Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Republican Party Chairman JR Romano (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — It was a race that was too close to call until the very end. Connecticut voters will have to wait a little longer to find out if Bob Stefanowski or Ned Lamont will be governor.

Shortly after 1 a.m., Lamont’s campaign manager announced that supporters should go home. Lamont did not make an appearance.

“Things are going to have to wait a bit longer because of the historic turnout; but when the votes are counted we are confident Ned Lamont will be next governor of state of Connecticut,” Marc Bradley, Lamont’s campaign manager, said.

Republican Party Chairman JR Romano said they are being “denied a result.” He said they don’t know why but several towns are withholding their vote tallies. He said the Republican Party and the Stefanowski campaign have attorneys and are working on the issue, which extended beyond problems already identified in New Haven.

Announcement from Bob Stefanowski Party.

Posted by on Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Weary Stefanowski supporters wandered around the Rocky Hill hotel Tuesday waiting for election updates that never seemed to come. Lamont and his supporters waited to hear the results at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in downtown Hartford.

Many stared at television screens seeking word on whether it was going to be a Democratic or Republican night across America, and if that would impact Connecticut’s race.

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Amy Stefanowski tells supporters to go home and get some sleep (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

California’s election results were coming in before those of at least dozens of Connecticut towns had reported their unofficial results.

Before the polls closed it seemed that Stefanowski was able to channel the anger of Connecticut’s taxpayers in a way that traditional Republicans were unable. Winning the Republican nomination in a five-way primary, Stefanowski, a Madison resident who didn’t vote for 16 years and was briefly registered as a Democrat, was able to capture the frustration of the GOP.

Despite the fact that he wouldn’t cut taxes in his first two years in office, Stefanowski’s pledge that he would eliminate the personal income tax over eight years was attractive to hundreds of thousands of voters.

The race had been too close to call with Stefanowski picking up momentum and overcoming Lamont’s early lead in the polls.

Stefanowski was winning support on Tuesday in some unusual places, like New Haven.
Lifelong Democrat Chris Schnepf said he voted “straight Republican” because of declining state support for community colleges. He heads Gateway Community College’s literature/humanities department and has taught there for 43 years.

“We’re being hit brutally. We’re running a shoestring budget from Hartford,” Schnepf said.

Stefanowski was never going to win the Democratic stronghold of New Haven, but he hired an attorney to make sure that any ballots cast after 8 p.m. by voters who registered that day were segregated from the totals.

Stefanowski’s campaign hired Herb Shephardson to file an injunction to make sure the city of New Haven and town of Mansfield segregated those ballots.

Kendall Marr, a spokesman for Stefanowski’s campaign, said they are only trying to make sure the law is followed. Romano said they are only asking for the ballots to be segregated until the vote is finalized. There will be a hearing on Friday at 10 a.m.

The Secretary of the State’s website warns that voters registering on Election Day “must be registered by 8 p.m. in order to vote.”

Cities like New Haven were far away from completing their voting tallies because of widespread tabulation machine malfunctions due to wet-handed voters coming in from the rain.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, who won re-election, said the main issue is that many of the ballots were wet from being handled by rain-soaked voters who put them into the machines. The wet ballots “jammed the machines,” Merrill said.

She joked that her advice to many Registrars was “to get out your hair dryers.”

Early returns in New Haven were bright for Democrats, but there were other suburban towns that Lamont needed to win in order to pull off a victory. A New Haven Independent tally of New Haven’s reported results from a majority of wards — where the machines weren’t still broken — showed Lamont leading Stefanowski 19,496 to 3,535. And all the remaining wards to be counted are heavily Democratic. Another estimated 1,700 absentee ballots remain to be counted, along with all the same-day registration-and-voting ballots.

During the day, officials across the state reported that voter turnout was heavy throughout the state.

As far as issues with the heavy turnout, the city of New Haven seemed to have the biggest problems.

According to the New Haven Independent, New Haveners waited hours to cast a ballot Tuesday — and some likely never did.

As happened in the past even-numbered years, lines formed and people waited for hours to get through, the Independent reported. And because the law requires people to be registered by 8 p.m. in order to cast a ballot, it appeared that once again some folks would go home without voting.

While Stefanowski and Lamont were waiting to find out who won the hotly contested battle, unaffiliated candidate Oz Griebel was already at home having conceded the race earlier in the night.

Kevin Flood / ctnewsjunkie
Oz Griebel and Monte Frank concede (Kevin Flood / ctnewsjunkie)

At Vibz Uptown, the Hartford nightclub where Griebel and his supporters awaited the results, a party atmosphere prevailed despite no evidence that the polls showing him with 7 to 9 percent of the vote would turn out wrong. Rather than cloistering himself until the time came for his concession, Griebel and running mate Monte Frank began mixing with the crowd around 7 p.m., readily giving interviews, posing with supporters for photos, and joking with his campaign staff.

“What else am I going to do?” he said. “What’s done is done.”

Asked if he was proud of his campaign, Griebel said, “I’m proud of the people who worked on this campaign. We wanted to run an honest campaign that gave people another option, and we did that.”

His campaign’s biggest handicap, he said, was not being allowed to participate in two early debates with Lamont and Stefanowski. Organizers said he had failed to reach a minimum level of support in public polls.

“It definitely would have gotten us the attention we needed,” he said of the debates. He added that he wished he had submitted petition signatures for getting on the ballot sooner.

The concession speeches came at 9:32 p.m., when it was still unknown whether Lamont or Stefanowski would win. Frank, speaking first, said he was proud that the Griebel campaign stayed clear of the attacks waged by the major-party candidates.

“When they went low, we stayed high,” he said, invoking the words of Michelle Obama. “What we need to do is take the foundation that we have laid, and march forward to end the politics of divisiveness, end the politics of fear, end the politics of hatred.”

Griebel acknowledged “genuine disappointment” over his showing but reflected on the people he met in the past year: “You met more people who cared about this state in many ways that you might not have appreciated before. And that kind of energy and commitment is something you take heart in, regardless of who wins this gubernatorial race.”

This was a second loss for Griebel, who had run for the governorship in 2010 as a Republican but lost in the primary. For 17 years he led the MetroHartford Alliance, an organization of Hartford region businesses.

Republican Thad Gray conceded the state treasurer’s race to Shawn Wooden and Kurt Miller conceded the state comptroller’s race to Kevin Lembo Tuesday before all towns had reported their results. Attorney General and Secretary of the State candidates had not made any pronouncements as of 2 a.m.