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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Upset in Waterbury

I said this was going to be an interesting race.

Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura lost the Democratic primary to the person he fired, Karen Mulcahy. Mayor Jarjura's proposal to create a municipal water authority was extermely unpopular and Mulcahy used that to her advantage. The low voter turnout also hurt Jarjura as he lost to Mulcahy 3,314 votes to 3,070.

From the Waterbury Republican
An unpopular proposal to create a municipal water authority, a perceived cozy relationship with developers, a complacent campaign and the late entry of an angry firefighters' union into the race all contributed to Karen Mulcahy's upset defeat of Mayor Michael J. Jarjura in Tuesday's Democratic primary.

The victory was personal for both sides. Jarjura fired Mulcahy as his tax collector in 2004 and she retaliated with a lawsuit and Tuesday's election victory.

Mulcahy will lead the Democratic slate in the November election, but the slate that will accompany her on the ballot will not be the one that ran with her in the primary.

"We're going to improve the quality of life issues for people here," Mulcahy told about 100 jubilant supporters at her Store Avenue headquarters. "That's what this race is all about."


Later Jarjura acknowledged that his proposal to consider creating a municipal water authority that would sell revenue bonds as a means of reducing the city's $465 million unfunded pension liability was the Achilles heel of his campaign.

The rallying cry of Mulcahy's campaign was "don't sell the water," and Jarjura was never able to convincingly distance himself from the proposal that candidates in the November election already were preparing to use against him if he won the primary.

Most in attendance realized all hope was lost early in the process of gathering returns when Jarjura lost in precincts where he was considered unbeatable.


The 6,384 votes cast for mayor accounted for 26 percent of the city's 24,283 registered Democrats and gave credence to the predictions of political observers that lower turnout would hurt Jarjura.

Democratic Town Committee Chairman Gary Reardon suggested after the returns came in that elements within the party didn't work as hard as they had been asked to as they looked for payback against Jarjura for things he may not have delivered them.

At 5 p.m., after calculating the number of votes cast citywide, the Jarjura campaign sent people out to work door-to-door in hopes of drumming up more votes. Going door-to-door on election day is an unusual step in a campaign.

Democrats running with and supporting Jarjura began to complain about three weeks before the election that his campaign had been outmaneuvered by Mulcahy and failed to take her seriously as she continued to erode his base.

Mulcahy prevailed in 13 of the city's 22 voting precincts.

The 71st General Assembly District, which includes Town Plot and Country Club, proved decisive in the race.

Jarjura lost every precinct there and Mulcahy's overall margin in that portion of the city was 228 votes.