Christine Stuart file photos
Jillian Gilchrest of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut and Peter Wolfgang of the Family Institute of Connecticut (Christine Stuart file photos)

While the economy dominated the 2010 election cycle groups like the Family Institute of Connecticut and NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut were closely monitoring debate and endorsing candidates that backed their issues. Just two days after the dust settled both groups were touting their respective gains in the state legislature, Congress, and the state’s six constitutional offices.

The Family Institute of Connecticut PAC, a conservative Christian organization, admits that while it failed to make any headway with the state’s constitutional officers and Congress, it did make some progress in the General Assembly. It claims in the state Senate eight of the 16 candidates it endorsed won re-election or election and 25 of the 43 state representatives won their contests.

The NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut PAC, a liberal pro-choice organization, claimed its candidates from Congress to the constitutional offices and legislative races were victorious in 47 out of 64 races or 73 percent, while candidates endorsed by the Family Institute of Connecticut were successful in only 55 percent of theirs.

Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, said in a phone interview that NARAL did win at the Congressional and constitutional level, but he feels his organization made some important gains in the state legislature. He said this is the first year the organization picked up seats in the four years since it has been endorsing candidates.

In the Senate Wolfgang cited Jason Welch’s victory over longtime Senator Thomas Colapietro of Bristol as a huge victory, along with House races like Dan Carter’s victory over openly gay representative Jason Bartlett in Bethel and former Rep. Al Adnolfi’s victory over Rep. Elizabeth Esty in the split Cheshire-Wallingford district.

“If you can’t take out Lawlor or McDonald, Jason Bartlett is the next best thing,” Wolfgang said referring to Rep. Michael Lawlor and Sen. Andrew McDonald, the co-chairman of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee.

Wolfgang also cited Tim Ackert’s victory over Rep. Joan Lewis of Coventry and Brenda Kupchick’s victory over Rep. Tom Drew in Fairfield as big wins for his organization.

“We’re in a much better position to hold the line,” against things such as parental notification for an abortion by a minor, Wolfgang said.

“We have stopped suffering the kinds of losses experienced in 2004, 2006, and 2008 and are now gaining seats. This shows that the tide has changed for our movement!” Wolfgang said in a blog post on Nov. 4.

Jillian Gilchrest, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut, said she disagrees with Wolfgang’s perception of the legislative makeup. She said while there were some losses, such as Rep. Lewis in Coventry, the legislature as a whole remains pro-choice and has a governor that’s pro-choice.

“Seventy-three percent of our candidates won and overwhelmingly the legislature is staying pro-choice,” Gilchrest said Thursday. She said by her count there are 74 pro-choice legislators in the House and 24 in the Senate.

She said Rep. Esty lost her race on the death penalty, not on her position regarding a women’s right to choose.

Wolfgang said his organization isn’t taking a position on the death penalty and is instead focusing on beating back efforts to pass a bill that would eliminate discrimination against gender expression and identity, allow physicians to assist terminally ill individuals with suicide, and any other legislation that may threaten religious rights or Connecticut’s families.

Wolfgang admitted that having Malloy as governor is a major deal and will force his organization to be on defense most of the year. He said while it would like to see parental notification of abortions passed, it’s unlikely it will be signed by the governor.

Ironically, Gilchrest said she believes her organization will also be on defense this year defending the half credit of health education required for high school graduation. She said while she would like to see comprehensive health education funded she understands it will be a difficult budget year and it’s likely there won’t be funding for it.

Also she said the group will be monitoring health care reform closely to see how it plays out at the state level.

Wolfgang and the FIC Action Committee didn’t endorse a gubernatorial candidate because Republican Tom Foley was pro-choice too. In a blog post Wolfgang said he predicted Foley’s defeat back in August and believes an endorsement from the FIC Action Committee could have made a difference.

“The GOP ticket was headed by Tom Foley, whose unwillingness to express support for the most basic of pro-family legislative goals—passing parental notification, opposing the transgender bill—made it impossible for us to support him. This was not a litmus test, it was a throw-us-a-bone test—and Foley could not even do that,” Wolfgang wrote.

Malloy, on the other hand, was endorsed early in the process by Love Makes a Family and other influential individuals in the LGBT community.

When receiving that endorsement of the group’s back in April, Malloy vowed to fight to end discrimination against transgender individuals.