Earning close to twice the tally of his nearest competitor, Democratic candidate was elected as the first strong mayor in New London in decades.
"New London has new leadership," Finizio began to a loud cheer during a speech at . "I assure the people of New London that this administration will make you proud. It will be an administration with full honesty, transparency and integrity. Corruption, favoritism, abuse of power by any official in any department will not be tolerated."
Supporter Nancy Anglin was standing in the front row and hugged Finizio at the soonest opportunity.
"I've been here my whole life and this man really engaged the city," said Anglin, who said she was thinking about selling her house and moving out of New London. "Change is coming to New London, I'm staying."
Steve Schneidermeyer, a campaign volunteer, said he has never been so engaged in a political campaign before he met Finizio early in his campaign. Schneidermeyer said that after meeting Finizio he agreed with a lot of the candidate's ideas for the city.
"This is my town and I want to work with someone who wants it to be better," he said of his initial impressions of Finizio.
"I want to be very, very clear with all of you tonight, said Finizio. "The era of machine politics in New London is over. We were elected without taking a single dollar from a New London public employee, without taking any money from any lobbyist or city contractors and without the support of a local union. We were elected owing no one anything."
"We as a city will turn our schools around, we will make or streets safe for all people, we will bring business back to New London and create jobs for the people who live in New London," Finizio continued. "We are already a community that is re-energized. Our neighborhoods will be revitalized, our spirit renewed and our city reborn. Tonight we can say with renewed confidence and hope that New London will be the Renaissance city."
Finizio earned 2,185 votes. City Councilor , running a write-in campaign, had the next highest total with 1,153 votes, while Republican candidate had 1,057 votes. Independent candidates , , and trailed with vote totals of 196, 96, and 44, respectively.
The evening was also largely successful for the Democratic Party as a whole. Six Democrats were , while five were .
The win marks the end of a tumultuous campaign and election season that began with Finizio’s that he was a candidate for the office.
Finizio, an attorney, won an upset victory at a September primary to receive the Democratic nomination. Although the Democratic Town Committee chose Buscetto as their candidate in July—with 52 votes going to Buscetto, 17 to City Councilor Michael Passero, and six to Finizio—primary voters chose Finizio as the party’s candidate in a 1,108 to 744 vote.
Finizio’s proposals included hiring additional police officers, promoting a sustainable green community at Fort Trumbull, abolishing the New London Development Corporation, and hiring a legislative lobbyist and grants coordinator to help bring additional revenue to the city. Finizio also supported the idea of a land value tax method of assessment for the downtown area.
In the latter months of the campaign, opponents leveled strong criticism against Finizio, describing him as an unreliable candidate due to his past changes in residence and party affiliation. Finizio, who has been a New London resident since 2010, responded that his politics have always been progressive, and that he was affiliated with the Republicans in Rhode Island because the state’s party was a better match to that ideology.
Buscetto, a city councilor since 2007 and real estate developer, campaigned on the idea that his business experience made him the best candidate to bring New London from the “city of potential to the city of prosperity.” He also supported a neighborhood policing strategy and pre-school education for all eligible children and, with Pero, was one of two mayoral candidates to support the sale of Riverside Park to the Coast Guard Academy.
Police Chief Margaret Ackley accused Buscetto of prior to the September primary, a charge he has said was politically motivated. The Board of Ethics is currently after finding to do so in September. Buscetto chose to run a write-in campaign after the primary loss, saying he continued to enjoy strong support.
Buscetto mustered over 100 volunteers to promote his candidacy and educate voters on write-in votes. In the end, however, it wasn’t enough to turn the tide in his favor. Although his campaign workers were clearly disheartened, Buscetto did his best to cheer them up.
“The effort that you guys put forward for me was unbelievable," he said. "You guys have a ton of class. In my opinion, this campaign brought a lot of people together.”
Buscetto said the most fun he had on Election Day was playing a pickup football game with a group of kids at the Crystal Avenue housing complex, none of whom were registered to vote. “A lot of the people I represent, they don’t vote and they’re younger,” said Buscetto.
