A moderate Republican, Sen. Andrew Roraback, fended off his more conservative opponents to take the Republican nomination in the 5th Congressional District.
Shortly before 10 p.m., the new Republican nominee entered the Backstage Cafe in Torrington with his wife and young son in tow. Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ was blaring on the sound system. The normally-staid Roraback was visibly beaming at his 32-27 percent victory over Litchfield businessman Mark Greenberg, his nearest rival.
“Voters today have sent a message that they want to run a candidate who can win for the Republican Party in November,” said Roraback, who has cultivated a non-partisan image during his 18-year career in the General Assembly.
Roraback added that he would work to win the general election “by appealing to the unaffiliated voters who have had enough of President Obama and what the Democrats in Washington are doing to this country.”
Roraback’s supporters were delighted as well. State Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, an early Roraback booster, said in a brief interview that he’s been trying to get Roraback to run for Congress for years. But this primary really puts the 5th district on the map.
“Tomorrow you will see pundits across the country talk about this district,” McKinney said. “Democrats say, of all the Republican candidates, Andrew is the one they’re most afraid of.”
“Andrew had broad support among Democrats and moderates,” McKinney continued. “People like to vote for people they like. And he gets people together.”
John Morris, who represents the Northwest Corner in the Republican State Central Committee and who, like Roraback, hails from Goshen, seemed a little disappointed that Roraback’s Democratic opponent would be centrist Elizabeth Esty.
“It would be harder [for the Democrats] if the nominee was Chris Donovan,” he said.
But he dismissed the notion that two moderates from their respective parties would amount to a static or boring election between candidates who had few differences.
“Gov. Malloy is very unpopular,” said Morris. “Esty will carry that baggage and that will no doubt help Andrew.”
Morris noted that in the 2010 gubernatorial election, the 5th District, which is widely viewed as a swing district, went for Republican Tom Foley over Democrat Dannel Malloy by a margin of 20,000 votes.
Torrington’s Republican Mayor Ryan Bingham said Roraback carried his city easily. He added that he had received a lot of calls from voters who wanted to cast ballots in the 5th District race but who actually lived in the 1st District. The city has been split between the two districts for several years but after the 2012 redistricting, Torrington ceded even more of its east side to the 1st.
Roraback did not do as well in municipalities outside his senate district such as Meriden and Newtown, for example. For obvious reasons, voters there were less familiar with him.
Meanwhile in Soutbury, Greenberg, who in less than three years went from being a political unknown to a formidable challenger, said a split of the conservative vote with one of the other contenders probably kept him from capturing the Republican nomination.
“I think a lot of my vote went to Justin Bernier,” the Litchfield real estate developers said referring to the U.S. Navy veteran from Plainville who also competed with Greenberg for the GOP nomination in the district two years ago.
Greenberg placed second to Roraback, who won the party’s convention endorsement last May.
“I think it would have been a different result without Justin,” Marc Katz, Greenberg’s campaign manager, said. “I think, for example, among the pro-life people, the two of them ended up splitting up that vote.”
“He got a lot of my conservative vote,” said Greenberg.
Bernier had placed second and Greenberg was third in three-way race in 2010 when then-state Sen. Sam Caligiuri of Waterbury took the GOP nod.
Greenberg said in an interview at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Southbury that he wasn’t sure what impact the 11th-hour television commercials and direct mail from Simsbury businessman Lisa Wilson-Foley had on the race. The mailers accused Greenberg of having outstanding liens on his properties.
Greenberg’s campaign called the advertising “a blatant lie” and “an act of desperation” by Wilson-Foley.
“There were some people who supported me because they reacted to her negative advertising,” Greenberg said. “But I don’t know how many votes I lost because of it.”
In his concession speech, he said politics needs “to become less negative and less vindictive.”
“It keeps people away from the polls and creates apathy,” Greenberg added.
Greenberg said he “likes” Roraback “very much” and plans to talk with him about assisting with the general election campaign.
He said the district, which has been held by Democrat Chris Murphy of Cheshire for the last six years, is “absolutely winnable” for the GOP this fall.
“I don’t think it’s going to be easy,” Katz said. “Ms. Esty is a formidable candidate. But I think Andrew can do it.”
In Farmington, Wilson-Foley avoided comment on federal investigation which dogged her campaign.
The federal grand jury investigation former Gov. John Rowland’s involvement as a consultant for her husband’s nursing home chain at the same time as he was a volunteer for her campaign went unaddressed by the candidate.
Wilson-Foley has maintained that Rowland’s work was merely a coincidence.
Wilson-Foley, who was surrounded by family, friends and supporters at Matthew’s Restaurant in the Unionville section of Farmington, said she was disappointed that this year’s campaigns fell back into negative campaigning rather than focusing on policies and issues.
“Life’s not fair, but I’m still standing here and there are people that I’ve met along this trail that are not because life is not fair,” she said of the disappointing outcome.
Wilson-Foley said she fought a good fight, but it wasn’t her fight to win. Then changed her tune to a more optimistic one.
“I’ll get my life back, my husband will get his wife back, and my kids will get their mom back,” Wilson-Foley said.
Her next step, she said, was to hug her family and take a one or two week break.
“This has been an exhausting time and the energy you need to run for this kind of election certainly can strike anybody’s patience,” she said.
Wilson-Foley noted the importance of “clinging to what’s important,” namely family. She recognized that tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of her mother’s death and shared the wisdom her mother imparted on her before passing.
“She said ‘do your best and say a little prayer because sometimes your best is not enough.’ Well, I’ve done both of those things, it’s not enough. I don’t know where I’m meant to be, but I am going to support whoever wins this race,” she said.
Wilson-Foley supporters like Susan Markowitz said she’s not sure which candidate she can get behind come November.
“I haven’t even gotten that far,” Markowitz said.