Meriden voters have spoken.
The unequivocal result was a big win for the Democrats’ message of “Positively Meriden.”
Mayor Kevin Scarpati won re-election by a wide margin. Democratic newcomer Bruce Fontanella, the top vote-getter, and incumbent David Lowell made a clean sweep of the two city-wide at-large seats, besting Manny Santos and incumbent Len Rich. The other four district races remained status quo with all incumbents winning re-election. This win ensured that Democrats regained a more solid footing (8-4) in a city that has been closely politically divided.
Democrats ran a focused campaign, worked hard as a team, and ran on their record of substantial progress in rebuilding Meriden with major improvements and positive momentum. The voters gave their approval and rejected the negative and divisive message of the opposition.
In defeat, council candidate Manny Santos made what I consider to be a sour grapes statement: “We gave them (the voters) the opportunity to take Meriden in the right direction, but it seems the voters felt otherwise.” His so-called “right direction” was soundly rejected by the voters as being the wrong direction.
Adding to this, Republican Minority Leader Dan Brunet chimed in that the Democrats “did a better job selling a bad product.”
Voters determined that the “bad product” actually was the negativity and divisiveness Republicans offered up, as attested by the vote count in favor of the Democratic team. Hopefully, the four remaining opposition council members will channel their energy in a more positive direction for the sake of our city. (Or will their negativity never end? We shall see.)
Elections have consequences — and this is good news for Democrats and their supporters. Mayor Scarpati now has an 8-vote veto-proof majority for the first time in several years, which means he and the Democratic-led council should have no serious opposition to implementing the “Positively Meriden” agenda.
Also, Democrats will have solid majorities on all five council standing committees where the bulk of the work on important issues will take place. The opposition parties have only four councilors to fill 10 committee spots, with two councilors on each committee (which will present a challenge as some will have to do triple duty).
Next up is the selection of council leadership posts and committee chairmanships. Democrats have a solid slate of well-qualified and experienced councilors to fill each position. These include majority leader, deputy majority leader and committee chairs.
They will have to sort out members’ committee interests and capabilities to ensure a goodness of fit and optimum effectiveness and productivity. But I expect that this will be done in an orderly manner. The Meriden Board of Education stayed status quo with all incumbents re-elected.
For Democrats to continue the positive momentum, they will have to remain focused on economic development: the completion of the downtown housing and commercial/retail development while exercising restraint on spending and taxes. This will be no small feat.
It should be noted that the losses by the two most ardent Trump supporters — Len Rich and Manny Santos, together with other Republican losses in Connecticut and throughout the country, might herald a signal of an upcoming anti-Trump tipping point.
Political pundits are talking about an upcoming Democrat wave during the mid-term elections for Congress next November. Trump’s negative influence is being exerted and the Republicans are feeling the heat.
Maybe there is hope that Trump’s fact-free bubble, fake news, and toxic divisiveness will be a passing phase in American politics. One can only hope. At least in Meriden, thanks to the voters, Trump supporters came out on the losing end.
The new mayor/council term will begin with the swearing in ceremony for the mayor, city council, board of education and probate judge on Monday, December 4, 6:30 p.m. at Platt High School. Please take the time to attend this important occasion.
Michael S. Rohde is a former Meriden mayor.