Local elections see some close races, but few surprises

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon/Ellington/Tolland - posted Fri., Nov. 8, 2013
Dan Champagne was elected as Vernon's next mayor, after campaigning at polling places on Nov. 5. Photos by Steve Smith.
Dan Champagne was elected as Vernon's next mayor, after campaigning at polling places on Nov. 5. Photos by Steve Smith.

Vernon voters chose their new mayor on Nov. 5. Former Police Officer Dan Champagne (R) received 3,101 votes, while Democratic candidate Tom DiDio received 2,056.

Champagne said that on Nov. 7, he was still feeling a little exhausted, and that winning the election had not yet sunk in. “It was an overwhelming feeling,” Champagne said, describing the moment when he learned of the results. “It was humbling.”

Champagne said the Republicans worked very hard on the campaign. “Every Saturday, we went out and knocked on doors and made sure we got enough signs out there,” he said. “We really tried to reach out to the voters. I was just explaining what I was going to do.”

Champagne said he thought voters had seen the recent improvements to the town by Republican leadership, including the recent strides in economic development. He added that one of his first priorities will be to continue work in that area, as well as trying to find ways to keep Rockville General Hospital operating in town.

“I want to keep things going in the same direction,” he said. “Everything I've seen looks pretty good, but there's always going to be a learning curve.”

Champagne said he is looking forward to working with the council, and bridging partisanship. “We have a good council,” he said. “I believe in communication and helping people to understand. I'm hoping that if someone has problems, they would come to us, and we'll be able to work it out.”

He also thanked voters for coming to the polls. “With all the support that I received, it's the people of the town of Vernon that really need the thanks,” he said.

DiDio thanked fellow Democrats and volunteers for working hard on the campaign. “We worked very hard and we thought we had a very good plan – to 'get out the vote' and reach the people we thought would support us. Obviously, the Republicans had a better plan.”

When asked if he would run for office again, DiDio, who just completed a term as town councilman said, “Probably.”

“I am dedicated to the town and I will do everything I can to make Vernon and Rockville a better place to live for everyone,” DiDio said.

The Republican Party also kept its majority on the Town Council, with seats won by Brian Motola (2717 votes), Steve Wakefield (2,838), Bill Campbell (2,570), Adam Weissberger (2,354), Steve Peterson (2,521), Julie Clay (2,687), John Kopec (2,462) and Kim Appleyard (2,630). Democrats winning seats were Virginia Gingras (2,272), Pauline Schaefer (2,353), Ann Letendre (2,341) and Mike Winkler (2,432).

GOP newcomers Mark Kalina and Steve Linton won seats on the Board of Education, as did incumbents Anne Fischer and Dave Kemp. Democrats winning BOE seats were incumbents Michelle Arn and Paul Stansel.

Vernon Republican Town Committee Chair Hal Cummings said he was incredibly pleased. “We did better than I thought we were going to do,” Cummings said. “We have a good group of hard-working folks.” Cummings added that the Republican committee has formed a solid core of volunteers over the years, who do a lot of the work so that the candidates are more free to campaign.

The number of voters who went to the polls in Vernon was 5,147, or about 33 percent of eligible voters.

In Ellington, First Selectman Maurie Blanchette was elected to a third term, beating Democratic challenger and former state Rep. Ted Graziani by just 28 votes. Republicans John Turner, Ronald Stromberg, Lori Spielman and James Prichard swept the four seats on the Board of Selectmen.

Republicans also took four of five seats up for grabs on the Board of Education. Newcomer Michael Purcaro joins incumbents Kristen Picard-Wambolt, Dan Keune and Ann Marie Hayes. Incumbent Democrat Gary Blanchette was also re-elected.

In Tolland, the top five vote-getters for Town Council were Democrats Rick Field (1,743 votes) and Jan Rubino (1,584), and Republicans Jack Scavone (1,559), George Baker (1,483) and William Eccles (1,461).

The six highest vote-getters for Tolland Board of Education were Kathy Gorsky (D) with 1,606 votes, Karen Moran (D) with 1,586 votes, Bob Pagoni (R) with 1,574, Tom Frattaroli (D) with 1,571, Karen Kramer (R) with 1,496 and Sam Alderstein (R) with 1,445.

In Tolland, 32 percent of eligible voters turned out, and Tolland voters also approved bonding for $2.6 million to expand the town's library, by a vote of 1,707 to 1,284.

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