State Rep. Caroline Simmons upsets two-term incumbent mayor in Stamford primary; Sanchez wins in New Britain

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State Rep. Caroline Simmons will face off against former Mets manager and local sports hero Bobby Valentine in November, after knocking off a two-term incumbent mayor in the Democratic primary in Stamford Tuesday.

“We’re running against a candidate with a household name, but I know that together that we can win,’' Simmons told her cheering supporters in a victory speech. Her campaign faces “an uphill battle’' over the next seven weeks, she said.

Simmons was a well-funded and well-organized challenger as she sought to become the next leader of a booming, successful city with the fastest-growing population among Connecticut’s cities — making it larger than both Hartford and New Haven.

Mayor David Martin delivered a concession speech before 9 p.m., saying he had congratulated Simmons on her victory.

“I gave her my support for the election in November,’' Martin told a crowd of subdued supporters in a concession speech that was posted on his Facebook page.

Valentine has gathered enough signatures to run as an unaffiliated candidate in his hometown. The city’s police union has avoided both Democrats and has endorsed Valentine for the general election in early November.

Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, said he is already looking ahead to the general election as Simmons, 35, will battle against the 71-year-old Valentine.

“That’s a great candidate for mayor down in Stamford. I’ll tell you that,’’ Lamont said of Valentine. “Bobby V is a pretty big name in Stamford. I understand that. Caroline [Simmons] and David Martin have spent a lot of time thinking about the future of their city and how to get people back to work. It will be a good race.’’

Even though Martin has held the job for eight years, local Democrats on the Stamford town committee gave their endorsement in July to Simmons, a Greenwich native who has represented a district in the central city for the past seven years. Simmons defeated Martin, 21-19, in a Democratic Party convention that paved the way for Tuesday’s primary.

Simmons graduated from Harvard in 2008 and would be Stamford’s first female mayor if elected this fall. A fast-rising Democrat, she has won races for state legislature on a consistent basis since beating incumbent Republican Rep. Michael Molgano in 2014 in an upset. One week before the primary, Simmons publicly announced that she is pregnant with her third child.

New Britain and other races

In other races Tuesday night, longtime state Rep. Bobby Sanchez won the Democratic primary for New Britain’s mayor against Alicia Hernandez Strong, a 25-year-old community activist who graduated from Wesleyan University and received a master’s degree from Yale. She is known for cofounding the New Britain Racial Justice Coalition.

Sanchez has received the strong backing of the Democratic Town Committee and has also won the endorsement of the union-backed Working Families Party. A former city school board member and New Britain native, Sanchez serves as co-chairman of the legislature’s education committee who has fought for more education funding for his hometown.

Sanchez will now run in November against Republican Erin Stewart, a former candidate for governor and lieutenant governor who is seeking her fifth two-year term as mayor.

The Stamford and New Britain races were among 21 primaries Tuesday around Connecticut — 15 Democratic, five Republican, and one for probate judge in Berlin and New Britain. In Hamden, Lauren Garrett defeated three-term incumbent mayor Curt B. Leng and 26-year-old Peter Cyr in a three-way race.

The other Democratic chief elected officials facing primaries were: Julia Pemberton, the first selectman of Redding, and Nancy R. Rossi, the mayor of West Haven. Both were victorious.

According to unofficial results, Pemberton won with nearly 74% of the vote, defeating the Democratic town chair, Mike D’Agostino. Rossi won with nearly 58%, defeating John Lewis.

First Selectman Barbara K. Perkinson of Woodbury was the only Republican chief elected official in a primary. She defeated Lisa Amatruda, 52.6% to 47.4%.

In Bloomfield, Democrats appeared to split their ballots, nominating three endorsed candidates and three challengers for council. The winners included Suzette DeBeatham-Brown, who has the title of mayor, but was not endorsed by the town committee. One of the losers was Renee D. Coleman-Mitchell, who was pushed out as the commissioner of public health by Gov. Lamont.

Christopher Keating can be reached at ckeating@courant.com

Information from the CT Mirror is included in this story.

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