In an upset of the Democratic Town Committee’s mayoral choice earlier this summer, primary voters chose attorney as the party’s nominee for mayor today.
The official tally had Finizio receiving 1,108 votes while City Councilor earned 744 votes. Finizio carried each of the three voting districts as well as the absentee voter tally.
“I believe that fundamentally this was a campaign that wasn’t focused on personality,” said Finizio. “It was focused on our platform.”
Even before the official tally came in, the unofficial results showed Finizio with a healthy lead over Buscetto. To a celebratory crowd at , Finizio noted that several first time voters had come to the polls or switched their affiliation from Republican to Democratic to participate in the primary. "We are here tonight celebrating because so many people came forward," declared Finizio. "To all the cynics who said this could not happen, we could say here in New London, change is coming!"
The margin of Finizio's victory over longtime Democratic City Councilman Mike Buscetto in the Democratic Primary came as a surprise to many, but while Finizio's supporters were celebrating, Buscetto's supporters seemed more than a little shell-shocked that the candidate officially had lost.
"I'm stunned," said Buscetto supporter Gordon Videll. "But we were running against more than one candidate. A lot of people became Democrats for this election."
Republican candidate for mayor, City Councilor Rob Pero, said he had nothing to do with that, however. "I played no part in telling people to swap," Pero said. "When I was knocking on doors, I was there to get my message out. We want them in the end." In a statement released after the results were announced, Pero said he welcomed Finizio to the race and looked forward to "a spirited campaign discussing the important issues facing New London."
Buscetto said that he felt the bad press in recent weeks surrounding his had a negative affect on his campaign.
"People really don't like to hear about harassment, " he said. "I just think the last couple of weeks threw people for a loop."
"Running for office is not easy," said Finizio. "I congratulate Mike Buscetto for a well-run campaign and thank him for his service to the city. I ask his supporters to please consider me. We love New London but we know that New London can be so much more. [It can be] a city that invests in all its citizens. This new city will be a renaissance city."
Buscetto, Finizio, along with City Councilor , all put in the endorsement of the Democratic Town Committee when it chose its slate of candidates for mayor, City Council, and the Board of Education in July. Buscetto won the nomination with 52 votes to Passero’s 17 and Finizio’s six. Passero remained on the ballot as one of seven Democratic candidates for City Council.
Finizio challenged the endorsement by collecting signatures from at least five percent of the registered Democratic voters in New London, open to all registered Democrats. The number of Democrats who registered to be eligible to vote in the primary before Monday’s deadline .
The New London Green Party, in a meeting choosing their candidates for the City Council and Board of Education, . also gave their support to Finizio in a Saturday editorial.
Besides the Democratic Town Committee selection, Buscetto received the endorsement of several unions including the New London Firefighters Local 1522, , , and . Shortly before the primary, the political action committee of the New London Education Association—a local teachers’ union—also endorsed Buscetto.
Finizio’s supporters were elated at the result. At a celebration at O'Neill's, Zack Leavy said Finizio was the first person to speak to him when he moved to the city.
“He always treated me like a peer, not a voter,” said Leavy. “Which is important because New London did not have that beforehand.”
“I could not be happier,” said Kellie Graham. “I work in New London, I play in New London, I shop in New London. My husband and I are looking to invest in a business in New London, and now I feel confident in the decision, knowing that the leadership is heading in the right direction.”
Laura Natush said her friends were strong supporters of Finizio, and she came to join them after learning his platform and meeting him in person. She said she also had political differences with Buscetto over issues such as how to address the .
“I was excited to find someone who I could get genuinely enthusiastic about,” she said.
City Council John Russell said he campaigned for Finizio during the primary. Russell has , who is the last ceremonial mayor of the city and hoping to stay in office for the transfer to a newly strengthened elected position. However, Russell said he felt Finizio had the best interests of the city in mind.
“All I really care about is the city of New London has a chance to move forward, and tonight I think they do,” he said.
Finizio, who moved to New London in June of 2010, has been an attorney since 2006. He served on the Westerly, R.I. City Council from 2006 to 2008 and holds a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, a master's degree in public administration from New York University, and a juris doctorate from Roger Williams University. Finizio also worked for two years as a legislative policy analyst and staff analyst for the New York City Council.
Buscetto, a real estate developer, has been on the City Council since 2007. He graduated from Quinnipiac University in 1993 with a bachelor of science degree in management. Buscetto has also overseen the annual , a fundraiser to benefit local nonprofits, is a board member and former president of the local Little League, and volunteers as a basketball, softball, and baseball coach.
In late August, Police Chief Margaret Ackley accused Buscetto of unethical behavior and seeking to undermine her authority in the New London Police Department, leading to her decision to retire in January and potentially file a lawsuit. The City Council made the decision to hire an investigator to look into the validity of Ackley’s claims. Buscetto responded to the accusations by saying he was concerned with the terms of Ackley’s retirement and the fact that an agreement had been made without the council’s knowledge. When he asked an attorney involved in the negotiations , the attorney replied that it had not appeared in any of the documents he received.
“There are a lot of forces trying to knock me off, and they did it,” Buscetto said.
Buscetto said he has a good family and will continue to live and do business in New London. He cautioned voters to pay close attention to promises made, and said that he enjoyed the political race.
“Anyone can beat anyone on any given day. It’s politics,” he said. “It was his day.”
Finizio said that as sweet as this victory was, the race isn't over yet.
"We have come a long way, but we are not there yet," he said. "Celebrate tonight, but tomorrow it's back to work!"
Buscetto was graceful in defeat.
"Nothing really surprises me," he said. "It's hard to say what's behind the actual numbers. However this election turns out, it's for the best and for the best for the city. Whoever wins will have my support."
Buscetto was more hesitant about whether Finizio would have his vote on Election Day, however.
"I don't know that," he said. "Whoever the best candidate is, that's who I'll support."
Finizio will face City Councilor , the Republican candidate; Mayor , who is running as an independent; real estate broker ; and realtor in the November election.
Democratic Primary Vote Totals
District 1: 269 Finizio, 215 Buscetto
District 2: 410 Finizio, 230 Buscetto
District 3: 371 Finizio, 251 Buscetto
Absentee Ballots: 58 Finizio, 48 Buscetto
Total: 1,108 Finizio, 744 Buscetto
Voter Turnout: 30 percent