With 14 fewer members than two years ago, the Democratic majority in the House convened Thursday to elect its leaders.
In what was a tight race, Rep. Brendan Sharkey of Hamden beat Rep. Andrew Fleischmann of West Hartford for the position of Majority Leader.
The final tally, which was conducted behind closed doors in the legislative office building, was within two votes.
“Things opened up, sadly, when Steve [Fontana] lost his election,” Sharkey said.
Fontana, thought to be the frontrunner in the race for majority leader, lost his bid for re-election Tuesday.
Fleischmann, co-chairman of the Education Committee, said there were a lot of undecided lawmakers when Fontana lost, but there were a lot of undecided lawmakers coming into the room today.
“I take that as a positive thing,” Fleischmann said. “Folks found it a hard choice. It was hard for me to run against Brendan.”
“Brendan is a very capable, intelligent, experienced legislator and he’s going to be a great majority leader and we’re all one team,” Fleischmann said.
The position of majority leader is thought to be a path to Speaker of the House.
Denise Merrill, who held the number two position, will be sworn in as Secretary of the State early next year. Merrill was there to help preside over the House Speaker Chris Donovan’s election, which went uncontested by the caucus. Donovan will need to be elected by the entire House of Representatives in January, but with 100 votes in favor of his leadership he is almost assured the necessary 76 he needs to take back the position.
While the role of Speaker needs to tend to the needs of the entire House of Representatives and both parties, Merrill said the role of a majority leader is to set the agenda and get the votes needed to pass it. As majority leader she said you spend a lot of time talking with every member of the caucus. A good majority leader is someone who knows how to collaborate.
Sharkey, who was re-elected to his sixth term Tuesday, chaired the Speaker’s Commission on Municipal Opportunities and Regional Efficiencies that studied ways to nrestructure government at all levels. The group produced an approach to regionalism and shared efficiencies between cities and towns that saves taxpayer dollars. He was also the co-chairman of the Planning and Development Committee.
Asked about who will fill Sharkey’s position as co-chairman of that committee, Donovan said he hasn’t gotten to that yet.
“There’s going to be other seats open when Malloy starts picking people. He may talk to some of our members we don’t know,” Donovan said.
Donovan expressed confident that Democrat Dan Malloy will emerge from this ballot debacle victorious and was referring to the fact that he may bring lawmakers into his administration.
It’s likely since there hasn’t been a Democratic governor elected in 24 years several lawmakers who won Tuesday won’t be taking the oath of office and will instead be going to work for Malloy.