GUILFORD, CT — The Democratic Party’s celebration made its way to one of Guilford’s popular hangouts Thursday as U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy and state Sen.-elect Christine Cohen basked in the glow of their Tuesday night victories.
The Marketplace at Guilford Food Center, a hotspot in downtown Guilford, was even busier than usual, as Murphy, Cohen, Rep. Sean Scanlon, who ran unopposed, Democratic First Selectman Matt Hoey, and other elected Democratic officials and supporters patted each other on the back for the Democratic tidal wave that hit Connecticut.
Not only did Ned Lamont win a close race for governor against Republican Bob Stefanowski, but the state Senate and the House of Representatives saw Democratic membership swell.
Over the past eight years, Republicans had picked up 41 seats in the House and the Senate. But those gains evaporated Tuesday.
The Connecticut Republican Party decided in 2008 when their numbers in the House were as low as 37 and 12 in the Senate to focus on the state’s fiscal policies. They spent years writing and proposing budget alternatives and each year picked up seats until this year.
Republican President Donald Trump wasn’t on the ballot, but his unpopularity in Connecticut seems to have ruined what had been viewed as an opportunity to pick up seats.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said the weekend before the election that Connecticut voters know Connecticut lawmakers aren’t responsible for everything Trump says and does.
“The state of Connecticut is smarter than that,” Klarides said. “They understand what 8 years of a Democrat governor and 41 years of a Democrat legislature have done to this state.”
But the voters apparently disagreed.
The Senate, which was split 18-18 will now be 24-12 in favor of the Democrats when the General Assembly convenes next January. And based on unofficial vote tallies, the House of Representatives will be 92 Democrats to 59 Republicans, depending on whether one or two possible recount votes hold up.
House Democrats began election night with an 80-71 advantage.
“It was amazing to see how Democrats did across the state,” Murphy, who won his own re-election to a second Senate term easily, said Thursday in Guilford.
Murphy defeated Republican Matthew Corey by a 3-2 margin. The 45-year-old Democrat has developed a national profile, partly for his stance on stronger gun laws, his well-publicized annual walks across Connecticut, and frequent appearances on national TV.
He amassed $14.5 million for his re-election bid, attracting contributions from many outside Connecticut through his advocacy on issues, including gun control and opposition to Trump.
“There are so many brand new people that will be serving,” Murphy said. “And that’s all across the state.”
In fact, Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, D- Berlin, noted on Wednesday that there were a total of 24 new candidates elected to the House – half of those candidates are women. And Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, took pride in noting that there will be 10 women in the new Democratic Senate caucus when the General Assembly convenes next January.
One of them will be Cohen.
“Look at Christine Cohen – a small business owner who is now a state senator,” said Murphy in Guilford Thursday.
Cohen, the owner of Cohen’s Bagel Company in Madison, had a tough race in her first attempt at office. She beat Republican Adam Greenberg in a close contest, outpolling him by slightly more than 1,000 votes – with slightly more than 51 percent to Greenberg’s slightly more than 48 percent – in the district that covers Guilford, Madison, Branford, North Branford, Killingworth, and Durham.
She will be replacing Ted Kennedy Jr., who did not run for re-election.
Cohen termed her victory “really thrilling.”
“The whole campaign and election was so exciting and I am really energized,” Cohen said.
She said she was really excited by how high voter turnout was not just in the 12th District but throughout the state.
Cohen is a long-time community activist and education advocate and member of the Guilford Board of Education. Prior to founding her own company, Cohen was a marketing and global planning manager at the Stanley Works of New Britain.
Asked what will be her priorities as a state senator, Cohen said: “I have a passion for education, have a passion for environmental causes.” She said one of her goals is to be appointed to the Education Committee.
The Senate Democratic caucus will decide on its leadership today and committee assignments are typically made in December.