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Stalled outlet mall in West Haven may have cost Mayor Ed O’Brien

WEST HAVEN --  Following a major upset in the West Haven democratic mayoral primary Tuesday, the two term incumbent and his challenger are are still trying to process what happened.

"Surprise" is how two-term incumbent Ed O'Brien described his reaction to the results.  Former city councilwoman, Nancy Rossi, won by 136 votes.

"I'm still, like, pinching myself," Rossi said Wednesday.

Roughly 550 fewer voters turned out for this year's Democratic primary compared to two years ago.

"I think people thought that I was a shoe in, that it was going to be a win and they just didn't get out and vote," O'Brien said.

But, Rossi thinks her background as an accountant is primarily what pushed her past O'Brien.

"The majority of our problems have to do with our budget and our deficit and financial conditions that have gotten worse over the past few years," she said.

O'Brien disputes that label.

"Our finances are in check, finally, in the City of West Haven," he claims.

The budget deficit has remained flat, he says, since he took office. Rossi disputed that.

"When John Picard left office, it was a $7.8 million deficit and now we stand it over $16 million," she said.

O'Brien claims she read the audits improperly.

Another reason O'Brien thinks he lost the primary is The Haven, a waterfront outlet mall project, for which the developers and city required dozens of properties to be turned over through eminent domain. And, the project still hasn't broken ground, despite the deal being consummated under the previous administration.

"Four years later, we don't have really any action," Rossi noted. "We have boarded up buildings, which people are upset about."

But, O'Brien says demolition could begin in several weeks.

We changed the image of West Haven and we changed the direction of West Haven and hopefully we stay on that path," O'Brien said, claiming more economic development has been carried out on his watch than for previous West Haven mayors.

Rossi believes she is the first woman to be the Democratic nominee for mayor.

"I'm very very excited about that and I hope I become the first woman mayor of the city of West Haven," she said.

To achieve that, she says she will be putting on her sneakers every night and knocking on doors until the general election November 7.