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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Lauren Garrett wins Democratic primary, pivots toward general election

Cameron Levasseur
Incumbent Hamden Mayor Lauren Garrett (left) will face Republican mayoral candidate Crystal Dailey in the Nov. 7 general election after beating challenger Walter Morton IV in the town’s Sept. 12 Democratic primary.

Hamden Mayor Lauren Garrett is preparing her reelection campaign for November’s general election after coming out on top in the town’s Democratic primary.

The Michigan-born incumbent seeking reelection to a second term as Hamden’s top government official won just over 56% of the vote in the Sept. 12 primary election against challenger Walter Morton IV.

Garrett took to Facebook just after 9:30 p.m. on election day — approximately 90 minutes after Hamden’s polls closed — to publicly announce her victory in the town’s 2023 Democratic primary election and commend Morton for a “spirited” race.

“Thank you Hamden Democrats for your vote of confidence for me along with our entire team, to continue our work for another term,” Garrett wrote in the Sept. 12 Facebook post. “Thank you Walter Morton for Mayor for your congratulations and I look forward to our conversations to come.”

Garrett faced off against Morton, a third-generation Hamden resident and a longtime member of the town’s Board of Education, in an hour-long primary debate less than a week earlier.

Touting not only her accomplishments as mayor but also her experience as a former legislative council member, school board chair, small business owner and parent of three, Garrett argued during the Sept. 8 debate that her background qualified her “to right the ship of Hamden.”

And when polls closed, nearly 2,700 Hamden Democrats agreed.

Unofficial election results published by the New Haven Register indicate that just under 4,800 of Hamden’s more than 61,000 residents voted in the town’s Sept. 12 primary.

This figure represents a nearly 10% decline in voter turnout since the town’s previous Democratic primary in 2021.

This level of turnout fluctuation can prove particularly monumental in municipal primaries that bring only about 8% of the town’s residents to the polls and are decided by hundreds, not thousands of votes.

“I feel like every vote counts,” said resident Adrienne Sprouse, who decided to vote in the town’s Sept. 12 primary despite only having lived in Hamden for just over a year. “Not that it’ll make or break anything, but it helps.”

Case in point, Garrett beat Morton by 593 votes. Comparatively, though, 527 fewer Hamden residents cast ballots in this year’s Democratic primary than did in 2021.

“I really hope that more folks come out and vote in November than they did in the primary,” Morton told The Chronicle. “I would hope that more Hamden residents get involved.”

But with the Democratic primary now behind her, Garrett is slated to take on Republican Crystal Dailey in the Nov. 7 general election.

Morton said after the primary that he was looking forward to “a good clean fight in the general.”

“And credit to them because it’s the first time in town history that the two nominees for mayor are both women,” Morton added. “Whoever wins, I definitely will still be calling Hamden home.”

Unlike Garrett, a former small business owner, Dailey is a veteran healthcare administrator who manages large hospital systems with inventories totaling $500 million for health insurance provider Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Dailey joined the Board of Education earlier this year after surviving a confirmation process defined by interparty fighting that her electoral opponent seemed to incite. Garrett — who critics accused of attempting to interfere in Dailey’s confirmation — faced backlash when she encouraged other candidates to seek the board’s vacant Republican seat.

In a Sept. 17 email statement to The Chronicle, Dailey said she felt “really confident” about her electoral prospects this November.

“I want to speak to as many people as I can about our plans and what sets me apart from my opponent,” Dailey wrote, noting that she had already knocked on more than 4,000 Hamden doors to promote her mayoral campaign. “Everyone has a seat at the table, although my opponent views being bi-partisan as taboo.”

Dailey will likely face an uphill battle in the coming months regardless, though. Hamden’s general elections historically attract twice as many voters as the town’s primaries, but residents have not elected a Republican to the mayor’s office in more than a quarter-century.

As Hamden voters prepare for the town’s Nov. 7 mayoral election, members of Quinnipiac University’s on-campus political organizations host voter registration tables on Sept. 19 to commemorate National Voter Registration Day. (Peyton McKenzie)

Quinnipiac University’s two on-campus political organizations — the Quinnipiac Democrats and the Quinnipiac College Republicans — are also gearing up to prepare students for Hamden’s upcoming mayoral election.

“What matters to Quinnipiac is what matters to Hamden, and what happens in Hamden is going to affect us,” said Nick Fizzano, president of the Quinnipiac Democrats. “Even if you don’t think about it, what happens in this town matters.”

Although the Quinnipiac Democrats officially endorsed Morton’s mayoral campaign in the days preceding the primary, Fizzano said he and his organization were still invested in the upcoming election.

“Just because our preferred candidate in the primary lost doesn’t mean we’re sitting out,” Fizzano said. “I know I personally am excited to ensure that we keep a Democratic mayor here in this town and ensure we keep sustainable Democratic policies.”

But even though Quinnipiac’s two Hamden-based campuses account for roughly 2.4% of the town’s land, Fizzano pointed out the ways in which the university borderline isolates itself from the town of Hamden.

“I really like to think of it as like ‘The Simpsons Movie’ — the big bubble over Springfield,” the sophomore political science and history double major said. “That’s how it feels a lot here, where folks don’t know what’s going on outside.”

Accordingly, both of Quinnipiac’s political organizations held on-campus voter registration drives Tuesday to commemorate National Voter Registration Day.

“You already have lower turnout, generally, in these sort of off-year elections, but you also have disproportionately lower young turnout,” Fizzano said. “My expectation is Lauren Garrett will be reelected. My hope is she’ll be reelected with the help of Quinnipiac students.”

A spokesperson for the Quinnipiac College Republicans said the organization’s members were striving to provide community members access to “election resources and ways to be involved with local, state, and national elections.”

“Our focus at the present time is working with the Quinnipiac community next Tuesday for Voter Registration Day and getting our members involved in the core Republican values,” the spokesperson wrote in a Sept. 15 statement to The Chronicle.

In a Sept. 18 press release about Quinnipiac’s efforts to promote National Voter Registration Day, Kristen Bourgault, associate teaching professor of education, said “civic engagement should be a goal for all college graduates.”

“This year we are reminding students that every year is an election year, and elections at all levels are important — from town elections all the way to the presidency,” Bourgault wrote in the release.

Fizzano said he hoped bringing awareness to Hamden’s ongoing mayoral race would persuade more Quinnipiac students to participate in the upcoming election.

“We have to ensure that the policies that best represent us and the ideas that best help us are what make up the backbone of this campaign,” Fizzano said. “You can’t do that if you don’t vote. You can’t do that if you don’t get involved. And you can’t do that if you don’t pay attention.”

Amanda Madera contributed to this report.

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Cat Murphy
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Cameron Levasseur
Cameron Levasseur, Sports Editor

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    DOct 4, 2023 at 10:56 am

    I hope the president of Quinnipiac Democrats does his research on the history of Hamden and the current Mayor and her opponent. To just want to keep a democrat in power just because they’re a democrat is naive and what’s wrong with our society today. They (students) don’t pay taxes here or own property and most are here temporarily. One thing that will happen is that residents here has had enough of the nepotism and false representation of what Republicans stand for. This time will be different. There is a shift and I pray that change will occur despite what tendencies everyone has experienced over the years.