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Newtown Favors Incumbents In Low Turnout For Election

An absence of competition for numerous elected positions, including first selectman, Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance, Police Commission and a two-year post on the Board of Education, may have contributed to a lower than normal turnout in local voting at Newtown’s four precincts today.

According to local registrars, a total of 4,438 voters cast ballots across Newtown on Election Day, down from 5,225 total votes cast in 2011. A total of 17,346 registered voters were eligible to cast ballots in this year’s race.

Seats up for grabs on the Legislative Council, the Board of Education and in the town clerk’s race were mostly captured by incumbents, with newcomers scratching out wins for the Board of Education, and in a couple of council district races.

The town clerk race was won handily by Debbie Aurelia Halstead, who received 2,406 votes versus opponent Ann LoBosco Benore, who received the endorsement of 1,753 voters.

In council District 1, the winners were Republicans George Ferguson, Robert Merola and Joe Girgasky and Democrat Paul Lundquist.

Republicans Mary Ann Jacob and Ryan Knapp and Democrats Daniel Honan and Lisa Romano captured seats in council District 2. Republicans Phil Carroll, Neil Chaudhary and newcomer Anthony Filato, along with incumbent Democrat Daniel Amaral, were elected in council District 3.

In District 2, the close race between Mr Knapp and Republican Dan Wiedemann qualified for a recount because Mr Wiedemann only trailed by seven votes. But he notified Registrar LeReine Frampton by phone Tuesday evening that he would not force a recount.

Incumbent Republicans Debbie Leidlein, Kathryn Hamilton and Keith Alexander won new four-year terms on the Board of Education, as did newcomer Democrat Michelle Embree Ku.

Former probate judge Margot Hall, a Republican, and Democrat Mary Fellows were reelected to the Edmond Town Hall Board of Managers.

First Selectman Pat Llodra ran unopposed, as did her board colleagues, incumbent Selectmen Will Rodgers and James Gaston, Sr.

Relief And 'No Regrets'

In an apparent daze of relief, and feeling “really good” about her reelection to the Board of Education Tuesday night, Ms Hamilton told The Bee, “I am thrilled, amazed.”

With “so much going on” for the board and the town, she said, “I want to do right by Sandy Hook School.” She also hopes to work to create programs for children to excel, she said.

Ms Jacob said she was feeling “great.”

Pleased with this week’s win for many incumbents, she said, “It’s gratifying to know the work we’ve been doing is consistant with what voters want.”

Glancing at the polling numbers, she noted the Board of Education’s newcomer Ms Embree Ku will be “a great addition to the Board of Education.”

Ms Leidlein looked around a mostly celebratory crowd of Republicans at Rock Ridge Country Club and said, “I love the outcome, and I am excited to move forward.”

Offering a quick speech, Mrs Llodra said, “I am proud to be with you all. We have challenges ahead, but I think we’re the right team for Newtown.”

Board of Finance Chairman John Kortze spoke briefly, saying, “It is wonderful to serve with you all.”

Mr Gaston, who spoke to The Bee from a gathering of party supporters at the Newtown VFW Post, was happy for the few victories Democrats saw.

“I think it’s positive for us, adding a seat on the Board of Finance, on the Legislative Council, on the Board of Education. It’s positive,” he said, adding, “The town clerk’s race was a competitive race.”

Mr Gaston said local Democrats were disappointed that Ms LoBosco Benore did not win, but congratulated Ms Aurelia Halstead on her victory.

“It was a great experience for me. I appreciate the support I got from everbody," said Ms LoBosco Benore. "No regrets.”

Democratic Town Committee official Herb Rosenthal said it was unfortunate that voter turnout was so low.

“If there had been a better turnout, the Democrats would have done better,” he said. His comments were echoed by DTC Treasurer Alan Clavette, who also believed the low turnout hurt the Democrats' cause.

“Unfortunately, a very small percentage of voters [are] making decisions for the town,” he said.

Uncontested Positions

Democrat Michael Portnoy — a former finance board member — was the only challenger running for and winning an open seat on that board vacated by one-term Independent Carol Walsh.

Incumbents Harrison Waterbury, Joe Kearney, John Godin, James Filan, Jr, and Mr Kortze all ran unopposed for the Board of Finance. 

Newcomer Republican David Freedman ran unopposed for the open midterm post on the school board. And both incumbents, Democrat Andrew Sachs and Republican James Viadero, won new terms on the police commission without being challenged.

The remaining underticket candidates all ran for uncontested positions. 

On the Democratic side, Don Mitchell will be seated on the Planning & Zoning Commission along with incumbent P&Z Alternate Rudolph Pozek. Also reelected were Zoning Board of Appeals incumbent Mr Clavette and former first selectman Mr Rosenthal, an incumbent for ZBA alternate.

GOP candidates Marianne Brown faced no opponent in her race for Board of Assessment Appeals; Frank Corigliano won his uncontested seat on the Planning & Zoning Commission; while newcomers David Ruhs and Fred Taylor were elected as P&Z Alternates.

Republican Barbara O’Connor was elected without opposition to the Zoning Board of Appeals, while GOP candidates Roy Meadows and Jane Sharpe won unopposed terms as Zoning Board of Appeals Alternates.

This year marked the first election permitting same day voter registration. Registrars say they logged seven new voters on Tuesday who cast ballots in local races.

Bee Reporters Andrew Gorosko and Kendra Bobowick contributed to this report. The original post has been modified to reflect changes to the outcome of the Board of Managers race.

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