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Arunan Arulampalam, a political newcomer, declares victory in Hartford mayoral primary

Arunan Arulampalam, the head of a local nonprofit with no previous elected experience, declared victory in Tuesday’s three-way Democratic primary in Hartford.

Arulampalam spoke Tuesday night at Dunkin' Park where he was flanked by family, including his wife, Liza, and his parents, who fled Sri Lanka to Zimbabwe, where he was born.

Arulampalam recalled telling them when he was a kid that he wanted to be a politician.

"You guys said, 'Look, no one is going to vote for someone with the last name Arulampalam. It doesn’t fit on a lawn sign,'" he said. "Well, tonight, a few thousand people voted for someone with the last name Arulampalam and I am the Democratic nominee for mayor of Hartford."

Tuesday's victory puts Arulampalam, 37, on course to become the next mayor of the heavily Democratic city. He easily defeated Eric Coleman, a former judge and state lawmaker, and state Sen. John Fonfara.

Arulampalam, CEO of a group that redevelops blighted properties called the Hartford Land Bank, went into Tuesday’s primary with a number of advantages. He was endorsed by Hartford Democrats and outgoing Mayor Luke Bronin in July.

Bronin announced last November he wouldn’t run for a third term, leaving an open seat in Hartford.

Coleman, 72, said Tuesday night he felt he ran a good campaign, but took issue with critics who said he was too old to run for mayor.

"If we were talking about boxing, I’d be the first to say ’I’m too old, I can’t box.’ But we are talking about being the mayor of Hartford, which in my estimation requires leadership, it requires experience, it requires wisdom,” he said.

Despite the loss, Coleman has gathered enough petition signatures to appear on the ballot in November anyway. He said he is considering a third-party run for mayor.

City councilman Nick Lebron, a Democrat, didn’t qualify for the primary but says he has received enough signatures to get on the general election ballot in November, which will also feature a Republican challenger: Mike McGarry, who served on the city council in the 1990s.

This story has been updated. Connecticut Public's Ray Hardman and Patrick Skahill contributed to this report.

Note: Arunan Arulampalam's father-in-law is Gregory B. Butler, who is a member of the Board of Trustees of Connecticut Public.

Frankie Graziano is the host of The Wheelhouse, focusing on how local and national politics impact the people of Connecticut.

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