Former Waterbury Police Chief, Neil O'Leary, pictured above, has a headlock on the Democrat nomination for mayor this year, and will emerge from tomorrow night's convention as the party's standard bearer for a November showdown with five-term incumbent, Michael Jarjura. While O'Leary will steamroll to the nomination, the candidates for the under-ticket will provide the drama for the evening. O'Leary has spent much of the past two months cobbling together a ticket that represents ethnic diversity, and candidates from the various factions in the highly raucous Democratic Party in Waterbury.
The two principal threats to O'Leary snagging the nomination - incumbent Mike Jarjura, and former aldermanic president J. Paul Vance Jr., have both opted to square off with O'Leary in November in the general election. Jarjura switched political parties and will be the Republican candidate for mayor. Jarjura has played hardball with several Democrat elected officials who have worked with him for the past ten years, and twisted their arms to join him as Republican, or to accept a cross-endorsement from the Republican Party. How successful Jarjura was in his recruitment across party lines will be on display at the convention.
Vance, who has yet to hold a single fund raiser or campaign event, has filed papers to be a petitioning Democrat in November. Vance has a loyal group of followers and could throw a monkey wrench in a close election between O'Leary and Jarjura.
Further adding drama to the 2011 municipal election in Waterbury is the strategy of the Independent Party led by Mike Telesca and Larry De Pillo. The Independents have been in talks with both the O'Leary and Jarjura camps which are both seeking a mayoral cross-endorsement from the fiesty upstart party. The thought goes that the Independents aren't going to run a mayoral candidate, and their best shot of holding onto aldermanic seats is to create a fusion ticket with either the Democrats or Republicans.
If a deal can't be forged, the Independents will put together an a entire slate of their own, and it will be a showdown in November.
The Democrat Convention will be held at the Ancient Order Of Hibernians, on Golden Hill Street, in the South End of Waterbury. The convention begins at 7 pm and is open to the public.