Democrats Discuss Agenda Following Big Gains In House, Senate
HARTFORD, CT — The “Blue Wave” didn’t materialize everywhere across the country, but in Connecticut Democrats maintained their trifecta and kept control of the governor’s office and the Senate and House.
Not only did Ned Lamont win a close race for governor against Republican Bob Stefanowski, but when most of the votes in Connecticut were counted early Wednesday morning both the state Senate and the House of Representatives saw Democratic membership swell.
Over the past eight years, Republicans had picked up 41 seats in the House and the Senate. But those gains turned into losses Tuesday.
The Senate, which was split 18-18 will now be 24-12 in favor of the Democrats when the General Assembly convenes next January. And based on unofficial vote tallies, the House of Representatives will be 92 Democrats to 59 Republicans, depending on whether one or two possible recount votes hold up.
House Democrats began the night with an 80-71 advantage.
Democratic leaders of the House and Senate held separate press conferences Wednesday at the state capitol to celebrate their big wins and to talk about what type of agenda they’ll chart with their party advantage in both chambers.
“The Trump factor,” was one of the reasons Sen. President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, and Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, D- Berlin and House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, stated was the reason Democrats fared well.
“There was a large increases in Democratic voter registration,” in the run-up to the mid-term election, Looney noted. Looney said he believes the reason Democratic candidates did well in the state is that “people trust that we share their values.”
Aresimowicz said the “undertones” of negative campaigning trumpeted by Trump didn’t play well in Connecticut. “I’m very proud of Connecticut voter who rejected outside interests,” he sai.
And Ritter added: “Trump helped, there’s no doubt.”
But Ritter also quickly added: “We (Democrats) had better candidates than we had two years ago.”
Speaking of Trump’s impact on Connecticut election results, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Connecticut residents “unequivocally rejected the hateful politics and backwards policies espoused by the Trump administration and national Republicans.”
As for Stefanowski’s promise to eliminate the income tax over an eight year period, “I know that the people of Connecticut recognize when they’re being sold a bill of goods,” Malloy said.
There were a total of 24 new candidates elected to the House - half of those candidates are women.
“It was a very long, very exciting night,” Aresimowicz said.
Looney said he was very gratified by the results of the election,” noting that there will be 10 women amongst the Democratic Senate caucus.
Looney said the members will bring “wonderful diversity,” adding that amongst the newly elected senators are business owners such as Christine Hunter Cohen of Guilford, owner of Cohen’s Bagel Company in Madison, who was elected to fill Ted Kennedy’s 12th District seat and Tower Laboratories CEO Norm Needleman, who won the 33rd District seat.
Looney said he has a close working relationship with Aresimowicz and that he expects to work with the House speaker on a number of issues that Democrats in both chambers believe are priorities.
He ticked off paid family and medical leave and an increase in the minimum wage as two of the top priorities.
Connecticut’s current minimum wage is currently $10.10 an hour. Efforts to raise the minimum wage in a divided legislature had stalled.
Connecticut’s legislature did not increase the minimum wage this past year despite the fact that the idea has wide support according to polling data. In August, a Quinnipiac University poll found that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour was supported by 63 percent of the 1,029 voters surveyed.
The Senate president was asked whether Republican Bob Stefanowski’s near defeat of Lamont gave him any pause, he quickly answered: “They (the Republicans) didn’t win the election; we did. We take that as a mandate for the policies.”
Attempts to reach State Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, were unsuccessful.
Lori Pelletier, outgoing president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, said the election results bode well for workers.
“Our new governor and legislature should embrace this momentum to act on the concerns workers articulated during the campaign,” Pelletier said. “They have a tremendous opportunity invest in workers and build the middle class by embracing and moving a real workers’ agenda. Within the first 100 days, Connecticut should raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, enact earned family and medical leave, prohibit the abusive management practice of ‘on call scheduling,’ and continue to protect working people’s pay, retirement, and health care.”
Another issue that is likely to rear its head is tolls - specifically a plan to toll out-of-state trucks for using Connecticut highways.
Lamont, Aresimowicz, Ritter and Looney have all said they would support such a plan - to shore up the state’s Special Transportation Fund. Looney, on Wednesday, said he thought the tolling initiative should be “broader.”
Aresimowicz, who survived a close election himself and has already announced this is his last term, said he is not looking to rub the Republicans’ noses in their election defeat.
“I hope there is not ruffled feathers,” Aresimowicz said, adding the last thing he wants to see is partisan politics plague the upcoming General Assembly session. He said both parties can - and should work together.
Ritter added: “We’ve been on the other (losing) side; Republicans have good ideas.”
Christine Stuart contributed to this story
Reps. Joe Aresimowicz and Matt Ritter post-election pressor #election2018 #ctpolitics #ctnewsjunkie #LIONPosted by CTNewsJunkie.com on Wednesday, November 7, 2018
CT Senate President Martin Looney on the Democrats' new super majority in CT Senate. #election2018 #ctpolitics #ctnewsjunkie #LIONPosted by CTNewsJunkie.com on Wednesday, November 7, 2018
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