On Tuesday, the Republican incumbent Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano beat his Democratic challenger, Dan Drew, to enter his third term. Although the City is predominantly Democratic, Giuliano received 4,388 votes in comparison to Drew’s 3,902. Ruthann Johnson of the Realistic Balance Party received 104 votes.
Giuliano attributed the win to his track record for the past two terms.
“What got me re-elected was pretty much how I conducted myself and this office for the last four years,” Giuliano said in an interview with The Argus.
Polls opened at 6 a.m. on Tuesday morning at 14 polling locations throughout the City. Most students voted at the Senior Center on William Street, which accounts for District 14 in Middletown. The polling station, which went to Drew, reported a turnout of 23.4 percent of registered voters in the District. The citywide turnout was 36 percent of 23,511 total registered voters. Although this is an increase from the 31.9 percent in 2007 when Giuliano ran unopposed, it is a sharp decline from 2005 when Giuliano was first elected with 45.9 percent voter turnout.
Giuliano explained that a large part of his campaign efforts focused on convincing Middletown residents to actually vote.
“I was kind of uneasy throughout the entire campaign; I kept on hearing, ‘Oh you’re in. Oh, you’re a shoe-in,’” Giuliano said. “Usually when that kind of sentiment is going around, it tends to depress turnout. You kind of open yourself up for a sneak attack.”
Giuliano characterized voter turnout on Tuesday as average. Drew, however, felt that voter turnout was low and that this may have contributed to his loss.
“If turnout had been a little bit higher I think we could have had a better a chance of winning, but I’m really proud of how far we came,” Drew said in an interview with The Argus.
Giuliano had strongest support in the residential districts of the city located in the west and south, whereas Drew carried the center of the city.
Last month, the University hosted the first official mayoral debate between Giuliano and Drew. Issues broached included the City’s declining budget, Food Not Bombs, and the University’s relationship with Middletown.
President Michael Roth reported that he voted on Tuesday. He stressed the importance of University town-gown relations.
“I hope that we continue to increase the positive communication that we’ve been having with the City of Middletown from the mayor to the City Council to the School Board,” he said. “A lot of things are going on. It has been a steady improvement over the last year and a half or so and I expect that to continue.”
Both the Wesleyan Democrats (WesDems) and the Wesleyan College Republicans (WCR) campaigned for their parties’ respective candidates on campus and throughout Middletown. The weekend before the election both groups stepped up their efforts, making calls to both students and Middletown residents to encourage them to vote.
This year, 226 University students registered to vote in Middletown, bringing the total number to 753 University students, according to the Middletown registrar. Of the 753 students, 546 are registered as Democrats, 17 as Republicans, 186 are unaffiliated, and four are registered as other.
“If Wesleyan [students] turned out in the numbers that they could have, it would have been a smaller margin [between Giuliano and Drew], because there were so many registered Democratic voters, assuming they voted along party lines,” said Alex Levin ’12, President of the WCR.
Both groups encouraged students to register to vote in Connecticut, despite hesitancy from some students on transferring voter registration from their home states.
“A lot of students think that because they’re only here for four years [it is not necessary to vote in Middletown elections],” said President of WesDems Corinne Duffy ’11. “But it is four years of your life, and it’s as much our home for four years as the community that you’re from. And it’s important to make any community that you’re in better.”
Levin explained that the WCR’s involvement in the campaign demonstrated the role students could play in local politics.
“I think [Giuliano is] starting to realize how much more of an impact Wesleyan students can have on municipal elections—not that he didn’t care before,” Levin said. “Especially now with the WSA’s [Wesleyan Student Assembly] debate he knows we’re paying attention to local politics more. I only see participation growing in the next couple years, not diminishing.”
Although Duffy expressed disappointment in Drew’s loss, she felt that the WesDems still made an impact.
“We showed the City that we are a political force and we are willing to take a stand for elections,” she said.
Post-election, Drew has not given up his commitment to Middletown and said he may run again in 2011.
“I’m going to stay involved and keep working on behalf of the community,” Drew said. “There’s a very good opportunity I may run again in two years.”