With a lopsided win in a three-way race Tuesday, Mayor Art Ward easily captured a second term at the helm of the city.
In an election notable for its civility and one of the lowest turnouts in city history, Ward grabbed 58 percent of the vote and led his Democratic Party to maintain control of the City Council.
Ward, a city councilor for 14 years before snagging the mayor’s office in 2007, faced a host of fiscal woes during his first term but managed to freeze property taxes this year and avoid layoffs, a trick that may prove impossible the next time around.
“It won’t be any easier the next two years,” Ward told supporters who gathered at Nuchies Tuesday to learn the results.
He vowed to continue the hard, fair decisions that have kept the city moving forward despite tough times.
Ward defeated two newcomers who aimed to snatch away his job: Republican Mary Alford and independent Gary Lawton.
Alford, a bookkeeper, said she wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
She also said she is proud that all three mayoral candidates ran such a clean campaign.
“There wasn’t any of that horribly embarrassing stuff,” Alford said.
Ward said, “It was so civil that sometimes we wondered if we were in a campaign.”
Lawton, a welder, said he “did what I could.”
Even though people complain about a two-party system, he said, they have a tough time casting a ballot for an independent candidate.
“It’s a hard idea for people to wrap their minds around,” said Lawton. “I went into this with no illusions. I knew it was a long shot at best.”
Ward said that with more fiscal woes ahead, “we need to join arms,” put aside partisanship and “work together” to make the city better.
Unofficial results show that Ward got 5,071 votes while Alford racked up 3,325. Lawton got 369.
Election officials said that only 25 percent of the city’s 34,142 voters turned out Tuesday, far short of the 36.3 percent who voted two years ago. It may be the lowest municipal race turnout ever, some said.
Looking at the paltry 911 votes cast at Greene-Hills School -- several hundred less than normal -- election official Leo Bonola said he’d never seen so few.
City Councilor Cliff Block said he’s worried that turnout was so minimal.
“I just don’t think it matters who the mayor is,” said Cathy Wilson, a Bristol resident who was buying frozen pizza at Stop & Shop. “Maybe if I knew something about them, I would have voted.”
Allen Troth, who voted at Edgewood School, said casting a ballot is important “because I’m union and Art Ward is pro-union.”
“He works for the city. That’s why it’s important,” said his wife, Nakiya Troth.
“It’s my duty to vote,” said Marylou Lakovitch, who retired from the city clerk’s office a decade ago. She said she picks the person, not the party, so she backed Ward because “he’s done a good job.”
Lakovitch also backed Republican city Councilor Mike Rimcoski’s bid for reelection since “he’s for the people.”
Alford jumped into the race in August at the urging of GOP leaders who had to replace the party’s nominee, attorney John Gill, after he was forced to pull out because of unexpected medical issues.
For most of the past two years, though, Republicans had figured their 2007 standard-bearer, businessman Ken Johnson, would take another crack at defeating Ward.
Johnson came close to victory two years ago and clearly intended to run again. But he announced in the spring that he couldn’t take up the challenge this year, leaving Republican officials to scramble after another candidate for months.
Ward had an advantage this time around that he didn’t in 2007: his party united behind him.
Two years ago, Democrats shunted Ward to the sidelines and nominated city Councilor Ellen Zoppo to run for mayor.
But Ward, a veterans' services officer for the state, grabbed the mayoral line from her in a bitter primary that divided Democrats badly and provided the GOP with a boost that nearly propelled Johnson into office.
The Democrats possess a big advantage in terms of registration, claiming the allegiance of 41 percent of the city’s 34,142 registered voters. The Republicans have just 16 percent. Independents make up 42 percent of the total.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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