 20% of folks that are committing 80% of the crime,” Pernerewski said. “So, it’s a small percentage of recidivous who are committing all of the crime.” 

Another Waterbury resident, Keisha Gilliams, is running for mayor again as a Democrat. She is looking to collect 1,000 signatures and challenge the nominee in a primary. She was unavailable for an interview Monday, but told News 8 “All career politicians in the city need to move on.” 

News 8 also reached out to former Waterbury mayor Michael Jarjura. He said that while he plans on announcing an official decision in two weeks, he is leaning towards a run for mayor.