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New London City Council candidates a diverse group

By Kathleen Edgecomb

Publication: The Day

Published 10/28/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 10/28/2013 04:25 PM

New London - Ten of the 16 candidates running for City Council live in the northern end of New London. So, for the first time in years, there's a chance that the majority of those elected Nov. 5 could live where most of the businesses and all the city's low-income housing are located.

Five Democrats, four Republicans, and the lone petitioning candidate live north of Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, the informal divide that separates one end of the city from the other.

South of the hospital includes Ocean Beach Park, private beaches and some of the largest and most expensive homes in the city. North of the hospital is a more urban environment where houses are built closer together, there are more rental properties and the city's downtown and other commercial districts are located.

Traditionally, the majority of those elected to the City Council have been Democrats and residents of the south end of the city. Five of the seven members of the 2009 council lived south of hospital. On the current council, there are four.

Bill Vogel, chairman of the Republican Town Committee and a council candidate who lives on Lower Boulevard, said there was no concerted effort to recruit candidates from all over the city.

"It just worked out that way," Vogel said. "We were looking to get as many people as we could to run. I think we definitely have a diverse slate."

William Satti, chairman of the Democratic Town Committee, said in the past most candidates lived in the south end of the city. But this year, the party intentionally sought out candidates from throughout the city. New London has three voting districts but does not have mandatory district representation. The top seven vote-getters will serve two-year terms.

"We have a diverse and balanced ticket that really reflects the makeup of the city," Satti said. "Our candidates have been involved with the community for years.

In this city of 5.5 square miles, nearly half the population of 27,000 identifies as a minority. According to 2010 census data, about 48 percent of the residents are white, 28 percent are Hispanic and 17 percent are black. In about 30 percent of the households, another language other than English is spoken at home.

For the second year, ballots are in English and Spanish.

"We represent the diverse population of the city," Satti said of the Democrat slate which includes three blacks, an Hispanic, and two women.

Political newcomers for the Democrats include Efrain Dominguez, who grew up in the subsidized highrise apartments on Crystal Avenue and lives on Terrace Avenue; Laura Natusch, who moved to the city 10 years ago and calls her street the best in the city and lives on Mountain Avenue; and Erica Richardson, who was born in New London, graduated from Waterford High School and owns a home on Jefferson Avenue.  (Editor's note: This corrects an earlier version of this sentence.) Also running is Michael Tranchida, retired New London city clerk, who owns a 118-year-old home on lower Ocean Avenue.

Other incumbent Democrats are Anthony Nolan, a city police officer who lives on Blackhall Street; Council President Michael Passero who lives on Admiral Drive, about a block from the Pequot Avenue shoreline; and Councilor Wade Hyslop who lives on Penny Lane.

In addition to Vogel, the Republican slate includes Katelin Teel, a home improvement company manger and mother of four who lives on Norwood Avenue, and Dennis Downing, a painter and wallpaper hanger who lives on Mahan Street. Michael Doyle, a widower with two children, lives on Faire Harbor Place adjacent to the hospital; and incumbent City Councilor Marie Friess-McSparran, who lives on Elm Street, is a registered Democrat running on the Republican ticket. Also representing the GOP is Martin T. Olsen, a former city councilor who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2011 who lives on Ocean Avenue, and Keith J. Robbins, who lives on Gardner Avenue and is a former first selectman of Bozrah.

Other candidates include Green Party member Ronna Stuller, a retired early childhood educator who lives on Evergreen Avenue; and petitioning candidate Carl H. Lee, a salesman for Shetucket Plumbing Supply who lives on West Street, overlooking the north end firehouse on Broad Street.

But no matter where they live, candidates have to convince voters they will represent the needs of all residents.

The city has about 14,000 registered voters and Democrats have a 6-1 margin over Republicans. As of Oct. 24, there were 6,585 registered Democrats; 1,321 registered Republicans; 5,996 unaffiliated voters; and 133 that identify with other political factions, such as the Green Party.

Republicans, who every two years fight an uphill battle to gain a majority on the council, are campaigning door-to-door and discovering that some residents are upset with the mayor, Vogel said.

The Republican campaign basically challenges decisions made over the past two years by Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio. In 2011, Finizio became the first elected mayor in 90 years. Finizio is in the middle of his first four-year term.

"One of our phrases is 'Stop Finizio, Vote Republican,'" Vogel said. "The only way to really stop the mayor is to have a majority on the City Council."

The goal, according to Vogel is "to prevent the mayor from doing silly things."

The Republicans, if they win the majority would propose initiatives, such as having representatives of the Renaissance City Development Association report monthly to the City Council; increase police staffing; and creating a new charter revision commission which would, among other things, take away some power from the mayor's office .

The Democratic platform includes a commitment to increase police staffing and maintain adequate fire department staffing; improving the city's infrastructure and developing Fort Trumbull; and creating a plan to enhance neighborhoods and businesses. The Democrats also vow to support the all-magnet school district.

"I think our candidates are working very hard, getting out the vote, going door to door, going to forums, and doing what they should be doing," Satti said.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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In their own words

The Day asked candidates for top offices in the municipal elections to answer three questions:

What are the major issues for your town?

What makes you the best candidate for this office?

What was the last book you read, and what did you think of it?

To read their responses, go to
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