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Democrats regain control

November 7, 2018

With the governor’s race still up in the air, Democrats will keep control of the state legislature in both houses and win back their majority in the Senate after knocking off Republican incumbents in a few key races.

Democrat Julie Kushner beat Republican incumbent Mike McLachlan in Danbury, and Mary Abrams, a Democrat, defeated Len Suzio, a one-term Republican from Meriden. McLachlan was first elected in 2008.

Will Haskell, a 22-year old Democrat, defeated longtime Republican incumbent Toni Boucher, who was first elected to the seat a decade ago.

“Where you saw some pickups was in wealthy communities where people can afford to be offended,” said GOP Chairman J.R. Romano, referring to the divisiveness of President Donald J. Trump and the so-called Blue Wave political analysts predicted.

But the unofficial results in many districts were still not available on deadline Tuesday, so it was unclear how wide the Democrats margin will be.

The Senate has been tied 18-18 for the past two years, leading to a contentious campaign season that brought in a flood of campaign cash from donors outside the state as Republicans attempted to take control of the Senate for the first time since 1996.

Both parties wanted to hold the districts where they had incumbents — 15 for Republicans, 14 for Democrats — as well as make new gains. Democrats and Republicans also targeted a handful of other seats where they think incumbents are vulnerable.

Republicans hoped for fresh wins in formerly Democratic towns that went for President Donald Trump in 2016. They also looked for a boost from voters dissatisfied with the economy and taxes under Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Democrats, on the other hand, hoped to turn strong opposition to Trump — only 40 percent of Americans approve of the President’s job in office, according to an aggregation of all national polls by the website FiveThirtyEight — into more seats in the midterms, which are usually considered a referendum on the president.

In addition to the seat of retiring Democrat Gayle Slossberg in Milford, Republicans are eyeing the seat Ted Kennedy Jr. of Branford is vacating for possible gains, said Romano. Republicans also said it’s important to defend the open seats where Republicans Art Linares of Westbrook and Tony Guglielmo of Stafford Springs served for years.

Republicans were looking to unseat incumbent Sen. Tim Larson, D-East Hartford and Sen. Steve Cassano, D-Manchester, who won by slim margins in recent elections.

The GOP also worked to protect first-term Sens. George Logan of Ansonia, Heather Somers of Groton, and Len Suzio of Meriden, Romano said of districts formerly represented by Democrats.

Democrats campaigned hard in districts with open seats even in Republican areas.

House of Representatives

Prior to this year, Republicans had nearly doubled their presence in the state House of Representatives in the past decade, rising from 37 members after the 2008 election to 72 in 2016. They needed to win just five more seats Tuesday to gain a majority, a dominance the party has not held since 1984.

Though Republicans have made huge gains over the past decade, Democrats relied on a national Blue Wave many attribute to the results of the 2016 election. Democrats have held 80 of 151 House seats for the past two years. There are eight other districts that were decided by fewer than 400 votes in 2016. Those slim margins mean those seats could be ripe for beating the incumbent, according to political observers.

There were 19 open seats where no incumbent was running. Twelve of those seats were held by Democrats, seven by Republicans.

Themis Klarides, who has been House minority leader since 2015, could become the first female Republican speaker of the house and the second woman ever to have the job. She decided not to run for governor this year to focus on winning a House majority.

Includes prior reporting by Emilie Munson.

kkrasselt@hearstmediact.com; 203-842-2563; @kaitlynkrasselt

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