Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary steamrolled his way into a second term in office by winning a resounding 68% of the vote in a three-way contest. O'Leary was delighted with the results, and said it's a clear message from the voters of Waterbury to keep pushing his agenda forward. Republican Jason Van Stone came in second with 19% of the vote, and Larry De Pillo of the Independent Party took third with 13%.
O'Leary erupted in mock celebration when it was announced that he had captured the 74-5 District with 14 of the 27 votes cast. There were 12,000 votes cast on the machines and an additional 1000 absentee ballots, continuing the downward spiral of low voter turnout in Waterbury.
The mostly Hispanic operation for the O'Leary campaign in the South End of Waterbury was orchestrated by Geraldo Reyes Jr. (back to the camera) and delivered nearly 1000 votes.
Maggie O'Leary, middle, enthusiastically supported her father at the Blessed Sacrament polling place in the city's west end. Maggie was joined by her basketball teammates from the North End Rec Center.
Shortly after the polls closed at 8 pm the returns starting flooding into the war room at O'Leary headquarters, a small counter top in the back of an old bank on Grand Street. Taking the returns were Mickey Albini, right, while Tracy DiGiovancarlo, left, and Saranda Belica, middle, looked pensive as the results of thousands of hours of work came streaming in.
Fran Sullivan is widely considered a political genius for successfully managing some of the roughest mayoral campaigns in Waterbury history. He helped lead Mike Bergin to seven terms in office, and Mike Jarjura to five terms, and last night he successfully guided the O'Leary campaign to a staggering one-sided victory. Perhaps the only glitch in Sullivan's tactics was the purchase of thousands of O'Leary for Mayor green pens that didn't work.
If the election had been decided by the quality of give-away pens, Republican Jason Van Stone would have emerged victorious . His worked.
The day after the election, Jason Van Stone, right, posted on his Facebook page, "The sun came up this morning. I still have a beautiful lady next to me. My kids are still my world. I know I have many blessings. I have no regrets. Thanks to all that supported. Thanks to all those who ran. Thanks to all that voted, regardless of whether it was for me or not. Voting is a sacred right, I was proud to be part of that process yesterday. For those of you filling my inbox and phone with with notes of "Don't give up" and "Keepin fighting the good Fight", I really appreciate them. Have no fear, my fight is far from over."
In the 1995 election the Observer shadowed five-time mayor Edward "Mike" Bergin on election day, and his driver was a young detective named Neil O'Leary. 18 years later Bergin, right, leaned in to whisper to O'Leary during the returns as Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy listened in.
Chris D'Orso wrote in the final return of the evening inside O'Leary headquarters.
For most of the "quiet campaign" it was a given that O'Leary would win a second term in office, and the real drama of the 2013 municipal campaign was the underticket. An hour after O'Leary's victory speech his headquarters had cleared out except for an intense scene in the back corner of Democrat candidates totalling up the votes for the Board of Aldermen and the Board of Education. Every Democrat was pulled into office by O'Leary's convincing victory, but they wanted to know who they would be governing with - Republicans, or memebrs of the Independent Party.
The Republicans won five seats on the Board of Aldermen, but the buzz at the O'Leary victory party was that Independent Party leader Larry De Pillo had won the final seat on the board. De Pillo was both a mayoral candidate, and an aldermanic candidate, and has been a thorn in O'Leary's side for the past two years. Some are delighted that O'Leary now has a peeble in his shoe to remind him of the process of democracy, while O'Leary prefers a new pair of shoes.
Photograph courtesy of Saranda Belica
With his re-election secure, the mayor will turn his focus from politics to economic development. In the past two years O'Leary has forged a strong relationship with Governor Dannel Malloy (right) - who is up for re-election in one year (and needs the O'Leary machine to win the city). Waterbury is well positioned to get a green light on a major downtown project the O'Leary team has been cobbling together for the past several months, and is expected to be unveiled sometime this winter. "The moons are in allignment for a substantial state investment in downtown Waterbury," O'Leary said. "Better days are ahead."