(Updated 12:30 a.m.) Riding the coattails of president-elect Barack Obama, Democrats in the Nutmeg state picked up at least six more seats in the House and at least one more seat in the Senate boosting their two-thirds majority in the General Assembly to a veto-proof majority.
Late Tuesday night it looked like Democrats could boost their majority in the House from 107 seats to 112 or 113 seats, while Democrats in the Senate expected to boost their majority from 23 to 24 or 25 seats depending on the outcome of some close races.
With a two-thirds majority in both chambers, a Democrat-controlled legislature could override Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s veto in the coming term. But will they?
Majority Leader Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, who is expected to be anointed Speaker of the House in January said the reason Democrats won is because they talked about the issues.
Donovan, who was on the second floor of the state Capitol with his staff as results poured in from across the state, said he wants to sit down with the governor and lay out what his party thinks this state needs to move forward.
“We would like to have her cooperation and work together with her,” he said.
Senate President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said the challenges the state faces will “demand we work together in a bipartisan manner.”
Rell seemed to agree.
“Right now, America needs the strong leadership that only a commitment to bipartisanship can provide,” Rell said in an emailed statement. “The time for campaigning has ended and the task of balancing our state budget begins. Our economic issues transcend party politics.”
However, there are more than just budget issues to consider.
When the new legislature convenes in January it will need to address some important issues. Will the state move toward a universal health care system? Or which group will face the next income tax hike? Should the state use tolls to supplement a portion of the state gas tax? And who will fill vacancies when a U.S. senator resigns?
“When the new Legislature convenes in January, both Democrats and Republicans will have to do the arithmetic. The election is now over and it is time to put Connecticut first. It is time to govern – and that work starts today,” Rell said in her statement.
Williams agreed that the legislature will need to work together to solve issues like the estimated billion budget deficit. “We want to continue to work with her in a bipartisan manner,” he said.
The overwhelming Democratic victory on Tuesday means, “when it comes to the economy, health care, and education voters feel more comfortable with Democrats and our positions on those issues,” he said. He said it’s too soon to talk about what issues the Democratic party may move to the top of their agenda knowing it has a veto-proof majority.
Pat O’Neill spokesman for the House Republicans said the overwhelming victory for the Democrats doesn’t change anything. He said whether its 44 or 38, the Republicans “have still been able to drive the debate.”
He said the GOP has had two difficult election cycles. He said during this past election cycle nine Republican legislators retired and Democrats happened to have a large voter turnout for the top of the ticket, which then trickled down to the state races. He said in reality Republicans picked up three Democratic seats, and Democrats picked up three Republican seats, and the remaining six were up for grabs.
In the Senate, Robert Russo, R-Bridgeport, who was elected in a special election to fill the vacancy left when Bill Finch left to become Bridgeport’s mayor, conceded early Tuesday evening to his Democratic challenger Anthony Musto. In the House one of the races that is still too close to call is in the 62nd House District contest between incumbent Rep. Richard Ferrari, R-East Granby, and his Democratic challenger Annie Hornish.
Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz said an automatic recount will be triggered if the difference is between 20 votes or 0.5 percent of the total number of votes cast. Ted Bromley, an attorney with the Secretary of States office, said the wrong ballots were brought to the wrong polling places in the towns of Fairfield, Stratford, and Manchester. Bromley said the mistake in Manchester was discovered after two people voted. In the 132nd and 133rd House Districts in Fairfield, along with the 21st Senate District in Stratford, the ballot mistake wasn’t discovered until an estimated 70 people had voted.
The mix-up means voters in those districts may not have had the option of voting for one of the candidates in those district.
If there’s a challenge in any of those towns, Bromley, speculated it would have to be settled in court.