Lo­cal Dems defy his­tory

Dozens of in­cum­bents up­set

The News-Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Zach Mur­dock

DAN­BURY — Vot­ers across the Dan­bury area de­liv­ered sharp re­bukes to in­cum­bent Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors this week by send­ing a a half-dozen Democrats to up­set vic­to­ries in some dis­tricts the party has not won in decades.

First-time can­di­dates Julie Kush­ner and Will Haskell both de­feated in­cum­bent

Repub­li­cans for state Se­nate dis­tricts that Democrats have not won in Dan­bury since the early 1990s and in Wil­ton since the early

1970s.

Fel­low Democrats Ken Gucker and Raghib Al­lieBren­nan, who have run be­fore, fi­nally broke through to win seats Repub­li­cans have held for most, if not all, of the past

20 years.

Those flipped seats have helped pro­pel Democrats to con­trol of both cham­bers of the state leg­is­la­ture — break­ing the 18-18 tie in the Se­nate — and have turned the tra­di­tion­ally red leg­isla­tive del­e­ga­tion markedly blue.

Al­though lo­cal Repub­li­cans dis­miss the wins as the spoils from a record turnout in op­po­si­tion to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Democrats hope the re­sults add even more mo­men­tum to what has been a spate of vic­to­ries in lo­cal Repub­li­can strongholds over the past two years.

“In the end, we were in­spired, we were tire­less and we were un­stop­pable,” said Dan­bury Demo­cratic Town Com­mit­tee Chair­woman An­drea Gart­ner.

De­fy­ing his­tory

Democrats de­fied decades of vot­ing his­tory on Tues­day night when they up­set a half-dozen in­cum­bents across the leg­isla­tive del­e­ga­tion.

Haskell, a 22-year-old re­cent Ge­orge­town Univer­sity grad­u­ate, stunned Repub­li­cans with his de­feat of state Sen. Toni Boucher, who has served in the state leg­is­la­ture as long as Haskell has been alive.

Kush­ner, a re­tired union or­ga­nizer in Hart­ford, de­feated Sen. Mike McLachlan, a long­time Dan­bury GOP leader and for­mer chief of staff to Mayor Mark Boughton.

Both Boucher and McLachlan had held their 24th and 26th District seats for a decade and Repub­li­cans had pre­ceded them decades be­fore that.

“This is an anom­aly,” McLachlan said Tues­day night. “We (Repub­li­cans) will find a way to take this seat back.”

Al­lie-Bren­nan de­feated Repub­li­can state Rep. Will Duff in a re­match of their

2016 race for the 2nd District seat in Bethel that has been held by a GOP mem­ber for 11 of the past 15 years.

Gucker, a Dan­bury com­mu­nity ac­tivist, de­feated Repub­li­can state Rep. Michael Fer­gu­son for the

138th District.

That’s the Repub­li­can strong­hold seat Boughton won 20 years ago, be­fore he be­came mayor in 2001, fol­lowed by now-Dan­bury Town Clerk Jan­ice Giegler, who held it for 14 years be­fore be­ing elected to City Hall.

Demo­crat Anne Hughes topped Repub­li­can state Rep. Adam Dunsby for the

135th District in Red­ding, Eas­ton and We­ston — an­other seat held al­most ex­clu­sively by Repub­li­cans go­ing back to at least the

1970s.

Maria Horn also nar­rowly de­feated in­cum­bent Repub­li­can state Rep. Brian Oh­ler for the 64th District seat in Kent, re­turn­ing a Demo­crat to the tra­di­tion­ally blue seat.

They join re-elected Demo­cratic state Reps. David Ar­conti and Bob God­frey, the deputy speaker pro tem­pore who is him­self an in­sti­tu­tion after 30 years in the leg­is­la­ture.

“Peo­ple want a dif­fer­ent vi­sion and I feel like that, here in our part of Con­necti­cut, made a huge dif­fer­ence,” Kush­ner said.”

Even some of the area Repub­li­cans who re­tained their posts, like Reps. Steve Hard­ing and John Frey, faced stiff com­pe­ti­tion.

Frey held off Demo­crat Aimee Berger-Gir­valo by fewer than 500 votes. Al­though Hard­ing won eas­ily, Demo­crat Daniel Pearson re­ceived more than 40 per­cent of the vote just two years after Hard­ing won re-elec­tion un­op­posed.

Skep­ti­cal Repub­li­cans

Repub­li­cans across the state have bris­tled at the idea that the Demo­cratic wave that swept state govern­ment on Tues­day was a turn­ing point for Con­necti­cut Repub­li­cans.

In­stead, they have ar­gued that the record turnout na­tion­wide and in parts of the state was driven mostly by op­po­si­tion to the pres­i­dent in­stead of op­po­si­tion to lo­cal Repub­li­cans’ poli­cies.

“I think this was re­ally an anti-Trump vote for a lot of peo­ple,” Boughton said Wed­nes­day morn­ing. “It was also a con­flu­ence of very well-funded and well­man­aged cam­paigns …”

Leg­is­la­tors on both sides of the aisle of­ten praised the leg­isla­tive del­e­ga­tion for its bi­par­ti­san­ship, and new mem­bers said this week they hope to con­tinue the streak.

“I haven’t had a chance to re­ally dis­cuss the is­sues in depth with a lot of my new Demo­cratic col­leagues, but it seems like we’re on the same page re­gard­ing what we want for the peo­ple of this district — and that’s what’s best,” Hard­ing said.

It will be up to that en­tire del­e­ga­tion, es­pe­cially the new Democrats, to ac­com­plish more for western Con­necti­cut or else that mo­men­tum re­ally will stall, Kush­ner added.

“We have to do things, we have to get things done that are go­ing to make a dif­fer­ence in peo­ple’s lives.” she said. “We have to take on the tough is­sues and move for­ward.”

Carol Kaliff / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Julie Kush­ner cel­e­brates her elec­tion to the state Se­nate’s 24th District seat on Tues­day at Dan­bury Demo­cratic head­quar­ters.

Carol Kaliff / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

In­cum­bent state Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Dan­bury, stand­ing, waits for elec­tion re­sults to come Tues­day night in at An­thony's Lake Club in Dan­bury. McLachlan lost to Julie Kush­ner.

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