Municipal Election Nets High Voter Turnout
More than half of the town’s 6,079 registered voters turned out on November 7 to vote in the most recent municipal election, with a strong showing for local Democrats. “I was so impressed with our community and the overall turnout,” said First Selectman-elect Mica Cadozo in a conversation after the election. “It was so refreshing and exciting.”
This year was the first time that the town conducted its municipal election on Election Day in November, along with most other municipalities across the nation. Up until last year, the town voted on the first Monday in May. The voter turnout of some 54.9 % is indeed much higher than the 37.6% who voted in May 2021, but whether that is attributable to the November date is an open question. Clearly, the electorate was motivated.
Total votes cast was 3,338, a number that includes 267 absentee ballots and 17 new registrations the day of the vote. Bethany, which also switched from a May to a November election, also saw an unusually high voter turnout, increasing from 49% two years ago to more than 55% this year. In Orange on the other hand, which has been voting in November all along, the turnout of close to 46% has been slightly lower than two years ago.
Cardozo prevailed with 58 % of the votes cast over Marty Halprin, a political Unaffiliated who was endorsed by the Republican Party. The result gives Cardozo considerable political leverage at the onset of an administration that will face intractable challenges – such as keeping taxes in check while solving Beecher Road School’s short-term and long-term needs, and figuring out the future for the Country Club of Woodbridge – all while the town is being sued for its allegedly discriminatory zoning rules.
Board of Selectmen: Democrats also retained their majority on the Board of Selectmen (BOS), although the number of newcomers among the six selectmen is bound to create a new dynamic. Republican incumbent David Vogel (1,421) will continue to serve on the board, along with Unaffiliated Andrea Urbano (1,483), who is currently serving on the Agricultural Commission. Another member on the Agricultural Commission, Massaro Farm Director Steve Munno, also was elected to the Board of Selectmen (1,791). Incumbent Democratic Selectwoman Sheila McCreven was re-elected (1,788) to the board. Maria Madonick, a Democrat (1,811), will move from her spot as Board of Education vice chair to join the Selectmen. Javier Aviles, a Republican, received 1,370 votes, which was not enough to be seated.
Cardozo embraced him in a warm gesture of friendship when leaving the polling place in the Center gym, expressing regret that they wouldn’t be serving together. Similarly, Cardozo and his challenger, Halprin, shook hands.
“I wished him well,” Halprin said later, adding that a successful administration will be beneficial for all. “If he succeeds, I succeed,” Halprin said. Even so, the election left him with mixed emotions. “There is a lot of emotion around politics,” he said.
In reflecting on the campaign, Halprin said he enjoyed connecting with townspeople, and the conversations that ensued. But some homeowners were not very welcoming, an experience that was discouraging, he said. “We need to start treating each other more kindly,” he said.
Other results: As for the Woodbridge Board of Education, all four of the incumbents will be seated, namely Republican Board Chairman Lynn Piascyk (1,576), Democrat Steven Lawrence (1,777), Democrat Erin Williamson (1,761), and Republican Jeff Hughes (1,343).
Democrat Jeffrey Ginzberg retained his seat on the Board of Assessment Appeals with a high vote of 1,917.
Democrats Shawn Flynn and Kalman Watsky will join the Zoning Board of Appeals; Lauren Francese and Republican Christopher Dickerson will be serving as alternates.
As for the Amity Board of Education, both Woodbridge incumbents, Democrats Patrick Reed and Sudir Karunakaran, retained their seats with 1,885 and 1,846 votes, respectively. However, in Bethany Democrat Jennifer Turner lost to her Republican challenger, Donna Schlank, which will turn the regional board to a Republican majority.
Next steps: The terms for the newly elected officials will start on January 1, 2024. It is unclear when the new Board of Selectmen will convene to appoint members to all the other boards and committees, such as the Board of Finance and members of the Town Plan and Zoning Commission. Candidates will be brought forward by the two town committees, and voted on by the Selectmen. The swearing-in ceremony is expected to take place before the start of the new year.
In the meantime Cardozo will be busy preparing for the issues that the town leaders will be facing right away, such as developing a capital plan and a 2024-25 budget. One of the immediate challenges for the new board will be to determine options for the Country Club and “making sure we move forward with a plan,” he said.
Cardozo also is hoping to leverage the work of the 2030 Task Force that has been working with a planner to suggest improvements to the Village District in an effort to make it a more attractive and accessible business location. “It is a great team under the leadership of Chris Dickerson and Susan Jacobs,” he said. The work of this group “demonstrates what we can do when we work together,” Cardozo said.