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State Rep. Penny Bacchiocchi won the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor with more than 50 percent of the vote Saturday despite having to issue an apology to another candidate for accusations that he’d made an issue out of her biracial marriage.

Bacchiochi, of Stafford, won a first ballot victory during the Republican nominating convention at the Mohegan Sun Convention Center in Uncasville. Two other candidates, David Walker and Heather Somers, received enough support from delegates to run primary challenges. Walker is a Bridgeport resident, and Somers is from Groton.

Despite having been dubbed the frontrunner, Bacchiochi’s victory is nothing short of stunning considering that about 48 hours before Saturday’s vote she told WTIC’s Jim Vicevich that fellow Republicans were attacking her based on her biracial marriage. She apparently reiterated the statement to WFSB’s Susan Raff, who reported that Bacchiochi said it had been Walker making the statement, setting off a firestorm of questions from the news media and within the party.

But over the next 24 hours she avoided reporters and failed to substantiate the claim. Walker demanded an apology.

Two of the state’s leading Republican pundits, the Courant’s Kevin Rennie and former state GOP Chairman Chris Healy, described her candidacy on Friday as “undone” and in a “nose dive.” Healy suggested on his blog that Bacchiochi had been referring to statements made by a Walker supporter.

Eventually, Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. brokered Bacchiochi’s public apology to Walker, which was issued in a written statement. Healy reported via Twitter seeing an “animated” discussion taking place between Labriola, Walker, and Bacchiochi outside the convention hall on Friday.

Saturday after the vote, Walker said he was a little surprised after the events of the last few days that there weren’t more repercussions for Bacchiochi, who still managed to receive the support of 50 percent of the convention delegates.

Bacchiochi said she did not think the incident damaged her candidacy.

“I think that was yesterday and we’ve moved on,” she said.

But the emotional rollercoaster was still fresh.

“I was disappointed,” Walker, who received more than 17 percent of the vote, said. “I knew I would qualify. I wasn’t concerned about that. But after the events of the last 48 hours, I would have thought there would have been more repercussions than there were.”

Hugh McQuaid Photo
That said, Walker is moving forward.

Bacchiochi said she also is moving forward and expects a “very positive” primary campaign.

“I’m really looking forward to just keep talking to voters across the state of Connecticut. I think a ground game is very important, so all of us as nominated candidates need to be out there every single day directly talking to voters about how we’re going to make Connecticut better,” she said.

Bacchiochi is the only lieutenant governor candidate who hasn’t teamed up with one of the candidates for governor.

In Connecticut, lieutenant governor candidates run by themselves on the primary ballot. Only after the primary are the winners of the two spots merged. The process has created some interesting tickets in the past, merging Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton with Tom Foley in 2010 and Mary Glassman with former New Haven Mayor John DeStefano in 2006.

“I think now that Tom Foley and I are the nominees, I think we’re likely running together. But that said, Tom has raised his money, I have raised my money, so I assume we will each move forward with separate financial committees,” Bacchiochi said.

Like Bacchiochi, Foley faces a possible three-way primary. Both the other candidates, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, have aligned themselves with lieutenant governor candidates — McKinney with Walker and Boughton with Somers.

After receiving the party nomination for governor earlier Saturday, Foley said he trusted the Republican delegates to chose a lieutenant governor candidate and did not have a personal preference.

“Listen, some of this has to do with raising money and I was able to qualify for the public financing without having to rely on a running mate,” Foley said.