Gavel (Christine Stuart photo)

Democrats in Bridgeport will hold another primary election to choose a state representative nominee following a Tuesday ruling by a Superior Court judge in a lawsuit related to contested results in a race between candidate Marcus Brown and incumbent Jack Hennessy. 

The 14-page ruling by Judge Barry Stevens followed two recounts and weeks of litigation between Hennessy, a legislative veteran first elected in 2005, and Brown, a city councilman. Barring further developments in the case, Stevens ordered the new primary be held on Tuesday, Oct. 18, just three weeks before the general election. 

Brown brought the lawsuit after his initial five-vote victory was overturned by an automatic recount that gave Hennessy a one-vote advantage. A subsequent recount resulted in a two-vote win for Brown and prompted a cross complaint by Hennessy’s attorney, which alleged absentee ballot fraud by four voters whose ballot applications were signed by someone else, in most cases a family member. 

Stevens wrote that the four votes in question may have been among the ballots which gave Brown a two-vote lead. That uncertainty left the judge unable to validate the second recount. 

“[B]ut for this mistake in the count of the votes, the result of the primary might have been different; and that the court is unable to determine the result of the primary,” Stevens wrote. “Therefore, for these reasons and under the authority of [state law], the court hereby orders a new Democratic primary election for the office of State Representative of the 127th Assembly District.”

A spokesperson for Secretary of the State Mark Kohler declined Tuesday to comment on the judge’s ruling. However, an assistant attorney general representing Kohler and other state officials filed a motion asking Stevens to clarify his decision. Specifically, Assistant Attorney General Emily Gait asked the judge to explain the mistake he referred to in the ruling and articulate when that mistake took place. 

“These timely articulations and clarifications are critical to the parties’ ability to understand the factual and legal bases for the Court’s order so as to preserve the parties’ rights in this time sensitive matter,” Gait wrote. 

In a statement Tuesday, state Democratic Party chair Nancy DiNardo said “Connecticut Democrats will respect the judge’s decision, and we encourage every eligible voter to cast a ballot in this upcoming primary.”