Asked what surprised him most about the election, Buscetto said, “the fact that someone new came to town and promised things and people believed him.” Buscetto urged all his supporters to hold the new mayor’s feet to the fire.
“He’s made a lot of promises,” Buscetto said. “Stay involved, because I’m going to.”
Although Buscetto said he was fairly sure that at least a few write-in ballots were thrown out, he said he has no plans to challenge the results. After finishing his term on the City Council, Buscetto said he’s “just going to continue being a businessman, a family man, and have some fun.”
“We’re all New Londoners”
For Pero, the loss marks the first time he will not be a part of the city government in 16 years. A fraud investigator with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection and former teacher at St. Joseph School, Pero has been on the City Council since 1995. He named public safety as his top priority, with the goal of increasing the number of police officers from 96 to 115 over the next five years. Pero also pledged not to raise taxes for two years, support establishing a Coast Guard museum in Union Station, and investing in downtown infrastructure.
In a concession speech, Pero congratulated Finizio and said he would be glad to spend more time with his family after several months of campaigning. He also thanked his campaign workers and encouraged people to remain involved in municipal government, supporting measures they agree with and speaking with Finizio about matters they disagree with.
“We’re all New Londoners,” said Pero. “We all want to see New London succeed.”
Bill Vogel, chairman of the Republican Town Committee, said there was a “distinct possibility” that people who may have voted for Pero voted for Buscetto instead, but he could not say for certain. He said the result in the mayor’s race left him confused.
“I would have thought the people who go with a person they’ve known for 15 years and not someone they don’t know,” said Vogel. “You can’t really say you know Finizio. He’s only been here a year.”
Olsen, an estimator for TJ Nelson Home Improvements who has been serving as the city’s last ceremonial mayor, named education as his top priority. His proposals in that area included looking to the Harlem Children’s Zone as an educational model and setting higher expectations. Olsen said he had the New London based educational, work, and political experience to succeed in the mayor’s office.
“I’d like to wish Daryl much success as he takes the reins,” Olsen said.
Passero, who earned the most votes among the City Council candidates to retain his seat there, said he was glad to hear the result.
“I’m thrilled at the overwhelming mandate that Daryl got, and I think it signals a new direction for New London. We’re going to move forward,” he said.
Asked whether he thought the tough competition between Buscetto and Finizio during the campaign was likely to have any lasting effect on party unity, Passero said he didn’t believe it would.
“Votes are everything,” Passero said. “Daryl Finizio is now the face of the Democratic Party in New London and he proved it at the polls.”
“I’m so excited that I’m actually calm. It’s the first time I’ve breathed since January!” said Finizio supporter Lorain Ohio Simister. “I’m so overwhelmingly happy for New London. It’s nice to have a new mayor that respects the arts, because that’s what New London is about to me. I’ve known Daryl since he was 16. We worked together on the first Neighbor Day in Westerly. He’s always been the same caring person who fought with his heart not with his ego. I cannot wait to see the changes that are going to come over New London. If he’d lost, I was going to move!”
Hopkins-Cavanagh, a real estate broker and owner of ShoreViews LLC, offered a number of development ideas in her campaign including a set of businesses known as the International Shops, a new green police station, a visitors center in the current police station, and demolishing the high-rise Thames River Apartments to allow the Coast Guard Academy to expand there. She also said increasing the percentage of owner-occupied housing in the city would help reduce crime and improve education.
Lockwood also proposed a number of development and tourism initiatives during his campaign, such as purchasing the HMS Bounty with neighboring towns as a tourist attraction. He said he would also work to attract a hotel to Fort Trumbull and a grocery store and retail businesses to other parts of the city.
Neither Hopkins-Cavanagh nor Lockwood could be reached for comment.
Newly elected members of the municipal government are scheduled to be sworn in on Dec. 5.
Correction: The article originally stated that Finizio had 2,104 votes in the election. He had 2,185 votes.