Julia Perkins | Nov. 2, 2021 | Updated: Nov. 3, 2021 1 a.m.
Republican Dean Esposito wins Danbury mayoral race after Roberto Alves concedes
DANBURY — Republican Dean Esposito will be the city’s next mayor after his Democratic opponent Roberto Alves conceded Tuesday night in what was a tight race. This will mark 11 straight terms for the GOP in the city’s top elected office.
Esposito held just a 60-vote lead over Alves as of 9:45 p.m. Tuesday, but his margin widened as numbers came in later into the night. A recount had initially been expected, but appears unlikely following the concession.
With the initial unofficial results, Esposito claimed victory, even giving a speech in front of his supporters. Within a half hour of the speech, Alves called Esposito to concede.
“It’s an unbelievable night for the city of Danbury because we’re going to keep Danbury moving forward, and keep positive motion moving forward for the people of this city,” Esposito said in a speech before the concession call.
In his concession speech, Alves said it all came down to 181 votes.
“We did everything we thought we needed to do. We worked hard and became a family, but they won,” Alves told a crowd of enthusiastic supporters at The Palace Danbury on Main Street. “There is a winner and a loser. We lost. We lost the election. But the fight isn’t over.”
The loss is a major blow to Democrats, who haven’t run the city since Gene Eriquez’s six terms as mayor from 1989 to 2001.
By 10:20 p.m., Republicans were playing Queen’s “We are the Champions” at the Amerigo Vespucci Lodge on Christopher Columbus Avenue. This came as it appeared they could have claimed an at least 14-7 majority on City Council, according to preliminary election results. The Republicans may pick up an additional seat in the Seventh Ward, where numbers were tight.
Supporters hugged and took photos with Esposito, who was chief of staff under former Mayor Mark Boughton and Joe Cavo. He won the first open election in the Hat City in 20 years.
Esposito said he and Alves had a “very cordial” conversation on Tuesday night. The two had talked in recent days and agreed they both had the same goal — to move Danbury forward, Esposito said.
“I commend him for a good race,” Esposito said.
Mike Safranek, chairman of the Republican Town Committee, was thrilled with the results, but said Alves and the Democrats worked hard. The parties would be prepared to work together on Wednesday morning, he said.
“He’s (Alves) a class act and he worked his butt off,” Safranek said. “He should hold his head up high.”
Esposito has emphasized his experience as the mayor’s chief of staff for five years, as well as other elected and paid positions for the city. He’s argued Republican leadership has made the city successful, with low crime, tax, sewer and water rates.
“I’m feeling on top of the world,” he said.
Turnout was at more than 25 percent as of 7 p.m., according to the Secretary of the State’s office.
The candidates offered competing perspectives and visions for Danbury. Esposito had argued Danbury is doing well, while Alves said past leaders have ignored the city’s challenges.
As mayor, Esposito said he would ensure strong fiscal management, collaborate with the school officials to craft responsible budgets, and help the community recover from the coronavirus pandemic. He aims to continue the city’s efforts to revitalize the downtown and supports a charter school to help alleviate rising enrollment.
Alves has said the city has been too slow to address overcrowding in the schools and the lackluster downtown. He pledged to contribute a greater share of the city’s budget toward the schools, while using increased state funding toward local education.
Esposito is a former Democrat who ran unsuccessfully against Boughton in 2005. He later became one of Boughton’s supporters and switched parties.
Boughton resigned in the middle of his 10th term, putting Republican Joe Cavo in charge. Cavo, former City Council president, opted to run for an at-large seat on City Council.
Esposito comes from a long line of Danbury politicians. His father is a former state representative, while his grandfather was president of the Hatters Union for over 30 years and ran unsuccessfully for mayor in the 1950s. Two of his relatives, Michael and John Esposito, ran to be re-elected for City Council this year.
Esposito grew up in Danbury and graduated from Danbury High School in 1979. Sometime after high school, he worked as a computer operator for Grolier, a book publishing company in Danbury that Scholastic eventually acquired.
Beginning in 1989, he served five terms on what was then called the Common Council. He was appointed town clerk in 2003 and in 2006 became the city’s director of consumer protection and sealer of weights. He later became the community services coordinator under Boughton.
He lived in the city until 2008, when he moved Brookfield. Since announcing his candidacy, he’s been living in Danbury at a family friend’s house on Candlewood Lake. He and his wife of 30 years plan to sell their Brookfield home and stay in Danbury permanently.
He has two adult children, 29-year-old Chloe and 24-year-old Chase.