MERIDEN — Incumbent Mayor Kevin Scarpati, who seeks re-election as an unaffiliated candidate with the Democratic Party endorsement, faces a spirited challenge from Elain Cariati, this Nov. 2.
Ernestine Holloway, running as an Independent Party candidate, is also on the ballot.
Scarpati seeks his fourth term as mayor. In 2019, he won re-election with 5,862 votes out of a total 7,302 votes cast, according to official election results. That year, he had earned endorsements from both the Democratic and We the People parties. Republicans did not nominate a candidate in the race.
The contest in 2017 was a decidedly closer match. That year, Scarpati, then running solely on the Democratic-endorsed slate, had prevailed over his Republican and We the People-endorsed opponent Irene Masse, 4,394 to 3,439.
The candidate who prevails will need the support of unaffiliated voters.
According to the office of Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, in 2020 the total number of registered voters in Meriden was 37,072. Of that total, 31,916 were considered active voters with another 5,156 voters considered inactive.
Voters who registered as unaffiliated with any political party accounted for the largest voting bloc, with 15,332 on the city’s active voter rolls, according to 2020 tallies. The number of registered Democrats who were considered active voters was 11,160. The number of active voters who had registered as Republicans was 4,946.
Scarpati said his campaign has a dedicated energetic team.
“A lot of energy has been brought to the campaign this year,” he said, adding that his campaign team is educating voters on issues through canvassing neighborhoods and other efforts, including helping people register or apply for absentee ballots.
“There’s a need for them to get out and vote, so their voices are heard,” Scarpati said. “You’ve gotta energize the vote.”
As for what Scarpati is hearing on the campaign trail: “I hear from constituents daily, about the importance of economic development, the importance of supporting public safety personnel and the importance of properly supporting and funding our education system — to ensure that our kids have the best access to education as possible.”
Public health and overall quality of life issues are other concerns that have been raised.
Scarpati anticipates that COVID-19 will impact the election.
“Hopefully we will see high voter turnout,” Scarpati said, adding whether those voters cast their ballots absentee or in-person is not what’s important. “As long as people vote — that is important.
Cariati described a campaign that has focused on one-on-one conversations with would-be voters. In addition to traditional door knocking, Cariati said she has been out waving campaign signs and participating in meet-and-greet events.
Cariati said the voters she’s heard from have voiced frustration. “They feel their voice is not being heard,” she said. “They feel that change is needed in Meriden.”
She explained voters say they are frustrated by deteriorating infrastructure, blight, taxes and stagnant economic growth.
Cariati said she would bring her experience as a business owner and developer who must collaborate with contractors, meet deadlines and ensure home building projects are on budget. She would use those skills to bolster economic development.
“The most important thing for the mayor is to listen to people,” Cariati said.
Cariati further described herself as a supporter of the city’s police department. She derided the City Council’s postponement of a vote to establish a civilian review board, a proposal she and other Republicans have described as unnecessary. The board would review police use-of-force incidents and complaints of police misconduct.
“What are they waiting for?” Cariati said.
“Personally, I don’t see a problem with the police department. I think they’re doing a fine job,” she added.
As for the city of Meriden itself, Cariati said, “it’s a great city” with a lot to offer.
“The people that live here. They love it here. They absolutely love it here … They want the growth in Meriden,” Cariati said.
Republican Town Chairman Sean McDonald described Cariati as the leader Meriden needs. McDonald said Cariati is a “proven leader,” not a ceremonial one, who will spur economic development, improve infrastructure in the city and be a staunch advocate of the city’s police department.
McDonald said the current city leadership, including the Democratic Party majority on the council “have promised everything under sun,” in terms of economic development downtown. “It hasn’t happened,” McDonald said.
Mildred Torres-Ferguson, who chairs the Democratic Town Committee, meanwhile, described Scarpati as a leader who “has proven throughout his time as mayor that he’s been able to work across the aisle with Meriden’s best interest at heart. This was especially clear during the pandemic where Kevin played an active role in the city’s COVID testing and vaccination efforts.”
Torres-Ferguson said Scarpati also brings other experience, including his previous roles on the Board of Education and City Council, “something Mrs. Cariati does not have. He has had to balance a city budget, attract new businesses and advocate for Meriden on the state and federal level. Kevin is known for being a staunch advocate of our police and fire departments having chaired the Public Safety Committee during his time on the council and remained a committed advocate to public safety throughout his time as mayor.”