It’s been almost two decades since the Republicans held more of the city’s top political offices than they captured this year.
“This is wonderful,” city GOP Chairman T.J. Barnes told party faithful as the results poured in after the polls closed on Election Day.
“We’ve come a long way,” Barnes added.
The Republicans hold two of the six City Council seats and, for the first time in three decades, also grabbed the part-time treasurer’s post.
It doesn’t appear, though, that the GOP’s success at the polls will translate into greater partisanship at City Hall.
On Election Night, Democratic Mayor Art Ward stood in front of a roomful of party activists and hailed mayoral challenger Mary Alford and several other Republicans for running so clean a campaign and focusing on how to improve the city rather than scoring political points.
“We need to join hands,” Ward said. “We need to work together.”
The most successful council candidate, Republican newcomer David Mills, has frequently said that party lines don’t matter to him. He said he’s ready to work with anyone to get the city on track for a brighter future.
Since Mills easily outpolled Ward and every other Democrat in the three precincts where he was on the ballot, it’s clear to political insiders that he pulled in a lot of votes from registered Democrats. With his outsized victory, Mills instantly became the GOP’s best hope for winning back the mayor’s office as well.
The Republicans have held two council seats for the past two years, with Ken Cockayne and Mike Rimcoski provided the GOP’s firepower.
Rimcoski was the lone Republican for two years before that, taking the seat that Ron Burns held for a single term when he was the sole GOP councilor. But from 2005 until 2007, Republican William Stortz was the mayor so Rimcoski wasn’t left to face down the Democrats by himself.
From 1997, when Stretch Norton lost a reelection bid, until 2003, the Democrats held every office possible at City Hall. Norton had been the only Republican councilor from 1993 until 1997.
Not since the 1991 election, during Stortz’s first stint as mayor, has the GOP managed to grab a majority on the council, but the Republicans see hope that they might be able to do it again someday.
In addition to the prospect of Mills at the top of the ticket, the party sees at least two of its council losers, Derek Czenczelewski and Richard Scarola, as possible contenders for the job next time around.
“Derek represents the future of our party,” Barnes said of the 22-year-old who impressed even Democrats with his issues-based campaign.
The candidates elected last week will take office in a swearing-in ceremony at 7 p.m. Monday in the auditorium at Bristol Eastern High School. The public is invited. A reception will follow in the school’s cafeteria.
Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org