By LISA CAPOBIANCO
After a close race against Democrat candidate Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, Republican incumbent Ken Cockayne has been re-elected as the Mayor of Bristol.
According to official results from the Bristol Registrar of Voters office, Cockayne received a total of 6,084 votes, just 128 votes more than Zoppo, who previously served four non-consecutive terms on the City Council.
A former City Councilman, Cockayne said he feels honored and privileged to serve a second term as mayor.
“It’s an honor to be re-elected,” said Cockayne.
The City Council is evenly split among both parties in each district.
In District 1, newcomer Republican Tony D’Amato was elected with 2,334 votes. Democrat incumbent Calvin Brown was re-elected, receiving the most votes in the district with 2,368. Brown and D’Amato defeated Republican incumbent Eric Carlson, who received 2,263 votes, and Democrat Mayra Berrios-Sampson, who received 2,035 votes.
In District 2, two newcomers gained a seat on the council. Democrat Dave Preleski was elected, receiving the most number of votes in the district with 2,300. Republican Jodi Zils Gagne also was elected for the first time, receiving 2,060 votes. Gagne and Preleski, who are both attorneys by profession, defeated Democrat Morris “Rippy” Patton IV, who received 1,797 votes, and Republican Josh Levesque, who received 1,918 votes.
In District 3, Democrat incumbent Mary Fortier won, receiving the most number of votes in the district with 1,785. She will join Republican Dave Mills, who received 1,748 votes. Mills and Fortier defeated Democrat Bob Passamano, who received 1,362 votes, and Republican Jeremy Deprey, who received 1,260 votes.
Zoppo-Sassu, who received 5,956 votes, said she was not shocked that the race with Cockayne was a close one, but was hoping her party took victory in the end.
“I was not surprised it was close, but was obviously hoping the margin of victory would have been in our column,” said Zoppo-Sassu.
Meanwhile, Bristol Democrats won six of the nine seats on the Board of Education. All six Democratic candidates were elected to the board, including incumbents Tom O’Brien, who received the most votes with 6,288, Karen Hintz, who received 6,111 votes, Chris Wilson, who received 6,266 votes, and Karen Vibert, who received 5,876 votes. They will join newcomers Tina Taylor, who received 5,867 votes, and 18-year-old Joe Grabowski—the youngest elected city official— who received 5,818 votes.
Republican incumbent Jennifer Dube retained her seat on the board with 5,808 votes, joining Republican newcomers David Scott Jr., who received 5,125 votes, and Jeff Caggiano, who received 5,472 votes. They all defeated incumbents Larry Amara, Genard Dolan, and Jeffrey Morgan. Amara, the former board chairman, received 5,097 votes, and Dolan, the former vice chairman, received 4,742 votes. Morgan received 5,046 votes.
“I am thrilled that the Democrats regained the majority on the Board of Education,” said Zoppo.
Meanwhile, two other races took place in this year’s election. Republican incumbent Thomas Barnes Jr. retained his seat for the City Treasurer with 6,707 votes, defeating Democrat Patricia Bentley who received 4,892 votes.
In addition, the Board of Assessment Appeals will again welcome Republicans Mary Alford, who received the most votes with 6,106, and Stacey Raymond, who received 5,555 votes. They will join the board with Democrat Shirley Salvatore, who received 5,502 votes. The three women again defeated Democrat Richard Harlow, who received 5,234 votes.
When asked about his overall impression of the election results, Cockayne said the voters went to the polls knowing who they were going to elect.
“They looked at the person, not the party,” said Cockayne. “I think that’s what politics should be about.”
Overall, Bristol saw a 37 percent voter turnout in this year’s election, just slightly higher than the last local election in 2013, with 33.4 percent. The voter turnout was higher last year during the gubernatorial election with 57 percent, and during the last presidential election in 2012, which was 69.7 percent.
At Greene-Hills School, 1,360 voters took to the polls, or 32.8 percent. On Election Day last Tuesday, moderator Bruce Barton said the voter turnout was steady, adding how the weather played a great “asset,” since Mother Nature brought sunny skies and a temperature reaching in the upper 60s.
Longtime Bristol resident Lisa Reek said it was important to vote in this year’s election with the hope of positive change in the city, especially since her children attend the school system here. In addition to seeing vacant schools being utilized in Bristol, Reek said she would also like to see the now empty Depot Square become a walkable destination for the community.
Bristol resident Kim Lindroth, another voter at Greene Hills, also hopes to see the former mall site downtown being utilized in the next couple of years, adding that a sports complex for children in the city would be a great.
“I lived in Bristol my whole life, so it would be nice to see something happen,” said Lindroth.
The Bristol Elks Club also saw a steady flow of voters throughout the day, receiving an overall turnout of 29.3 percent, or 968 voters. For Sam Cloutier, it was important to vote this year, as local elections make an impact on many aspects of residents’ lives.
“Local elections are the most important—it’s taxes, it’s education. If you own a home in Bristol, it impacts you greatly,” said Cloutier, who was born and raised in Bristol.
One change Cloutier said he hopes to see in the next couple of years is the downtown revitalization.
“Seeing that stalled for so long has been a concern for me,” said Cloutier.
Bristol residents Diane and Bill, who also voted at the Elks Cub, agreed.
“We have to start somewhere,” they said. “It has been stagnant.”
To see the full results of the 2015 election, visit the Registrar’s page on the city’s website, www.ci.bristol.ct.us/index.aspx?nid=253.
Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.
PHOTOS by TAMMI NAUDUS