Fazio wins state Senate election
Republican claims victory in 3-way contest for 36th District seat
An hour after the polls closed Tuesday night in the three-way race for the empty seat in the 36th Senate District, Republican Ryan Fazio claimed victory.
Cheers erupted at Fazio’s campaign headquarters in Riverside as the winning candidate came out to speak to supporters.
With the victory, the Senate seat returns to the Republican side of the aisle.
Alexis Gevanter, the Democratic candidate, conceded, Fazio said.
The highly competitive three-way race was among Fazio, Gevanter and petition candidate John Blankley to represent Greenwich and parts of northern Stamford and western New Canaan in the Senate. The three candidates, who all live in Greenwich, were running to finish the term of Alex Kasser, a Democrat who resigned unexpectedly in late June, citing her ongoing divorce. .
The Senate term expires at the end of 2022.
The seat had been securely Republican for more than three-quarters of a century
until Kasser’s successful run in 2018, defeating incumbent Republican L. Scott Frantz. Before that, a Democrat had not been elected to the seat since 1930 when H. Allen Barton held it.
Kasser was reelected to a second term last November, turning back a challenge from Fazio and winning by a larger margin than in 2018. Fazio had larger vote totals in New Canaan and Greenwich, but Kasser was victorious due to strong support from Stamford.
By 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, neither Gevanter nor much of her crew had arrived at the Democrats’ watch party at the Old Greenwich Social Club. A small group of people were around one of the tables, chatting about the day’s campaigning.
The Fazio team gathered at his campaign headquarters in Riverside in a nervous but excited mood, buoyed by the high voter turnout, particularly in his hometown of Greenwich.
And Fazio said, win or lose, the high turnout — officials estimated turnout at more than 27 percent — was a good thing.
“I was expecting high turnout and it was even higher than I expected for a special election in the middle of August,” he said. “That’s a testament to one of the things that I love about this community: People are engaged and care about their community. They want to have a say in how its future is determined. That’s one of the reasons that I’m so grateful to live here.”
While not knowing the results when he spoke to Hearst Connecticut Media on Tuesday night, Fazio said he felt good about his campaign and the message he was able to get out to residents.
“I had so many great supporters and surrogates and such a great campaign team,” Fazio said. “I think our faithful really understood the importance of this race to the future of our district and our state . ... We always felt if we were able to send a message in this race that we want to solve state and local challenges, which are enormous, then we would have a very good chance. I think because of the focus on that message we do have a very good chance.”
Blankley watched the results at his home and on Tuesday night, just as polls were closing, he reflected on a campaign specifically targeted at unaffiliated voters. Blankley, unlike Fazio and Gevanter, was not eligible for the public financing and ran his campaign without any major backing.
Blankley credited his wife, Vera, for her help during the campaign, calling it a joint effort.
“Vera and I feel very good about participating in our democracy,” Blankley said. “Giving the people a choice, and a very good one we think, was our first objective . ... Over and above that, the effort we and our supporters put into the campaign was huge as we did not have the resources provided by state funding.”
Ultimately, he said he felt he was able to get his message out.
“To anyone who watched the debates or saw my flyers or whom I talked to while campaigning (they heard our message),” Blankley said. “But enough to win? We’ll see. But undoubtedly more resources would have enabled us to reach so many more voters.”
Turnout was high in Greenwich. According to the town’s registrar of voters department, 11,317 Greenwich voters cast ballots in person Tuesday for a turnout of 27.54 percent.
The Town Clerk’s Department said that a total of 3,773 ballots were requested by Greenwich voters, and they were collected until the 8 p.m. close of polls.
The only small change from past elections was a different location for District 7, which usually votes at Greenwich High School. But due to ongoing work to prepare the building for the start of the new school year, District 7 voting was moved to Central Middle School, which also is the polling location for District 8. District 7 voters cast ballots in the cafeteria, and District 8 voters cast ballots in the gymnasium.
Voting for District 7 will be back at Greenwich High for November’s municipal election.
During the short campaign for the Senate seat, the candidates met in three debates, the last of which was put together by the Round Hill Association.
Fazio is a member of Greenwich’s Representative Town Meeting and an investment analyst for small businesses,
Gevanter is a business attorney and the former Connecticut Chapter leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Blankley, a former member of the RTM and Greenwich’s Board of Estimate and Taxation, founded and runs an IT firm in the state.
Blankley ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2016 and had originally sought the Democratic nomination after Kasser’s resignation. But he filed to run as a petition candidate after the party backed Gevanter. He has said that he would not caucus with either the Democrats or Republicans if elected, and called himself “the man in the middle” with a campaign targeting unaffiliated voters.
Gevanter has received the endorsements of key Democrats, as well as district residents Gov. Ned Lamont, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Rep Jim Himes along with Kasser. She has also been endorsed the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, the Stamford Professional Fire Fighters union and several gun violence prevention groups.
Fazio has been endorsed by the Greenwich and Stamford police unions, the Connecticut Realtors and Stamford mayoral candidate Bobby Valentine, Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo and Selectwoman Lauren Rabin, as well as state Rep. Tom O’Dea, R-125/New Canaan.