Wallingford mayor apparent winner of 20th term, closest race in 30 years

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WALLINGFORD — For the first time in 30 years, a Democratic candidate came within 1,000 votes of beating Republican incumbent Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., who won a 20th consecutive term Tuesday.

“The vote stands for what people are thinking right now,” Dickinson said, “and I'm happy to be winning, but obviously (it was) a close race, and you go from there.”

Unofficially, Dickinson received 6,632 votes, or roughly 51.5 percent. Democratic challenger Riley O'Connell received 6,236 votes, about 48.4 percent.

Numbers are not considered official until they become certified by the Secretary of the State's office.

The total number of votes cast in the mayoral race was 12,868. The difference between Dickinson and O'Connell was 396 votes.

Dickinson, 74, is the state's second-longest serving mayor, winning his first election in 1983. Until this year, he has won every election after the 1991 race by at least 1,000 votes, according to town election records.

O'Connell, 25, said Tuesday that he was not ready to concede despite all precincts reporting and absentee ballots added to vote totals.

Assuming that all the totals hold, O'Connell said, he wanted to congratulate Dickinson on a well-run campaign and a well-won election.

O'Connell added that he hopes Dickinson “takes some of the ideas to heart” that his campaign brought forward, and that he and the other Democratic candidates plan to stay politically involved.

“We’re still going to do all we can to hold our elected officials to it,” he said.

It was a good night overall for the Republicans in Wallingford  — the party retained its 6 to 3 majority on the Town Council.

Wallingford votes for nine at-large council members every two years. Each party ran six candidates, the maximum number of members the majority party can have on the council, but voters can choose up to nine candidates on the ballot.

Republican Christina Tatta won the most number of votes for a Town Council seat for the second election in a row. Her unofficial tally was 7,383.

“I said the whole time that I viewed this election as a kind of referendum on how I'm doing,” Tatta said, “and I think the voters are happy with what I'm doing.”

Two current council members, Democrat Jason Zandri and Republican Chris Shortell, did not run this year. The rest of the incumbents won reelection.

Board of Education member Autumn Allinson won a seat on the council, coming in eighth in the vote totals.

“I'm excited to elevate my understanding of the town and get more involved,” she said Tuesday. 

“A lot of the most recent meetings have highlighted some things that we could do better, and some relationships that we could maybe facilitate some repairs with.”

Democrat Sam Carmody also won a seat on the council, coming in fifth in the vote totals.

"It's certainly bittersweet,” Carmody said. “I'm happy to see that I have won (a seat). But my fellow colleagues, who have worked so hard and have so much to offer to the community, fell a little short."

O’Connell and the other Democrats candidates watched the vote totals come in Tuesday at their headquarters, 4 Center St.

Councilor Vincent Testa, the top Democratic vote getter who came in third overall, said that he was "very disappointed for the Democratic candidates.”

“I was hoping that more of us would be successful,” he said. 

The Republicans gathered at The Library Wine Bar and Bistro, which served as Republican headquarters, to watch as results came in from the town's nine polling locations.

After all of the results were in, Dickinson gave his victory speech.

“We're going to do the best we can to see we have a community to be proud of,” Dickinson said to his supporters. “Safe and sound, a place ever sound, a smiling hometown.”

Dickinson trails only Republican Mayor Robert Chatfield, 72, of Prospect, in length of tenure. Chatfield has been mayor of Prospect since 1977.

Since Dickinson's first run for mayor in 1983, 13 candidates have opposed him.

Peter Gouveia, Vincent Testa, James Vumbaco and Jared Liu have each tried twice.

LTakores@record-journal.com203-317-2212Twitter: @LCTakores


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