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‘We have to get to work’

November 8, 2018

GREENWICH — A day after making history, Stephen Meskers was thinking about the future, not the past.

“We have to get to work in fixing what’s wrong with this state and this is going to take all of us in the Legislature. I’m very eager to get started,” Meskers said Wednesday, hours after becoming the first Democrat elected to the state House of Representatives from Greenwich in more than a century. “I’m elated, not just because I won but because in winning I am now going to be able to be part of the solutions to Connecticut’s problems.”

Like Alexandra Bergstein, who on Tuesday became the first local Democrat elected to the state Senate in 88 years, Meskers was a first-time candidate. Also like Bergstein, he achieved history by a slim margin. In the race for the 150th state House District, Meskers won 4,841 votes to Republican incumbent Michael Bocchino’s 4,451.

Where Meskers, a retired financial analyst in emerging markets, will be doing most of his legislative work in his new role is still an open question. In his second term, Bocchino serves on the Energy and Technology, Housing, and Labor and Public Employees committees. Meskers said he is interested in serving in areas of finance and transportation but committee assignments have not yet been discussed.

Meskers said he did get a phone call Wednesday from the Democratic leadership in the state House to congratulate him.

“It was a very humorous conversation because I think they were, I shall say, skeptical that the 100-year cycle would be broken,” Meskers said.

He credited his win to an aggressive campaign of getting out to knock on doors and meet with voters. With 14 years on the Representative Town Meeting, Meskers said he felt he had some name recognition to build upon, and felt his experience working in finance gave him an edge because of voters’ focus on the economy, and their concern about the impact the state’s struggles are having on Greenwich.

“I think voters saw me as a good, sane voice that would bring a lot of experience to the discussion,” Meskers said.

Bocchino ran unopposed in 2016, but the 150th has seen narrow margins in the past, and has been considered the closest Greenwich has had to a true swing district given the demographic makeup of the town’s shoreline. In 2014, Bocchino defeated Democrat Jill Oberlander by less than 250 votes.

Meskers will be part of a politically split Greenwich delegation in Hartford, something very few people in town can remember. He and Bergstein will join Republican state Reps. Fred Camillo, who won a sixth term in the 151st District, and Livvy Floren, who ran unopposed for a tenth term in the 149th District.

Camillo’s win was a bright spot at the local Republicans’ watch party Tuesday night.

“I’m always grateful for the endorsement and the support you get on Election Day,” Camillo said. “It’s a great feeling when you’re meeting with people at the polls and they say that they’re voting for you. It really inspires you.”

But Greenwich Republicans said they were surprised with the other results.

“We didn’t see it coming,” Bocchino said during his concession speech at the annual party at the Milbrook Club.

On Wednesday he addressed Democrats’ win in the governor’s race and gains the party made in the state House and Senate.

“It was a very disappointing day for Republicans and for the state of Connecticut,” Bocchino said. “And I’m concerned about what it could mean for the town of Greenwich.”

Bocchino congratulated Meskers on his win, but said a focus on national issues could have helped push his opponent to victory. The demographics of his district are changing, he said, with more transient populations moving in who care more about national politics than local issues.

“This became a national campaign,” Bocchino said. “And we’re victims of that.”

On Wednesday, he said he would look back at his four years in Hartford fondly.

“At the end of the day I am incredibly proud of the work we were able to accomplish,” he said.

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com

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