WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — With three-term Democrat Neil O’Leary stepping aside, this year’s election represented possibly the GOP’s best chance to capture the top job in one of Connecticut’s largest cities. Democrats, for their part, fought hard to keep the city blue.
While addressing his supporters, Democrat Paul Pernerewski declared victory over Republican Dawn Maiorano and Keisha Gilliams and Karen Jackson, who both petitioned to get on the ballot.
“There is no race more important than Waterbury,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Sunday. “As Waterbury goes, so goes Connecticut. Waterbury is a working town with people who care about the individuals who represent them, not just party.”
In the battle for control of the Brass City, Pernerewski and Maiorano didn’t mince words.
“My opponent has had 21 years to make the changes that he is claiming to want to make in the next four,” Maiorano said. “My question is: why hasn’t he?”
“We’ve changed Waterbury in 21 years from what it was to what it is today,” Pernerewski said. “When you look at my record, it tells you that I’ll be able to do it going forward. What had Dawn done for 21 years? She has not been part of this city. She didn’t join a board until January of this year. Now she wants to be mayor?”
Pernerewski touted his decades of experience in state and local government, while Maiorano says voters want a change from the status quo.
Even though Democrats enjoy a 3-to-1 advantage among registered voters, top state leaders flocked to Waterbury this weekend to throw their political weight behind Pernerewski.
“There’s a lot of hate and division out there in politics today, and a lot of it unfortunately creeps into local politics,” U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said Sunday. “Democrats, they know how to run cities and towns, right, keeping the mill rate down, but they also have compassion. Trying to bring people together instead of trying to divide us, and that’s true here in Waterbury.”
Ben Proto, the state GOP chairman, fired back, rejecting democratic arguments that Republicans are too divisive.
“The Democrats have failed,” Proto said. “They continue to fail, not only here in Waterbury but across the state. And if Waterbury wants to move forward, they need to reject that line of argument because it’s just dumb, which is pretty much what the Democrats have been in the city of Waterbury for a long time.”