Underticket Democrats Survive Challenges
It was close until the bitter end, but 20 hours after polls closed, all four Democratic incumbents reclaimed their constitutional offices.
At 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, State Treasurer Denise Nappier declared victory for her fifth term. Final numbers had not been tallied but Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said Nappier was well ahead of her Republican opponent, Tim Herbst.
Herbst conceded at a press conference in Trumbull Wednesday afternoon. The race had been widely considered the most competitive of the underticket. With about 98 percent of the precincts reporting, Nappier was up 2,274 votes, according to the Associated Press.
“He’s a very energetic campaigner,” said Trumbull state Rep. David Rutigliano. “He made the treasurer’s race relevant.”
One of the biggest surprises of the night was the close race between Merrill and Republican challenger Peter Lumaj. The race was deadlocked well into Wednesday morning.
Merrill said in a press release just before 1:30 p.m. Wednesday that she was declaring victory. With most of the votes counted, she was up about 33,000 over Lumaj, 512,249 to 479,291, with Green Party candidate Mike DeRosa trailing with 23,000 votes. Lumaj, a Fairfield Republican, formally conceded at 2:45 p.m.
In a press release, Lumaj congratulated Merrill on her victory and offered his help in “returning integrity to the system.”
“We need to examine Connecticut’s election results, protools and safeguards to ensure that the mess that happened with our election yesterday never happens again,” he said, referring to issues at polls in Hartford that prevented people from voting.
Lumaj’s campaign manager, Brock Weber, said there was still cause for Republican optimism in the results. “For the first time in a long time, Republicans were very competitive” in underticket races he said. “People are sick and tired of politics as usual.”
State Comptroller Kevin Lembo took the stage at the Society Room at 11:49 p.m. on Tuesday to declare victory in his race against Republican Sharon McLaughlin, although McLaughlin did not concede until Wednesday afternoon.
“There is more counting to do tonight, but I believe the votes today were votes of aspiration,” Lembo said.
McLaughlin, the only candidate who did not take the $800,000 public financing grant available to constitutional office candidates, said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon that she was very pleased with her campaign’s strong showing despite its financial limitations.
Documents filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission show that McLaughlin spent only $7,200 on her campaign, while Lembo spent close to $840,000.
“I was out there and met people and talked to people,” McLaughlin said when asked about her strategy. “People did care about the difference in our backgrounds . . . I think some people were surprised to learn that Lembo doesn’t really have an accounting background.”
McLaughlin had made her formal training in accounting and Lembo’s lack of an accounting degree a central part of her campaign.
Lembo’s margin of victory with most precincts reporting was 52,578 votes, or about 5 percent.
Attorney General George Jepsen was the first statewide candidate to declare a victory, with the Associated Press calling the race for Jepsen over Republican Kie Westby at 9:31 p.m.
His was the only race formally called Tuesday night. With most of the precincts reporting Wednesday afternoon, it was clear that Jepsen had won by more than 143,000 votes, or about 14 percent.
Jepsen’s wife, Diana, introduced him to a small crowd of supporters gathered at the Society Room in Hartford Tuesday night.
“We need to create more equal opportunity for more people,” Jepsen said. “We want people to live, work and succeed in Connecticut, not somewhere else.”
Westby did not return calls for comment and did not release a statement conceding the race.
Jepsen was also challenged by Green Party candidate Stephen Fournier, who received 2 percent of the vote.
As of 4 p.m. only two towns — Killingly and Newington — had yet to report their vote totals to the state. They have until 6 p.m.