We’re a week away from the midterms, and Democrats are hoping for a Blue Wave to wash over Connecticut and the nation. But did you realize that several of the elections for State Senate and House were likely decided by the contests held August 14th? In these districts, primary winners are expected to outcompete their Republican opponents.
In the heavily blue leaning 9th Senate District, State Representative Matt Lesser will likely cruise to an easy victory, bringing with him a policy legacy from his time in the State House of Representatives. Lesser has demonstrated, during the course of his tenure and throughout his campaign, a commitment to bold progressive policies. He has just served as the Chair of the Banking Committee and was previously a long-time vice chairman of the General Administration and Elections Committee (a position from which he was an early champion of the National Popular Vote). Notably, Lesser has also served on the Black & Puerto Rican caucus for several years. Since being elected as a Representative in 2008, Lesser has been drawn to difficult partisan issues and has been unafraid to challenge Republicans on local, state, and federal matters, despite the General Assembly’s longing for bipartisanship.
In the 23rd Senate District, Dennis Bradley won the Democratic nomination after several attempts. The seat he is pursuing has long been in Democratic hands, although it has been the site of several intra-party contests over the last decade. Bradley starts his legislative career after serving within the Bridgeport Board of Education for three years, the first year as Chair. Based on his time on the Board and their sense of his policy positions, the local unions have endorsed against Bradley. While Mayor Joe Ganim, having just lost a bitter primary for Governor, stares down potential challenges for reelection in 2019, this will be a critical year for the Bridgeport delegation to curry favor with a new administration (regardless of party) and a looming state budget deficit. Bradley will be under pressure to produce for his district, as complex Bridgeport politics are likely to persist even with an incumbent in the Mayor’s office.
In the State House of Representatives, there were several Democratic challenges in Connecticut’s cities. In Hartford, State Representatives Brandon McGee and Minnie Gonzalez both defeated their primary opponents. Brandon McGee came into office in 2013, after defeating a longtime AFT leader in the Democratic Primary. McGee has actively advocated on behalf of the Hartford community. This past term, he served as one of the Vice-Chairs of the Finance Committee (which Hartford’s State Senator John Fonfara chairs), and he also serves on the Education Committee. Although McGee lost the party endorsement as a result of Windsor carrying the majority of delegates in the convention, he still defeated his primary opponent. Minnie Gonzalez also held off her opponent in the primary, relying upon the base of support that she has cultivated over the years of her advocacy at the State Capitol.
In West Hartford, which typically deals with intra-party battles at the DTC/Convention level, we saw an upset. Jillian Gilchrest defeated long-time State Representative Andy Fleischmann, who was seeking a 12th term in office and would likely have retained Chairmanship of the Education Committee. Gilchrest ran on the mantra of change in West Hartford, tapping into a groundswell of support and bringing a background in advocacy for women’s rights in situations of sexual assault and domestic violence. She currently serves at the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, after having served as Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut. She also previously served on the West Hartford Board of Education.
In Bridgeport, Representative Charlie Stallworth held off the endorsed Democrat Shante Hanks, long-time district staffer for Congressman Jim Himes. Stallworth took a position in the Ganim administration soon after his election, but Stallworth’s relationship with Ganim has undoubtedly become complicated after several political differences. Given his base of support in Bridgeport and his role as a faith leader, Stallworth will continue to retain political influence within the city, particularly after defeating one of his toughest challengers yet.
Finally, Stamford saw an incumbent defeated after having served for two terms. Representative Terry Adams was knocked off by environmental activist David Michel. Michel was championed by the “Reform Stamford” coalition that has challenged the Democratic Party over the last two years. Though Michel still has an opponent, Democrats should have no problem holding this seat in a statewide election where turnout in Stamford will be on the high side.
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DFER CT State Director