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Hartford elects its next mayor, Arunan Arulampalam, a newcomer to politics

Hartford Mayor elect Arunan Arulampalam hugs his wife Liza and children after declaring victory in the 2023 election on Nov. 3, 2023 at Dunkin’ Park. Arulampalam, the head of a local nonprofit with no prior elected experience, was endorsed by outgoing Mayor Luke Bronin in July.
Joe Buglewicz
/
Connecticut Public
Hartford Mayor elect Arunan Arulampalam hugs his wife Liza and children after declaring victory in the 2023 election on Nov. 3, 2023 at Dunkin’ Park. Arulampalam, the head of a local nonprofit with no prior elected experience, was endorsed by outgoing Mayor Luke Bronin in July.

Arunan Arulampalam, a political newcomer and leader of a Hartford nonprofit, will be the next mayor of Hartford. The 38-year-old Hartford Land Bank CEO is slated to replace Luke Bronin, who did not run for re-election.

Arulampalam easily shook off challenges from Republican Mike McGarry, a write-in candidate, and a number of petitioning candidates. The Associated Press called the race less than hour after polls closed.

On Tuesday night, Arulampalam declared victory inside Dunkin’ Park, behind home plate at the Yard Goats baseball stadium.

“Look at the place where we’re standing here today. A decade ago, this was a pile of dirt and today, it stands for a symbol for a city on the rise," he said.

The proposed $60 million stadium project encountered some challenges that bloated costs and delayed construction. Just last week, city council members agreed to pay a $10 million dollar settlement to make a former developer go away in order to continue development around the ballpark.

He pledged to residents to fight for their children like he would for each of his five children. He addressed his kids as they stood with him on stage.

“A lot will change starting after today, but I just want you to know that you will always be the most important people in my life and I’m so proud of you,” he said.

After winning the city’s Democratic mayoral primary in September, Arulampalam recalled the road that took him into politics — when he told his parents, who fled Sri Lanka to his birthplace of Zimbabwe, 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 in September. "Well, tonight, a few thousand people voted for someone with the last name Arulampalam."

At the polls Tuesday, voter Josephine Clark expressed frustration about crime in the city, which she said is a symptom of larger underlying problems.

“There's too many homeless people, and you can't get help," she said. "The shelters don't help you. Evictions, they don't help you, and mental health, they're not helping these people that have real issues. They're doing drugs to help ... self-medicate.”

Clark and other voters expressed hope the new mayor takes a more active role in the daily lives of North End residents and works to understand the realities they face.

At the Samuel V. Arroyo Center on Pope Street, voters expressed concerns about the education system and lack of resources for the next generation in Hartford.

“There's a lot of issues with taxes, high taxes, the school system, they need a lot of help with the school system,” Emily Morales said. “A lot of property owners, they are from outside of the state, they come and buy property here, and then they just leave. They just want the money, and don't take care of the properties.”

This story has been updated. Connecticut Public's 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.
Maricarmen Cajahuaringa is a journalist with extensive experience in Latino communities' politics, social issues, and culture. She founded Boceto Media, a digital Spanish-language newspaper based in Connecticut. Maricarmen holds a Bachelor's in Social Work from Springfield College, and a Master's in Journalism and Media Production from Sacred Heart University. As a reporter for Connecticut Public, she is dedicated to delivering accurate and informative coverage of the Hispanic/Latino population in the region. Maricarmen is an experienced and passionate journalist who strives to bring a voice to the stories of her community.

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