WALLINGFORD – There won’t be a change in the mayor’s office for another two years, as longtime Republican Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. was re-elected to his 18th term Tuesday, defeating Democrat Jared Liu by more than 1,600 votes.
According to unofficial results, Dickinson received 5,907 votes, or roughly 57 percent of votes. Liu received 4,236 votes, about 43 percent of votes. Numbers are not considered official until they become certified by the Secretary of the State’s office.
Dickinson’s margin of victory was lower this year than in 2015, when he won by 3,272 votes and received 71 percent of votes, and 2013, when he won by 3,059 votes and received 63 percent of votes, according to election records.
Dickinson noted the total number of votes in the mayoral race, just over 9,800 votes, was lower than the average, which caused him concern.
“When the vote totals aren’t up, you never know what’s going to happen,” Dickinson said after the results came in. “If it’s a smaller representative vote, that’s when things can happen... You can’t take anything for granted. I’m never comfortable, never have been.”
Dickinson, 70, first took office in 1983. He has won every election since 1991 by at least 1,000 votes, according to election records.
Dickinson and his supporters gathered at Gaetano's Tavern on Main, which served as Republican headquarters Tuesday, to watch as results came in from the town’s nine polling locations. Many of Dickinson’s family members attended, including his son and three grandchildren from California, two brothers from Massachusetts and his sister from Durham.
After all the results were in, Dickinson continued his tradition of standing in front of an American flag at Gaetano’s to give his victory speech. Dickinson pulled props out of a plastic bag – including a bicycle horn, train whistle and referee whistle – to make a point about the election not being about “noise.”
“What is it really about? It’s about trust and confidence,” Dickinson told the crowd. “People elected have a great deal to celebrate right now but we are asked to work to provide for a community. They trust us to make judgements.”
Liu’s campaign focused on “planning for Wallingford’s future” while also “preserving the things we love about living in this small town.” He criticized Dickinson for being too risk-averse and “missing opportunity after opportunity” to plan for the future.
Liu declined to give comments to the Record-Journal after the results came in, but he gave a speech at Democratic headquarters saying he was proud of his campaign and the results.
“I was really proud that on a $5,000 budget, we came in at 60-40,” Liu said referring to the percentage of votes he received. “Ultimately, we had lower voter turnout than what we needed. That definitely hurts,” Liu said. “But I’m proud of the campaign we ran...I think we really stuck to a platform that we would have been proud of and we could have governed on.”
Jeffrey Knickerbocker, chairman of the Democratic Town Commitee, said it’s “very difficult to overcome” Dickinson’s track record in Wallingford.
“When you look at our town compared to other towns, we’ve got a low mill-rate and we still have our own electric company. So things seem to be going very well,” Knickerbocker said. “But I feel like there’s more that could be done to lower our taxes, but our message isn’t resonating with the voters for some reason.”
Knickerbocker added, "Jared ran a great campaign, but for some reason, his message didn’t seem to connect with the voters.”
Christina Tatta, vice chairwoman of the Republican Town Committee, said “I think Wallingford residents have shown time and again that they are happy with Mayor Dickinson and the way he runs the town.”
“I feel that with the current state financial woes, it was quite important this election to maintain the strong fiscal responsibility that the Mayor has always provided,” Tatta said.
Dickinson is the second-longest serving mayor in Connecticut and trails only Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield, who has served for 40 years.
Looking ahead to his next term, Dickinson said the town “has significant issues to deal with, mainly funding for a variety of programs and question marks regarding the state of Connecticut. So we’ll have our work cut out for us.”