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Segarra Claims Primary Victory In Hartford

Edwin Vargas, his opponent, has conceded

By Jeff Cohen

September 14, 2011

In Hartford, Mayor Pedro Segarra claimed victory in the city's Democratic primary. And as WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, the win brings him one big step closer to a owning the office he inherited.

It was about six o'clock on primary day, and Segarra and his Democratic slate were flocking to any of the voters who were making their way to Rawson School. Turnout was low -- in a city with 33,000 Democrats, it looked like only 20 percent had made it to the polls.

One of them was Martha Dawkins. After she voted, she said Segarra -- who became mayor after the conviction and resignation of former Mayor Eddie Perez -- was stronger than his opponent, Edwin Vargas. She also said Segarra deserves a chance to get elected in his own right, and to serve in his own term.

DAWKINS: I don't measure a person as a cleanup person. It's where they go from -- if he gets elected, then that's his Day One.

COHEN: You mean, he's been dealing with the hand he was dealt...

DAWKINS: Right. Okay?

COHEN: And if he wins he's getting his own hand?

DAWKINS: It's his own hand. He's inherited some of the stuff, but it's his own hand now.

Also standing outside Rawson school was I. Charles Mathews. He ran four years ago against Mayor Perez and lost. Looking back, he said both he and Perez were known as aggressive politicians. Segarra, he said, is not.

"In Hartford, we're used to the rough-and-tumble. I mean, clearly, Pedro Segarra is a different kind of guy. He's very kind, very gentle, and I think we need some of that after the last four or five years. I had a reputation as you know of being kind of aggressive also, so I really like the fact that Pedro is the kind of guy you can sit down, you can talk to, he listens very intently, and I think in the next four years this city may need a lot of that."

In the city's South End, challenger Edwin Vargas was finishing up his day at the polls, too.

"Like everything else, whether it's a low turnout or a high turnout, it depends who's pulling out their voters and we're hoping it's our people coming out. We're very hopeful."

But what Vargas needed more than hope was votes, and he didn't appear to get anywhere near enough.

Not much later, supporters started to come into Segarra's celebration party. Want to know how popular he is? Just ask Mike McGarry. He was at Segarra headquarters, sipping a beer.

He's also the official Republican candidate for mayor.

"Much of the direction the Democrats in the town have taken is similar to a Republican agenda. They're for economic development, they're for clean streets, enough cops. I mean, I could have written the speech."

Eventually, Segarra made his way to the hall and thanked his supporters.

"I want to thank the people of the City of Hartford, the Democrats of the City of Hartford, who today by a margin of almost three to one said, 'We are it!'"

The mayor said he was proud to have run a positive primary campaign.

"I never took a shot ant any one of my opponents because I think that this should not be about personal, this should be about ideas, about work, about commitment, and about what we have to produce as a community."

Now, it's on to the general election in November. But in a city where more than 70 percent of the voters are Democrats, Segarra may have already won the war.

Reprinted with permission of Jeff Cohen, author of the blog Capital Region Report. To view other stories on this topic, search Capital Region Report at http://capitalregionreport.wordpress.com/.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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