After a recount in Wallingford and Cheshire, Republican Rep. Craig Fishbein will hold onto his legislative seat by 17 votes, overturning an apparent loss to Democratic challenger Jim Jinks during last week’s election.
The recount was required by state law after Wallingford officials discovered a result-reporting error Monday, which put the race within one-half of 1%. Initially the recalculation had Fishbein leading by 21 votes. When the votes were re-tallied and reported to the state Friday, Fishbein had retained the seat by a 17-vote margin.
In a phone interview Friday, Fishbein said the tight results underscore the importance of voting.
“Every vote does count. There’s really no other lesson to take away from it. Those who had sought my defeat should take away the same lesson,” he said. “I’m just happy with the razor-thin margin that I was successful.”
It was still unclear exactly what went wrong in the initial reporting that led to Jinks’ erroneously reported victory. Wallingford Town Clerk Barbara Thompson said she discovered Monday that the results reported into the secretary of the state’s election system did not include returns from one of Wallingford’s voting precincts. She said the mix-up was either a clerical or a computing error.
Gabe Rosenberg, communications director for Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, said state law requires town officials to check their reported results against hard copies generated by tabulators. He said each step of the process is bipartisan, involving both Democrats and Republicans.
The error “was caught exactly when it should have been caught. Town clerks and registrars are required by law to sit down together a couple of days after the election to check the tapes against what they reported on election night. That’s exactly where they caught it,” he said.
Fishbein said the last two weeks have been a rollercoaster.
“I went up to the Capitol last Wednesday and I emptied my Capitol office. I took my name plate out of the parking garage and off of the door. I gifted my couch. My wife went and got new health insurance and now we’re in a totally different place,” he said.
Thompson described Thursday’s recount process as “intense” with lawyers for both candidates closely scrutinizing the process. In her 13 years as Wallingford town clerk, she said it was the first time she had seen a result overturned in a recount.
“You felt bad for Jim because he thought he won and now he didn’t. You feel happy for Craig because now he didn’t lose his seat. You feel for both sides,” she said. “I’m a true Libra. I see both sides of the aisle.”
Jinks could not be reached for comment.
The upset will do little to shift the balance of power in the Connecticut House of Representatives where Democrats hold a strong majority. Fishbein’s victory shrinks that advantage to 97 to 54.
Fishbein has made news in recent weeks for his role in representing a group of parents in court opposing Connecticut’s requirement that students wear masks in schools. Last week a judge rejected his motion asking the court to halt the mandate, citing a medical consensus that masks are safe for children. Fishbein said he did not believe the lawsuit factored into the election results.
Razor-thin election results happen in almost every election for the General Assembly. Outgoing House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz squeaked out a 50-vote victory over Republican Michael Gagliardi during a 2018 recount in Berlin. In the Senate that same year, Republican George Logan beat Jorge Cabrera by 85 votes for the 17th District seat—only to have Cabrera win the rematch in 2020.