By DON STACOMhc-erin-stewart-new-britain-craves-new-leaders-001

12:23 a.m. EDT, July 20, 2013

NEW BRITAIN — At 26, Republican mayoral nominee Erin Stewart says she’s got exactly what city government needs: Vitality and fresh ideas.

“I bring a new vision, a fresh vision, a new energy, enthusiasm,” Stewart told the crowd of Republicans who gathered to endorse her campaign Friday night.

“We’ve got to take our city back, take it back from the divisiveness, take it back it back from the lack of leadership, take it back from the fiscal embarrassment, take it back from the political cronyism.”

A group of more than 70 party members and candidates gave a standing ovation when former Mayor Timothy Stewart nominated his daughter.

“Erin has the capacity to lead the city back to a place we can all be proud of,” he said, adding that in the two years he’s been out of office “taxes have risen and jobs have been given away to political friends.”

Erin Stewart, a school board member, has her sights on putting Democratic Mayor Tim O’Brien out of a job in November. She got a boost Friday when state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney showed up at the endorsement convention to speak on her behalf.

“Erin has a tremendous amount of passion and love for the city of New Britain,” said McKinney, who knows her from her work as a legislative aide at the Capitol.

McKinney drew a loud “No” from the crowd when he asked “Are you happy with the leadership you have now?,” and then got a laugh when he added “Do you miss a fiscally responsible mayor with the last name of Stewart?”

Mary Marrocco, who served on the council during Timothy Stewart’s administration, called on Republicans to support this year’s youth-oriented ticket.

“The city needs young people who think out of the box. We really need to support our youth,” Marrocco said. “I really fear if we don’t support Erin and her team, we are going to end up like Detroit.”

Erin Stewart will head a ticket including common council incumbents Willie Pabon and Jamie Giantonio and challengers for an open seat and 12 others held by Democrats. The Republican lineup for council also includes Chris Duffy, Diane Domejczyk, Hunter Mathena, Al Mayo, Don Naples, Robert Smedley, Iwona Rutkowski, Paul Shaker Jr., Celeste Roche, Chris Polkowski, Carmelo Rodriguez, Danny Salerno and Matt Cannata. Among the other candidates endorsed Friday night was former Alderman Mark Bernacki, who is running for city clerk.

Erin Stewart said she’ll need the work and support of the entire ticket, but promised that victory will mean major improvements for the city.

“I’m an experienced young professional woman with a yearning to make a difference in my community, with a decade of service to my community, she said.

“I am sick of the tax hikes with nothing to show for it, the dilapidated road conditions, the creditors saying our city is failing, the same old ‘raise taxes, raise spending’ strategy,” she said. “New Britain craves new leadership — a leader who has a seat for everyone at her table.”

This article originally appeared in the Hartford Courant.