Democratic Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling shed tears of joy Tuesday after learning he’d prevailed over Republican challenger Vinny Scicchitano to win a sixth two-year term.
“I can’t tell you what this means to me,” Rilling said, breaking up a bit. “In 2013, you took this homegrown boy, and you trusted him to run your city as its Mayor. And I promised you then that I would be a Mayor for all the people, bringing transparency and accountability to the city of Norwalk government. I believe by the results tonight, they have confirmed that I delivered.”
Though Rilling’s unofficial winning percentage of the vote, 55%, was in the same ballpark as his previous victories, Scicchitano took heart in winning districts dominated by homeowners.
“Even though we lost by, in my mind, a few votes, we won West Rocks by 17,” Scicchitano said to supporters at Station House restaurant in East Norwalk. “So my message resonated. Yeah, they wanted to adhere to it. They wanted what we wanted.”
Scicchitano’s campaign championed the cause of Norwalkers who don’t like the city’s development.
He said, “I won Nathan Hale, I think by eight votes, was the same thing. The people in that community, that put down roots, that are the heart and soul of Norwalk. I think we won Marvin, if I’m not mistaken, which is people from East Norwalk that were outraged about the direction that our city’s going in.”
Unofficial results provided by the Democratic Town Committee show that Scicchitano won District C1, which votes at Marvin Elementary School, with 852 votes to Rilling’s 663. Scicchitano won District C2, which votes at Nathan Hale Middle School, with 964 votes to Rilling’s 936.
Rilling won A4, which votes at Nathan Hale, with 110 votes to Scicchitano’s 69.
Overall, the DTC tally, which includes absentee ballots, shows Rilling with 8,285 votes city-wide to 6,707 for Scicchitano. Rilling handily took the home-ownership heavy District E with 1,967 of the votes to Scicchitano’s 1,427.
State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) told Democrats at the Election Night gathering in Hilton Garden Inn that he and Rilling went doorknocking, “and people just, all they say is ‘I love the city of Norwalk.’”
He said, “We hear a lot of times, sometimes in our head too much because we’re a little close to the situation, a lot of the negativity. A lot of the naysayers, a lot of the folks who say we should stop growing, we should stop having people move in here. But then we see results like tonight, and the people have said the Mayor and the Council and the Board (olf Education) are doing the right thing, but they want that to continue and they’ve said that in the big way, in a real positive way.”
Rilling noted that 45% of the voters went for Scicchitano but said, “We work for everybody.”
Gesturing to the Council members-elect and the BoE members-elect, he said, “Look at us, look at what we represent, don’t we don’t we represent Norwalk?”
He promised, “For the next two years, we are going to deliver some wonderful things, we are going to make Norwalk the greenest city in the entire state of Connecticut.”
Scicchitano, speaking to supporters across town, said, “I set out to run a respectable race,” to bring in people who feel unrepresented and who haven’t been involved. “We woke up an awful lot of people. So to that end, I say we’ve won.”
Everyone in Station House was a volunteer and “We’re able to achieve this,” he said. “I still see that as a win. I really do. I think we’ve done a fantastic job.”
He said he hoped the Democrats “realize that perhaps it’s time to listen to everyone…. I hope I’ve effected change that way.”
Later, NancyOnNorwalk asked Rilling for a response.
“I think this administration has been the most transparent, and the most accountable administration of many, many administrations before us. We believe that the people respect what we represent,” Rilling said. “I want to give my opponent credit for running a we ran a very cordial, clean campaign. And I think that was a breath of fresh air for the city of Norwalk, because it hasn’t always happened that way.”
He and Scicchitano are still friends and he respects Scicchitano as a person, Rilling said.
“We put a slate up, and the people on our slate usually get elected. And it’s been no different this time,” he said. “And, we got, you know, 55%, maybe a little bit more, of the of the vote. I’m proud of that. I think the people of Norwalk are satisfied with what we’re doing. They’re happy with what we’re doing. They’re seeing Norwalk growing in the right direction. And they believe in us, they believe that we’re going to do the things that they’ve elected us to do.”
Rilling has traditionally been exuberant and triumphant on Election Night. Why shed tears this time?
“I don’t know. You know, I think I’ve been emotional all the times, but maybe not as evident as I was tonight,” he said.
As he’d said earlier, he’s touched that the “homegrown boy” was trusted to run the city back in 2013, but also, his parents died when he was young, he relayed.
“They never knew what became with me. And that is something that’s, you know, really I struggle with. But, hey, it is what it is,” he said. But his mother’s sister once told him she was proud of him and “she spoke for my mother.”