With New Council Sworn in, Candidates Reflect on Close Finish
NEWINGTON - Nicholas Arace admits that when he was first compelled to get involved in local politics, he wasn’t quite sure how to approach it.

       Driven by a desire to help the community find its way to staffing the $2 million Newington High School STEM academy and put a stop to the loss of teachers to layoffs, Arace sat down with former Democratic State Representative Sandy Nafis and Senator Paul Doyle, who advised him to meet with the Democratic Town Committee.

       “I thought I’d just help out with a campaign or something,” Arace recalls.

       So he was surprised when he walked into an interview with the Party’s Nominating Committee.

       “I said ‘nominating committee? Nominating committee for what?’” he says.

       DTC Chair John Kelly says he wasn’t sure yet where Arace would land either, but just that he had a feeling the 25-year old insurance underwriter and former Board of Education Communications Director belonged on one of their slates for the then-coming November elections.

       “This is how you find candidates,” Kelly said. “We liked him so much, we said ‘hey, you ever think about running for Town Council?’”

       Arace, by his own admittance, was a bit shocked by the turn of events. And now, with the election just past and his name minted onto the plate denoting his newly won Council seat, he still is.

       “I’m humbled to be in this position,” says Arace, who narrowly edge 10 year GOP incumbent Dave Nagel in last Tuesday’s election, and then, that Saturday’s 7 hour recount. “I never planned for this. I’m just excited to get to work-I can’t thank the voters enough.”

       “Things are what they are,” said Nagel, who served as Deputy Mayor in his last term, as well as numerous committees throughout his political tenure. “I want to express my appreciation for all that supported me for the past decade, and I wish the Board of Education and Town Council luck.”

       Arace ended up being a critical win for the Democrats, who clinched a 5-4 Council Majority-with Republican Mayor Roy Zartarian securing his second term-with Saturday’s confirmation of the roughly 35 vote margin between him and Nagel.

       “I was a little nervous,” Arace says. “If something swings, it’s a different majority.”

       On election night, Democrats were anxious about the status of returning Councilor Jim Marrocini-a two term incumbent who, with Nagel, helped guide the Town Hall Project Building Committee to its landslide referendum approval for the proposed $28.8 million project.

       “I was surprised about that for both Jim and myself,” Nagel said. “That one I can’t figure out.”

       In the days that followed, however, state tallies showed Arace and Marocchini deadlocked in votes, with Marocchini eventually pulling ahead to set up the final recount between the newcomer and Nagel.

       Nagel said that he had asked for the recount not just for his sake, but because on election night, both parties were seeing televised returns that differed from what they had.

       Arace would actually gain a net vote Saturday, after the recount showed 3 more for him against Nagel’s additional 2.

       “It’s my first go around, and what a first experience, to see democracy in action,” Arace said.

       As for Nagel, Arace says that while he’s glad to see his party in the Majority, the loss of Nagel will be difficult for both sides.

       “Dave’s a good guy-a valuable asset,” Arace said. “But I know him-he’ll be out again to help us anyway he can.”

       Nagel said that he’s not ruling out a return in the future, but that as of right now, he’s not leaning that way.

       “I need to take a breather and think it over,” he said. “You never say never about anything, but I’m not jumping at the chance at the moment.”