Hamden residents focused on making their vote count
Voters advocating for both Curt Leng and Lauren Garrett in Democratic primary
By Peter Dewey
UPDATE: Mayor Curt Balzano Leng has won the democratic primary against Councilwoman Lauren Garrett. He will now face republican candidate, Jay Kaye, in the November election.
Hamden residents flocked to the polls at Miller Library on Tuesday morning to vote in the Democratic mayoral primary election between current mayor Curt B. Leng and challenger Lauren Garrett.
“Every vote counts,” Donna and James Ferraro said after exiting the polls. “Especially in a small election like this where the turnout can be pretty light.”
The winner of the primary will be pinned up against Republican nominee Jay Kaye in the Nov. 5 general election.
“I thought I had enough information on both candidates,” Virginia Barker said. “I read a lot, I go online and read a lot and we get the paper every day, so I’m always reading the articles in there as well.”
Voters coming in and out of the Miller Library on Tuesday morning were split in who they would’ve liked to see get the nod for the Democratic party in Hamden, however, there was a consistency in the issues they wanted to see addressed.
The town’s taxes, specifically the property tax, was brought up by a number of voters. Financial issues and transparency has been something that Garrett has been pushing in her campaign.
“I have been working to bring transparency and accountability to our budgeting process in Hamden,” Garrett said in last Wednesday’s debate. “I think we need to start having honest conversations with our residents about where we are at financially so that people can see when these types of high taxes are going to end.”
However, not all voters are convinced that there must be changes in Hamden.
“Well, I look at it like if it’s not broke, leave it alone,” Donna Ferraro said. “And that’s why we kind of went with the incumbent (Curt Leng).”
Julie Smith, who was the chief of staff for Leng, was also at Miller Library, voting and then campaigning for the current mayor.
“I think there’s been some misinformation but overall I think [both candidates] were able to get their messages out,” Smith said. “Personally, I think the town is moving in the right direction and we need to continue doing that.”
During last Wednesday’s debate, the question of the candidates credentials was another issue that was addressed. While Leng is looking for his third term as mayor, Garrett first won a seat on the Legislative Council in 2017.
“Certainly no disrespect to Mrs. Garrett, but I don’t think she has the experience necessary to run [for mayor],” Smith said. “I’ve seen first hand what it takes to run this town and I’ve also worked with her on the council. While I know she is dedicated to the town, I can just tell you she doesn’t have the experience yet to be able to run a town of this size.”
Still, there are residents who feel that it is time for a change in order to fix things that they believe have been a problem for too long.
One of those issues – Quinnipiac University and its students – gave Sarah Ruden a reason to vote for Garrett.
“I think that Quinnipiac University is absolutely out of control,” Ruden said. “In it’s treatment especially of the Mount Carmel area. We need a new mayor who will take a harder line and actually protect safety and property of Hamden citizens.
“We haven’t had that for our city government.”
Both candidates spoke about the town’s relationship with the university during the debates last week, stating that too many students live in residential neighborhoods.
“It’s a real challenge,” Leng said, as he explained that it is too easy for student housing permits to be renewed despite there being multiple violations. “The State of Connecticut needs to empower towns to be able to reject a permit renewal based on bad behavior. We can’t do it now and it is really, really needed.”
Ruden is hoping a change in mayor will help expedite the changes that haven’t been made under Leng.
Voting will continue throughout the day, with the polls closing at 8 p.m.
“I always vote,” Barker said. “Every election. I feel it’s a duty. Everybody needs to vote.”