Democrat Breaks 40 Years of GOP Control in Connecticut Special Election
By Daniela Altimari
Bolstered by an energized base of grassroots activists, Connecticut Democrats on Tuesday picked up a seat in the state House of Representatives that's been held by Republicans for more than 40 years.
Democrat Phil Young, a former member of the town council, beat Republican Bill Cabral in the race to represent the 120th district, which includes most of Stratford.
The seat was open because Republican state Rep. Laura Hoydick was elected mayor, resulting in her resignation from the House in early January.
Nick Balletto, the chairman of the Connecticut Democratic party, called the win "historic" and said it signifies that voters are increasingly disenchanted with President Donald Trump.
"This was a hard fought race, but one thing is for certain, Connecticut voters are coming out to reject the Donald Trump playbook that is being employed by the leadership of the Connecticut Republican Party,'' Balletto said. "We've seen Donald Trump's scare tactics fail in New Jersey and Virginia, and tonight Connecticut voters proved they will reject them as well."
Nationally, Democrats have picked up 39 state-level seats since Trump's election, according to Flippable, a national group dedicated to turn seats from red to blue.
Tuesday's results caught the eye of Democratic National Chairman Tom Perez, who generally doesn't weigh in on local races.
Perez noted that Young's win in Connecticut, along with a Democratic victory in a New Hampshire legislative race, sends a powerful signal for the 2018 midterm elections, when a number of key offices, including Connecticut governor, are up for grabs.
"The victories of our Democratic candidates in these red districts tonight are proof that when Democrats lead with our values and organize early, we can win anywhere,'' Perez said.
The Democrats' win puts a crimp in the GOP's plan to regain the majority in the Connecticut House. Republicans have been steadily gaining power: in 2008, the party held 37 seats, by 2016, the number had grown to 72.
J.R. Romano, the chairman of the Connecticut Republican party, said he does not read the results of the low-turnout special election as a harbinger of a blue wave in November.
"Special elections are about turnout and who shows up at the polls,'' Romano said, citing figures that showed just 19 percent of voters in the district participated in Tuesday's election.
But Romano agreed that Democrats are fired up. "Democrats are wildly energized,'' he said.
Both parties focused on the 120th District seat. Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Lauretti, mayor of nearby Shelton, was among the GOP politicians lending a hand to Cabral.
The Democrats had several heavy-hitters, including U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, on the campaign trail for Young.
(c)2018 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)