NEW BRITAIN – Republican Mayor Erin Stewart sailed to reelection victory Tuesday and will continue to represent New Britain for a fourth term.
Unofficial results showed Stewart winning with over 5,900 votes while Democratic candidate Chris Porcher received about 3,500 votes. Compared to her first election six years ago, Stewart said the margin of victory has doubled and it is a validation of all the hard work that her team has gone through.
“The most exciting thing is the Republicans have taken back the council and that will help us push forward all of our progresses with less roadblocks,” said Stewart. “We also have a lot of new council members coming in so I hope they can come in with an open mind and a willingness to work together.”
There has been a lot of animosity over the last two years, she continued, stating that she wants to take the time to get to know the new council members and understand what their priorities are.
“Then we’ll see where we go from there,” she said. “I really respect the fact that the people voted for us and I’m so blessed to be able to serve New Britain again. For the candidates who didn’t win, I really hope this isn’t the last time they run. It really takes a lot of guts to get your name out there and it’s admirable that they took a chance. I hope they continue to be involved and inspire more people to do the same.”
Her win will allow her to continue some of the work that she wants to see through, which is one of the primary reasons why she wanted to run for a fourth term.
“My reasons for running again are both simple and difficult,” she said. “Simple because there are a lot of projects that I want to be a part of. It’s difficult because the process of getting projects completed can be very complicated and time-consuming.”
Stewart was elected to her first term in 2013, re-elected to a second term in 2015 and a third term in 2017. She was also a former member of the Board of Education, worked at a senate representative’s office, and coached softball at New Britain High School. As one of the youngest female mayors in the U.S., Stewart said the last six years has been a long road, but the work is not finished. One of the major projects that she hopes to witness its completion is the Energy and Innovation Park at the Stanley Works campus. The $1 billion project that broke ground this month will feature a fuel cell-powered data center. She said the opportunities of what the park will bring to the city are endless.
This project is part of the process of putting on creative thinking caps to figure out how to ease the taxpayer’s burden, said Stewart. “It can do that by creating over a thousand jobs, having a new wave of technology that others will rely on, and by becoming a national hub to meet that need.”
Another element that the current mayor wants to continue to focus on is education, which she describes as the “key pillar” that affects the community.
“As mayor, there are limitations as to what I can do,” she said. “What I do have the power to influence is moving school renovation and expansion projects forward, which is what I plan on doing. Students can’t learn properly if they don’t have a good environment to work, study, and play in. So that’s what I would like to continue doing.”
Throughout her tenure as mayor, Stewart said she had to grow up real fast but she never regretted her choice to campaign in the first place.
“I left an amazing state job to take the chance to run and it was the best risk I’ve ever taken,” she said, emphasizing that the youth are often made to feel like they are not good enough to think bigger. “I’m always encouraging more young people to get involved. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t strive for more.”
Porcher, a first time Democratic candidate, said the entire campaign has been an amazing learning process. “Seeing issues from the resident’s perspective rather than just my own was really important. Especially since my campaign started from grassroots, it’s even more important for me to have an understanding of the people. It really has been amazing.”
When asked if there was anything that surprised him about the experience, Porcher said he was taken aback by the evil and hate that exists on social media. “It really showed how uninformed some people are, although not through the fault of their own. We still have a lot of systematic problems that are still happening in 2019 and that’s related to what’s going on around social media.”
Despite losing the race, Porcher said he will not be stopping his community activism any time soon.
“I definitely still plan on moving forward, mayor or not,” he said. “It helps that I already work for a grassroots organization and I’m already involved in several nonprofit organizations. Either way, it’ll be exciting and I want to thank everyone who came out to support us.”
Deivone Tanksley, also a first time runner as an Independent, echoed similar sentiments on his own campaign experience. “I still feel like I’ve made a difference and made a change by running as an independent,” he said. “I think the language of politics has been confusing people and causes them to not want to be involved. By me being out there, I hope it helped the people to see that they can do it too.”
Being a mayor is just a title for Tanksley, who said he will continue to fight for the people.
“I’m feeling really inspired from this whole experience,” he said. “When I was out at the polling stations, I’ve had people come up to me and say what a great campaign I ran, that I wasn’t disrespectful or attacked anyone. I did what I came out to do and I’m excited to do more.”
Contact Catherine Shen at 860-801-5093 or firstname.lastname@example.org