Women pro­pel Conn.’s blue wave

Num­ber of fe­males in Gen­eral Assem­bly to in­crease to 62; 10 more than to­day

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Em­i­lie Mun­son

In what many have called the “Year of the Woman,” some of the big­gest up­sets in Gen­eral Assem­bly races are bring­ing more fe­males into of­fice in Con­necti­cut.

In three of the five races in which Se­nate in­cum­bents lost their seats, women run­ning for of­fice for the first time were vic­to­ri­ous. In five of the 11 House races in which in­cum­bents lost, fe­male can­di­dates tri­umphed.

“I felt like women played a huge role in this elec­tion,” said Demo­crat Julie Kush­ner, a for­mer la­bor leader who de­feated state Sen. Michael McLach­lan in Dan­bury. “Women are go­ing to take the lead and be at the fore­front of the change we bring to Hart­ford.”

Women were not only be­hind up­sets, they also won open seats in high num­bers. Of 25 open seats for the House and Se­nate, 10 were claimed by fe­males.

Th­ese wins mean when the Gen­eral Assem­bly re­con­venes in Jan­uary, 62 state leg­is­la­tors will be women, 10 more than now.

“I didn’t re­al­ize un­til get­ting into the race that our Leg­is­la­ture is only 27 per­cent women,” said Lucy Dathan of New Canaan, who unseated Rep. Fred Wilms of Nor­walk, be­com­ing the first Demo­crat to ever win in the 142nd House Dis­trict. “That was re­ally shock­ing to me. When I saw that, I

said, ‘Hey ac­tu­ally we are 51 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion.’ We need to be bet­ter rep­re­sented. We need to stand up.”

Vic­to­ries by women were also key to help­ing Democrats se­cure ma­jori­ties in the House and Se­nate. Of the 17 new fe­male can­di­dates who won seats Tues­day, 15 were Democrats.

Demo­crat Alex Berg­stein de­feated Repub­li­can state Sen. L. Scott Frantz on Tues­day, claim­ing a Se­nate seat that cov­ers Greenwich and parts of Stam­ford and New Canaan and has not been rep­re­sented by a Demo­crat since 1930.

“To me this race was not about gen­der,” said Berg­stein, who founded a gen­der equal­ity non­profit called Par­ity Part­ner­ship. “It is about a new style of lead­er­ship that is more in­clu­sive and col­lab­o­ra­tive and pro­duc­tive. That’s the rea­son I did this. That’s

the rea­son I will con­tinue to do this.”

Kathy Kennedy of Mil­ford was one of two Repub­li­can women to win an open House seat.

“I hope (women) can be a voice of some rea­son and bring us to­gether, that we can work in a bi­par­ti­san man­ner,” said Kennedy, who will rep­re­sent the 119th Dis­trict in Jan­uary. “I’m not say­ing men can’t do it. It’s just some­thing we’re not used to yet, but hope­fully we are get­ting more and more com­fort­able with women be­ing in highly elected po­si­tions.”

At the state level, Su­san Bysiewicz, Demo­cratic lieu­tenant gover­nor-elect, and two-term Sec­re­tary of the State Denise Mer­rill won of­fice Tues­day. Repub­li­cans also had two women on their statewide ticket.

The surge of women in Con­necti­cut pol­i­tics is part of a na­tional trend. In the midterms, women broke records by win­ning 100 seats in the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, with votes

still be­ing counted Thurs­day. That num­ber in­cludes Demo­crat Ja­hana Hayes who tri­umphed in Con­necti­cut’s 5th Dis­trict, who is the first black woman to rep­re­sent the state in Congress.

Twelve women won U.S. Se­nate races and nine women won gu­ber­na­to­rial bids. Across the coun­try, women were on the bal­lot in record num­bers.

The women who won in Con­necti­cut come from dif­fer­ent back­grounds. Demo­crat Mary Abrams, who de­feated Sen. Len Suzio in Meri­den and Mid­dle­town, is a re­tired spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion teacher. A so­cial worker at the Bridge­port­based Jewish Se­nior Ser­vices, Demo­crat Anne Hughes of Eas­ton won over state Rep. Adam Dunsby.

Demo­crat Maria Horn, a for­mer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor from Sal­is­bury, squeezed a nar­row vic­tory over Repub­li­can state Rep. Brian Oh­ler. Demo­crat Pa­tri­cia Wil­son Phean­ious was the com­mis­sioner of the Depart­ment of So­cial Ser­vices un­der Gov. John Row­land and de­feated Repub­li­can State Rep. Sa­muel Bel­sito of Tol­land on Tues­day.

They also hold dif­fer­ent ideas on what pri­or­i­ties the state should pur­sue first, rang­ing from paid fam­ily leave and en­vi­ron­men­tal ini­tia­tives to a state Medi­care-for-all plan to cut­ting taxes and fund­ing opi­oid in­ter­ven­tions.

“I think we need to come up with a fi­nan­cial strat­egy, a plan for Con­necti­cut, some­thing that is not re­ac­tionary like a bud­get,” said Dathan, a 25-year fi­nan­cial ex­ec­u­tive.

Some of the fe­male win­ners par­tic­i­pated in the Women’s March in Wash­ing­ton af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion in 2017. Many were united by the fact that they were first time can­di­dates.

“I’m not sure my feet have quite touched the ground yet,” Kennedy said.

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