With a pair of double-digit wins at the top of the ticket, a clean sweep of constitutional officer posts and continued control of the state legislature, Connecticut Democrats didn’t let a nationally watched and still-unresolved congressional contest temper a Wednesday victory lap.
“The red wave is still at sea. Never came ashore,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said during the first of two post-election press conferences outside the state Capitol building in Hartford. “Here in Connecticut, very positive results for Democrats.”
True to form, Blumenthal, who was declared the victor just moments after polls closed Tuesday in his race against Republican Leora Levy, appeared at both morning press conferences – first with his Senate colleague Chris Murphy, then with the Democratic slate of constitutional officers.
Gov. Ned Lamont, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, Attorney General William Tong, Comptroller-elect Sean Scanlon, Secretary of the State-elect Stephanie Thomas and Treasurer-elect Erick Russell, were all handed victories Tuesday.
The election results preserved the Democratic Party’s control of the levers of government in Connecticut, where voters largely resisted the urge to punish a sitting president’s party during a midterm election.
“I see a lot of friction, a lot of edginess across the country when it comes to elections,” Lamont said, standing at a podium in front of a crowd that included many of his executive branch commissioners. “Not in Connecticut. When the election’s over we come back together, we come as one and we work together and that’s why Connecticut is in a better position today than it’s been in many a year.”
Although Democrats said the strong results provided their party with a mandate to continue pursuing their policy priorities, the still too-close-to-call 5th congressional district race remained an open question.
The contest between incumbent U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes and Republican former state Sen. George Logan was expected to be competitive, attracting attention and spending from across the country.
By mid-day Wednesday, the race was one of several nationwide that made control of the U.S. House of Representatives uncertain.
After all 5th District precincts had reported in, unofficial results from the secretary of the state’s office had Hayes at 124,708 and Logan at 124,310, giving the two-term Democrat a razor-thin, 398-vote margin.
In a brief statement Wednesday, Logan’s senior advisor, Liz Kurantowicz, said the campaign was confident.
“We’re closely monitoring the vote count, but given the results reported by the Secretary of State we’re confident that after all the votes are counted we believe George Logan will be the next congressman from Connecticut’s 5th congressional district,” Kurantowicz said.
A recount in the race seems likely and the numbers could still fluctuate given that towns have 48 hours to count absentee ballots.
Democrats at the state Capitol Wednesday offered no insight into the ongoing deliberations in the 5th. Murphy, who represented the district for six years between 2007 and 2013, said the district was designed to be equally representative of Republicans and Democrats.
“I don’t think it’s a surprise at all that the 5th District, which was designed to be the one real competitive district in Connecticut, is coming down to the wire … It’s sort of the intention of what the map-makers was.”
Murphy praised Hayes, who he supported in the district after he was elected to the Senate.
“I think we’re sitting here today still very hopeful that the result will turn out in Jahana’s favor but it’s a close race,” Murphy said. “George Logan ran a tough race. Obviously, the amount of outside money was absolutely stunning that was spent on his behalf.”
Meanwhile, state Republicans eyed the race as a potential win in an otherwise disappointing election cycle. Republican Chairman Ben Proto criticized the Secretary of the State’s office for posting fluctuating numbers in the closely-watched race.
“The 5th District race, I’m not sure what’s going on. I don’t know that anybody knows what’s going on, most notably the secretary of the state’s office,” Proto said.
Proto disputed Democrats’ assertion that this year’s election results represented a mandate from Connecticut voters. When all was said and done, the party makeup of the General Assembly remained more or less unchanged, he said.
“I think you’re looking at the power of incumbency in a lot of these situations in those House and Senate seats and I think that’s probably true up and down the ballot,” Proto said. “There’s definitely an advantage to incumbency and I think it played out last night.”