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Unsuccessful Democratic mayoral challenger in Wallingford considers rematch

Unsuccessful Democratic mayoral challenger in Wallingford considers rematch

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WALLINGFORD — Former Democratic mayoral candidate Jared Liu won’t rule out running for mayor again after losing to Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. in the local election last month.

Liu and his family are taking a couple of months after the election before making any decisions, Liu said, but he wouldn’t rule out another run for the mayor’s office.

“I wouldn’t rule out running again, but there’s just a lot to reflect on,” Liu said in an interview Friday.

“The reasons that we got involved in this are not going to change,” Liu said about his reasons for running for office, which included “moving Wallingford forward” and “preserving the town we love.” “Those things are still going to be there, and at the end of the day, we have to make a decision about whether it makes sense” to run again.

Liu’s mayoral campaign was his first run for public office. He fared better against Dickinson, a 34-year Republican incumbent, than many of Dickinson’s past challengers.

According to official election results, Liu received 4,223 votes, or 42 percent, to Dickinson’s 5,882 votes, a difference of 1,659 votes. Democratic Town Councilor Jason Zandri, the last Democrat to run against Dickinson, lost by over 3,000 votes in 2013 and received 36 percent of votes. Democratic Town Councilor Vincent Testa lost to Dickinson by 2,655 votes in 2011 and also received 36 percent of votes.

Jeffrey Knickerbocker, Democratic town chairman, said he would like to see Liu run for mayor again in 2019.

“I think he would be a fine candidate,” Knickerbocker said, adding that he believes Liu would benefit from having more name recognition when running a second time.

Liu, 40, works as a senior associate director of admissions at Yale University’s School of Management. He gained political campaign experience while working for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign as the national deputy director for budgeting and compliance.

Liu said he ran a “very data-driven campaign” for this past election by analyzing lists of registered voters and deciding which voters to target based on trends.

Liu said his campaign set two goals they thought they needed to reach in order to beat Dickinson.

The first goal was to have 1,000 voters who have historically voted for Dickinson vote for him, which Liu said he accomplished. The other goal was to increase voter turnout among registered voters who don’t normally vote in municipal elections, which Liu said didn’t happen. Liu’s campaign compiled a list of people who voted in the 2016 national election, but hadn’t historically voted in municipal elections, and tried to encourage those residents to get out and vote. Liu’s campaign wanted 10 percent of those people who hadn’t normally voted in municipal elections to vote in this election, but Liu said they fell well short of that.

“It was basically almost exactly the same turnout as it always is,” Liu said. “We always knew that it was going to be harder to change their voting habits.”

“I think that’s something that the (Democratic Town Committee) is going to have to reconcile going forward is how to motivate its base to get out and vote in local elections,” he added.

Knickerbocker cited two major reasons why he thinks voter turnout isn’t higher among his party. The first reason is a lot of people believe “everything is going along smoothly” given the town’s relatively low mill rate and electricity costs. The second reason, Knickerbocker said, is his party isn’t sufficiently connecting with voters and “showing them that having a Democrat in office would make a positive difference.”

“If we would get our electorate energized, we certainly could have a differet result,” Knickerbocker said.

Dickinson is the state’s second-longest serving mayor and took office in 1983. He has won every election since 1991 by at least 1,000 votes, according to election records.



Twitter: @MatthewZabierek

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