Susan Bigelow

Welcome to part two of my look at Connecticut’s legislative races, all about the race for the 36 seats in the state Senate. You can read part one, which focused on the House of Representatives, here.

I’ll be using the same methodology here that I used in that previous post to figure out which races are good ones to keep an eye on during election night. The first feature a race could have to get on this list is being an open seat. Open seats in even a marginally competitive district are a real wild card. A district that once seemed pretty safe could flip, because voters oftentimes want a change of direction after a longtime incumbent leaves office. 

There are 9 open seats this election cycle, which is fairly high for the senate. I’ve only included 7 of these because two of them, districts 27 and 23, are in Stamford and Bridgeport respectively. The chances of either Republican doing well there are extremely low.

The second feature a race needs is if the seat flipped in 2020 or in a recent special election. Two seats flipped in 2020: the 17th district, which runs from Derby and Ansonia over to Woodbridge and Hamden, then up through Bethany and Beacon Falls to Naugatuck, and the 6th district, which is New Britain and Berlin. The 6th is usually a reliable Democratic district, but it flipped during a special election in 2019. It hasn’t been competitive for any general election, though, so it is not included here. The 36th district, which is in Greenwich, Stamford, and New Canaan, flipped to the GOP during a special election in 2021. This district has been close since flipping to Dems in 2018, so it’s included here.

The last feature a race could have to be on this list is whether it’s in territory that is changing politically to a degree that elections are affected. This mostly means races in eastern Connecticut, which has been trending hard toward Republicans over the past decade.

On to the list! Check the map for your district to see who is running.

District 4: This is an open-seat race between Democrat MD Masudur Rahman and Republican Jacqueline Crespan, both of whom are immigrants and who have interesting life stories to share. Rahman was nominated over veteran lawmaker Steve Cassano, who has been in politics for four decades, at the district convention back in May. Crespan, who is originally from Uganda, is looking to chart a new course and change the GOP from within.

District 8: This is another open seat created by the retirement of longtime senator Kevin Witkos. The 8th, which includes parts of the Farmington Valley, Torrington, Winsted, and a number of tiny Litchfield County towns, is one of those districts that has been held by Republicans since forever. However, as the Farmington Valley swings more toward Democrats, the possibility of a flip does exist. Democrat Paul Honig, a Harwinton selectman, is facing Lisa Seminara, a member of the Avon school board.

District 13: The 13th, which is centered on Meriden but also includes Cheshire, Middlefield, and part of Middletown, has changed hands repeatedly over the past decade. This year it’s an open seat following the decision of Sen. Mary Daugherty Abrams, D-Meriden, to not run for re-election. The candidates are Democrat Jan Hochadel, president of the Connecticut chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, and Republican Joseph Vollano, a political podcaster and business owner. 

District 17: This district flipped in 2020, as I mentioned above. The Republican who lost this seat in 2020 is George Logan, who is running in the 5th congressional district against Rep. Jahana Hayes. Sen. Jorge Cabrera is facing Republican Kathy Hoyt, a former teacher and realtor from Hamden. This is another district that has changed hands often, and is likely to be close again this year.

District 19: Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, is facing political newcomer Pietro “Rocky” Camardella of Norwich, an Italian immigrant and photo studio owner. This sounds like a mismatch, but the 19th is in territory that has been shifting towardsthe Republican Party. An unexpectedly close race is absolutely a possibility here.

District 20: The 20th is another open seat, caused by the retirement of Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme. New London city council member Martha Marx, a Democrat, is facing Republican Jerry Labriola, Jr., who was at one point the chair of the state Republican Party. Formica defeated Marx in 2018 and 2020.

District 26: This race is doubly interesting, because it’s not only an open seat following the decision of Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, to go to law school instead of running again, it also features the woman Haskell defeated in 2018, Republican Toni Boucher. Boucher, who is from Wilton, is running to recapture her old seat against Democrat Ceci Maher, a nonprofit executive. 

District 29: A longtime Democratic incumbent, Sen. Mae Flexer, is facing Republican Susanne Witkowski, a member of the board of selectmen in Thompson. This race is in a part of the state that is trending Republican. The University of Connecticut is in this district, which is one reason it’s still in Democratic hands, but the possibility of an upset exists.

District 30: Sen. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, is not running for re-election this year in this northwestern Connecticut district. Running to replace him are Rep. Stephan Harding, R-Brookfield, and community advocate Eva Bermúdez Zimmerman, a Democrat who made headlines during her run for lieutenant governor in 2018. I follow Zimmerman’s career with great interest, because her 2018 run resulted in a fascinating coalition of voters I’ve never seen before. This district is also in the northwest corner of the state, which has been trending toward Democrats over the past few elections.

District 35: Another open seat, this time created by the retirement of Republican Sen. Dan Champagne. Running to replace him are Republican Dr. Jeff Gordon, the Planning and Zoning Commission chairman in Woodstock, and Democrat Lisa Thomas, a member of the Coventry town council. This district is in strong Republican territory.

District 36: The 36th has a very interesting recent history. It was won by former Sen. Alex Kasser, who became the first Democrat to win the district in 88 years. When Kasser resigned in 2021, the district was won by Republican Ryan Fazio in a special election. Democrat Trevor Crow of Greenwich is facing Fazio this fall. Lower Fairfield County has been trending toward the Democrats, but this district may be somewhat harder for Dems to win after redistricting caused it to have less of Stamford and more of New Canaan. 

That’s the list–chances are at least one or two of these will flip. So keep an eye out on election night!

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of or any of the author's other employers.