Election Night in Hamden

Inside Mayor Lauren Garrett’s reelection
Incumbent Hamden Mayor Lauren Garrett speaks with the media shortly after winning reelection by nearly 1,500 votes on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
Incumbent Hamden Mayor Lauren Garrett speaks with the media shortly after winning reelection by nearly 1,500 votes on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
Cameron Levasseur/HQNN

For 45 minutes after the polls closed on Tuesday, Nov. 7, the anxious crowd in Lauren Garrett’s backyard tried desperately to glean information from the first-term mayor’s facial expressions and laughter as members of her reelection team counted votes upstairs.

Meanwhile, Garrett’s sons — seemingly unfazed by the electoral chaos occurring in their northern Hamden home — played Fortnite in the downstairs living room. One of the mayor’s dogs trotted contentedly around her grassy backyard, instinctually flopping onto her back for anyone who would pet her. Attendees picked at the eight Sergio’s pizzas arranged on a folding table beside the patio, the nearby fire pit struggling to take the edge off the 37-degree November evening.

But finally, in the 46th minute, Garrett bounded down from her second-story deck with a smile on her face. The election results were in — and it was clear who had won.

“I am completely overjoyed to say that our mayor, Lauren Garrett, is going to serve us, once again, for another term,” Hailey Collins, the Democratic Town Committee’s campaign manager, announced moments later to an uproar of applause. “You all have made Hamden really proud, and y’all put on a hell of a fight.”

Returns released by Garrett’s campaign just after 10 p.m. on Election Day indicate that the Michigan-born Democrat beat Republican newcomer Crystal Dailey by nearly 1,500 votes.

“This election has been hard-fought,” Garrett told the some three dozen people standing in her backyard, expressing her gratitude for their support. “I’m so happy to continue this team for the next two years.”

Within 15 minutes of announcing her victory, Garrett’s phone rang. It was Dailey.

Garrett stepped away from the growing number of people on her patio to take the call, which lasted all of 15 seconds.

“She congratulated me and conceded the election, which I appreciate,” Garrett told reporters later. “And she said just to keep Hamden in mind as I do my work, which I’m happy to do.”

For perspective, though, a 1,500-vote margin of victory in a town of some 61,000 people means the race was a matter of less than 3% of residents.

Likewise, only about 11,500 Hamden voters — roughly 800 fewer than in 2021 — cast ballots on Nov. 7.

Even so, the challenge for Garrett’s campaign was likely over long before Nov. 7 — eight Tuesdays before, to be exact.

Two months prior to the general election, Garrett defeated challenger Walter Morton IV in the town’s Sept. 12 Democratic primary election.

And, historically speaking, the winner of Hamden’s Democratic primary tends to become the mayor in November. Hamden voters have not elected a Republican mayor since Barbara DeNicola in 1997 — a time when Bill Clinton was the U.S. president, WiFi had just hit the market and James Cameron’s “Titanic” was still in theaters.

“We’re happy to see a Democratic mayor, obviously,” said Nick Fizzano, president of the Quinnipiac University Democrats, after Garrett’s win. “That’s going to mean a more functional town than the alternative would have offered.”

Fizzano — whose organization endorsed Morton in the primary — has been outspoken in the past about Quinnipiac’s relative isolation 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 just after the primary election in September. “That’s how it feels a lot here, where folks don’t know what’s going on outside.”

For her part, Garrett said she intends to continue advancing the relationship between the town and the university during her second term.

“We want students to have a good experience in Hamden,” she said. “We want you to feel like this is your town as well.”

And following her reelection to the mayor’s office, Fizzano said he was cautiously optimistic about the prospect of an improved relationship between the university and the town.

“The mayor is always good about talking about expanding the relationship,” he said. “We’re hoping in her second term to see that relationship expanding.”

But the Hamden mayoral race was merely one of many Democratic successes on Election Day. The party also maintained control of the town clerk’s office, the Legislative Council and the Board of Education.

“I want to thank all my candidates,” Collins said. “Y’all made me a winner. Y’all are winners.”

Democratic council candidates outpaced Republicans by thousands of votes, and the only two Republican at-large representatives on the council are serving in required minority seats.

Democrats also won eight of the nine district representative seats. Their only loss came in the town’s ninth district, a historically red area of northern Hamden that somewhat ironically encompasses the mayor’s home, as well as Quinnipiac’s Mount Carmel Campus.

And while blue-and-green “Re-Elect Lauren” signs littered the mayor’s suburban backyard on Election Night, it wasn’t a Garrett pin she had fastened to her scarf. Rather, it was a blue-and-white “D” pin with the words “Vote Row A” inscribed on it — an endorsement of, as Garrett put it, the entire “team” of Democrats on the ticket in Hamden.

“You can’t be involved in politics and not have a team behind you,” Garrett said. “In Hamden, we work together to make sure that we can get things done.”

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