(Updated 11 p.m.) With Democrats appearing to hold onto seven seats and Republicans gaining two, Tuesday’s special elections did not turn out to be the referendum on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget proposal that Republicans had sought.
Instead Democrats were able to hold onto two Senate seats, one in Stamford and one in New Britain, in addition to five House seats. Republicans picked up one Senate seat in Meriden and one House seat in Madison.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said just four months ago he had 37 members in his caucus, but tonight he has 52 members. He said Republicans came close in several of the races. As for it being a referendum on Malloy’s budget, he wasn’t quite sure the “whole budget thing had time to sink in.”
He said the budget address was given a mere six days ago, which is less than ample time for residents to fully comprehend its magnitude and the $1.5 billion in tax increases.
Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy embraced a similar tone.
“We picked up two seats in heavily Democratic districts,” Healy said trying to put a positive spin on the elections.
He said Len Suzio, who won former Sen. Thomas Gaffey’s seat in Meriden, will be the first Republican since 1972 to hold the seat. “We were competitive in all these races,” Healy said noting that some like the one East Haven were lost by less than 100 votes.
As far as the budget is concerned, “it’s still percolating,” Healy said. “The real referendum will be next year after the budget hits home.”
He said he’s disappointed in the results, but the trend-line is definitely good.
Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said these nine special elections, due mostly to Malloy’s appointment of lawmakers to the administration, were about local issues. She said the local candidates ran great campaigns and were able to turn out the vote, an important factor in any special election.
“Chris Healy was right. The people of Connecticut did ‘vote with their feet,’ and once again voters elected Democrats in the most Republican political climate that we’ve seen in over twenty years,” said DiNardo. “Healy gave voters little credit, and instead of being distracted by the cheap rhetoric of his party, they knew that our Democratic candidates offered the kind of leadership that we need in Connecticut to bring our state back onto the road to economic recovery.”
So what happened in Meriden, where Democrats have historically done well?
House Speaker Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said Suzio had an entire year to campaign, since he ran against Gaffey last fall and lost. He said Thomas Bruenn a veteran labor leader and retired school teacher, had just a month to catch up.
Dan Kelly, executive director of the Democratic Party, said “Suzio or his Republican colleagues ran a shameful, negative anti-gay push poll, and attacked Tom Bruenn for being gay throughout the race.”
Click here to read more about that issue and that race.
Aside from the loss in Meriden where Donovan lives, Democrats did well despite having to hold the election six days after the governor’s budget address.
“They trust the Democrats to do the right thing,” Donovan said of voters across the state.
On the heels of a holiday and in the middle of the winter, Deputy Secretary of the State James Spallone expected final voter turnout numbers to be fairly low.
Overall, he said the special elections were uneventful and of the handful of problems reported all were solved very quickly, Spallone said.
Bridgeport voluntarily ordered 100 percent of the necessary ballots, but they were not quick to submit their tallies to the Secretary of the State’s Office. Numbers in the seven-way race show the endorsed Democrat Charlie Stallworth won.
Spallone said they requested that Registrar’s send their tallies electronically, by email to the state, even though they have more than 24-hours to submit their results by fax. The fax machine was frequently checked throughout the evening and the first results which came from Chester came by fax.
Deep River posted the results at the library and gave them to the state trooper to drive to Hartford Wednesday, but one of the poll watchers was able to give Spallone an unofficial tally of the results in that town.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill was sick and unable to monitor the election returns.
All the results received as of 11 p.m. Tuesday are posted below:
The town by town report is below: