GOP Holds Mayor, but Dems take Council, School Board
NEWINGTON - The Republicans will hold the Mayor’s seat, but Democrats took the majority on both the Board of Education and the Town Council, unless a recount has anything to say about it.

       That will likely take place Saturday for the Council, which for now, has incumbent Jim Marocchini edging 10 year GOP Councilor Dave Nagel by less than 50 votes, according to state tallies.

       “It is what it is,” Nagel said from the backroom of the Rooster Co. in Market Square, where the Republican Town Committee had gathered supporters to watch the returns air on NCTV. “I hope it turns out positive for me. I believe I’ve put in the time and effort, but I will back anything the public wants.”

       Back at the Knights of Columbus building, Democratic candidates were nervous. They had already locked up the Board of Education-current seat holders Josh Shulman, Emily Guion, Sharon Braverman and Cindy Stamm will be joined in the majority by newcomer Michael Branda-and Minority Leader Carol Anest was climbing to the top of all vote getters, but many were surprised that the status of Marocchini, a two term incumbent who helped guide the Town Hall project to the landslide referendum passage of the same night, was in question.

       “I didn’t know what to expect,” Anest said over the phone the next day. “I would’ve thought he was going to get on. It was stressful for us, because we knew how much we needed him.”

       Republican Town Committee Chair Domenic Pane admits he was left scratching his head regarding Nagel-the other Town Councilor to serve on the Town Hall Project Building Committee. The $28 million proposal passed by an almost 2 to 1 margin.

       “I can’t figure it out,” Pane said Tuesday night. “I know Dave Nagel worked endlessly, but we’re just hoping for the best.”

       Meanwhile, Democratic Mayoral hopeful Terry Borjeson was conceding the race to incumbent Roy Zartarian, who beat him by a less than 600 vote margin. Borjeson-a former Democratic Council Majority Leader-thanked the large gathering of fellow candidates and party supporters at the Knights of Columbus building, before making his way to the Rooster to congratulate Zartarian.

       “We gave it a good fight,” Borjeson said. “I don’t think there’s any more any of us could have done.”

       Borjeson described the outcome as bittersweet, in that while he would have preferred to be Newington’s next mayor, he’s confident that the education and economic development priorities outlined throughout his campaign will carry on under the Council and Board’s new Majority.

       “We’re still taking a great stride,” he said. “I congratulate Roy. Win or lose, the issues I raised need to be addressed moving forward.”

       For Zartarian, sentiments following the election were also mixed.

       “Obviously I would have liked to see a Republican Majority on Town Council,” he said over the phone Wednesday. “It looks like we’re not going to get that.”

       But like Borjeson, he’s optimistic about the future.

       “Both sides can continue to maintain open communication and cooperation,” Zartarian said.

       When asked if he would consider another run in the future, Borjeson said that he’s finished with local politics.

       “I won’t be back,” he said. “I gave it my best shot. It was a lot of time, a lot of energy, and a lot of emotion.”

       Democrats are sending Dianne Casasanta Serra back to the Council for a second term, while newcomers Chris Miner-the former Town Hall Project Committee Chair and a volunteer firefighter-and Nicholas Arace both won seats as well.

       The Republican side returns current Majority Leader Beth DelBuono, as well as incumbents Tim Manke and Gail Budrejko.

       Manke led all Republicans with 10.6 percent of the votes-not far behind Anest, who came in ahead of all candidates with her 10.7 percent, according to state tallies.

       “I’m so excited to be working with the rest of the Town Council and the Mayor,” Anest said. “We can continue moving the town forward.”

       The Democrats ran on a campaign that prioritized increased economic development and Grand List dollars as a catalyst for needed education revenue that’s less than guaranteed from the state level. Republicans echoed their stated objectives in both areas, but the two sides have disagreed over the past two years as to the school board appropriation level needed to staff the district’s $2 million high school STEM academies, retain teachers, and forge ahead with a slew of other initiatives.

       The GOP’s low Board budget increases-0.5 percent and 0.3 percent-of the past two years were brought up throughout the campaign by Democrats, as Republicans pointed to the uncertain statewide fiscal climate that they say prompted them.

       Democrats countered that a robust education system is among many assets a community must invest properly in-especially with state aid reductions on the way-in order to create its own revenue by drawing in new residential and commercial property owners.

       “This was the most important election-it will determine the future of Newington,” Anest said. “The voters sent a message that they want us to invest in this town.”

       Anest stressed communication with the Board-through early, joint strategic planning sessions-as a top priority, and the sentiment is mutual.

       “The past is the past-we have to move forward,” Branda said. “There are going to be disagreements, but as long as it’s not adversarial, like it’s been in the past, I think this town will be much better off.”

       Republicans Robert Tofeldt, Sr., Steven Silvia, and Paul Vessella will be returning to the Board. They’ll be joined by Danielle Drozd, who teaches in West Hartford.

       “I’m excited-I’m looking forward to this new learning experience,” Drozd said Thursday. “I look forward to working with the Democrats in finding the best solutions for the district.”