WEST HAVEN/STAMFORD/New Britain, CT (WFSB) -- Election Day is just hours away, and while this is considered an off year, with no presidential, congressional or state races, there are plenty of hotly contested local races.

Voter turnout in an off year is usually low, but there are some local races that have drawn quite a bit of attention.

One in Stamford, one in New Haven, and one in New Britain.

On election day, voters in Stamford will decide who will be the city’s new mayor.

Democrat Caroline Simmons is a state legislator who has been endorsed by local papers.

She is running against Bobby Valentine, the unaffiliated candidate who raised eyebrows during the debate when he called the 35-year-old Simmons a “girl.”

Valentine is a hometown legend and former baseball manager.

Both candidates have raised more than a million dollars.

In West Haven, another mayor’s race has been rocked by a scandal.

“You can’t know who is going to be a criminal, let me just put it that way,” said West Haven Mayor Nancy Rossi.

The alleged criminal is Michael DiMassa, a city employee and a state representative who was arrested by the FBI. He’s accused of setting up a shell company, and the feds accuse him of stealing more than $600,000 in pandemic relief money that was given to the city.

“He did this on his own. I did not know about this LLC until I looked into the COVID expenditures and found it myself,” Rossi said.

“This scandal obviously is going to have an impact,” said Republican challenger Barry Cohen.

He said he signed off on DiMassa to distribute, but had no knowledge of the LLC. He said there should have been more transparency.

“She is no hero. She caused this as the mayor, she caused this,” Cohen said.

West Haven has a Democratic majority, but the scandal could shake things up a bit.

Guilford may have one of the most heated school board races ever.

First it started with comments made by campaign manager for the Republican candidates Mary Beeman, who, during a UConn education forum on how to teach racism made the comment “helping kids of color to feel like they belong has a negative effect on white Christian or conservative kids.”

Beeman said the statement was taken out of context.

Right after the remark, the campaign advisor for the independent candidates responded “exactly what context would that comment be positive in.”

In New Britain, Democrat Representative Bobby Sanchez is running against four term incumbent Republican Erin Stewart for the mayor’s office. However, Sanchez says he’s feeling hopeful. “I’m feeling really excited. Really positive,” says Sanchez. Stewart herself is feeling some election night eve nerves. “It’s always a nerve wracking feeling you know you’re 24 hours away from your fate,” says Stewart.

Mayor Erin Stewart is working to make history in New Britain as the first Republican mayor to serve five terms. If she is re-elected, she says she is planning to focus on economic development.

“It’s no secret economic development has been at the top of my priority list as long as maintaining the tax cut that I was able to implement this pas summer. I have to maintain that because the hardworking families of New Britain deserve to be able to afford to pay their bills,” says Stewart.

Representative Sanchez, co-chairman of the legislature’s education committee says his focus is on schools. “First thing I’m going to do is communicate with our board of ed and our school system. Find out what are the issues. What policies are working. What policies are not working and let’s get to it because we’re having a number of issues in our schools,” Sanchez says.

Both candidates say they hope to work to get residents vaccinated. The Mayor says the current vaccination rate is around 55%. Both candidates explain why voters should vote for them on election day.

“I really love what I do. I love my city I thoroughly enjoy the job that I do here because I can see the results of my work and I really hope people recognize that,” Stewart says.  

“I’ve done ten years up at the state capital, so I come with experience. I will roll up my sleeves and start from day 1 to work on the issues that we have at hand,” Sanchez says.

There’s another heated issue about what happened with absentee ballot applications mailed to voters with a pre-signed photocopy signature.

Republicans say a Democratic town committee mailer included a pre-signed application which they feel violates election laws.

They have filed a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

“This was not the right process. This was an illegal process and I think they went along with it anyway because they just wanted to get out absentee ballot applications to as many people as possible,” said Deborah Demusis, a Republican campaign volunteer.

The complaint was filed two weeks ago, and the State Elections Enforcement Commission voted to authorize an investigation. But it will take a while “the commission has one year from the date this complaint was received to resolve this matter.”

The Secretary of the State isn’t saying this is illegal at all. The general counsel says there was a “miscommunication between our office and a representative of several campaigns. It was a technical issue and no election or voters’ ability to participate should be affected.”

Copyright 2021 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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