Race for mayor in Hamden exposes divide in Democratic Party

New Haven

HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Election Day is less than a week away. Will it be the winds of “change we can trust,” the slogan of the Democratic team in Hamden, or “people over politics” and “a new vision for a better Hamden,” the slogans for the Republican team?

The race for mayor includes two party-endorsed candidates and two write-in candidates, one of whom is Curt Leng, the current mayor. He lost in the primary to endorsed-Democratic candidate Lauren Garrett who is described as a progressive.

“I’m not really worried about the write-in candidates, but everyone has the right to participate,” Garrett said.

The Republican in the race, Ron Gambardella, is a fiscal conservative.

“There is a split in the Democratic Party and Democrats who are opposed to her or reaching out to me,” Gambardella said.

Thus, the “Democrats for Gambardella” lawn signs.

In Hamden, a town of more than 61,000 people, struggling with finances and a mill rate of 50, one of the highest in the state, are top issues.

The town has approximately $1.3 billion in long-term liabilities. Gambardella, an accountant and finance professional, said he can fix it.

“They are outraged,” Gambardella said. “They don’t think they can bear another tax increase they want somebody with financial expertise that can do something about the finances.”

Garrett, an engineer and the Democratic-endorsed candidate, said she’s assembled a team of professionals and has a plan.

“We also have to make sure we are reducing our expenses,” Garrett said. “We will be sending contracts out to bid so that we can get the best lowest bid on a lot of our contracts in town.”

During a debate on Zoom, the candidates heard how one of the write-in candidates would increase revenues by selling recreational marijuana.

“I have a plan to move forward with a cannabis dispensary,” Al Lotto, an Independent write-in candidate for Hamden mayor, said.

Leng, a write-in candidate, was not part of the debate. Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 4 to 1 margin.

According to the Secretary of the State’s website, as of Oct. 27, 2020, Hamden’s voter registration breakdown looks like this:

  • 4,170 – Active GOP
  • 18,871 – Active Democrat
  • 12,431 – Active unaffiliated
  • 536 – Active minor parties
  • 36,008 – Total active voters

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