While voters on Tuesday reaffirmed their support of eleven incumbent Hispanic Democrats in the state Legislature, they also established Art Linares, a young state senator from Westbrook who boasts Cuban roots, as one of the Republican Party’s rising stars.
Early on in the campaign, Linares was seen by some Democrats as an easy target, having squeaked by in a three-way race with less than 50 percent of the vote two years ago. On Tuesday, the 26-year-old freshman legislator easily won a second term to provide Connecticut Republicans with one of their few bright spots Tuesday.
Otherwise, it was a big day for Latino and Democrats. Hispanics helped re-elect a governor and five members of Congress. Moreover, ten Democratic representatives and one senator with Hispanic backgrounds are returning to the Capitol.
There may be only one Latino newcomer in the House. Christopher Rosario will represent the 128th District. However the seat remains on the Democratic side of the aisle since Rosario had defeated that party’s incumbent in the primaries.
In Waterbury, unofficial results Republican Reuben Rodriquez who had hoped to unseat incumbent Larry Butler appears to have lost by 130 votes.
Although exact numbers were not yet available, Latino voters in Bridgeport, New Haven and other cities clearly played a crucial role in Gov. Dannel Malloy winning a close race with Republican Tom Foley.
Malloy said it looked like he won, to Foley’s chagrin, knowing that the late-arriving tallies from Democratic bastions Hartford and New Haven would seal his victory. Hartford experienced polling problems in the morning and a judge allowed two precincts, one in a heavily Hispanic area, to stay open an extra 30 minutes.
State Sen. Andres Ayala (D-23) of Bridgeport said about an hour after the polls closed that turnout was “pretty strong” and the Park City would produce a 12,000-13,000 cushion for Malloy. In 2010, the margin had been about 14,000 votes.
The votes from cities such as Danbury and Meriden with large Latino communities also helped Democratic Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty ward off her Republican challenger in a heated Fifth District contest.
On the state Senate side, Democrats had targeted Linares’ 33rd District seat as one they should easily recapture. Instead, Tuesday’s election underscored that Linares ‘ historic victory in 2012 was no fluke.
Two years ago, Linares, the grandson of a refugee from the Castro regime in Cuba, benefited from a Democratic split. In a three-way race, he won with less than 50 percent of the votes cast.
This time,the Democrats were united but Linares, 26, easily won over Democrat Emily Bjornberg of Lyme, taking 10 of the 12 district towns and only trailing in Lyme and Chester.
Linares said he knocked on 8,000 doors and ran a positive campaign focusing on issues such as “getting the state’s fiscal house in order” and the importance of improving employment. “Jobs are key,” he said Tuesday night.
Linares also praised his campaign manager and younger brother Ryan. “He did an incredible job.”
Based on incomplete returns in some districts, seemed almost certain that nine Latino representatives and two senators were set for another term. Here are 17 legislative contests of special interest to the Latino community:
District 23 Bridgeport and Stratford
Democratic incumbent Andres Ayala was unopposed.
District 27 East Stamford and part of Darien
Two-term incumbent Democrat Carlo Leone defeated Republican Eva A. Maldonado.
District 33 Lower Connecticut Valley
Incumbent Republican Art Linares of Westbrook easily defeated Emily Bjornberg of Lyme and Green Party candidate Colin Bennett by more than 5,000 votes.
3rd District Hartford
Incumbent Democrat Minnie Gonzalez retained the seat she has held since 1997, defeating Republican Sweets Wilson and petitioning candidate Victor M. Luna Jr.
4th District Hartford
Democratic incumbent Angel Arce was unopposed
6th District Hartford
Incumbent Democrat Edwin Vargas defeated Republican Michael Lupo.
8th District Columbia, Coventry, Tolland and Vernon
Democrat Anthony Ortiz of Columbia, the son of a farmer from Puerto Rico was trounced two-term Republican incumbent Tim Ackert of Coventry.
9th District Manchester and East Hartford
Democratic Incumbent Jason Rojas took 78 percent of the vote to win handily over Richard Lion, Libertarian, keeping the seat he has held since 2009
25th District New Britain
Incumbent Democrat Robert “Bobby” Sanchez won big over Republican Edward Colon, petitioning candidate Alfred P. Mayo and Green Party candidate Paul Gobell. His edge over Colon was about 3-to-1.
72nd District Waterbury
Four-time Democratic incumbent Larry Butler appears to have edged Republican Ruben Rodriquez by about 130 votes unofficially.
75th District Waterbury
Democrat Victor Cuevas won a second term in a district that is 45 percent Hispanic, again soundly defeating independent John F. Alseph who he soundly defeated two years ago.
83rd District Meriden and Berlin
Incumbent Democrat Catherine Abercrombie Edged Pablo Soto, a Republican who also ran against her two years ago. Soto, a member of the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission and the Republican State Central Committee, drew about 44 percent of the vote and nearly won the Berlin portion of the district.
84th District Meriden
Democratic incumbent Hilda Santiago easilybputbaway Green Party candidate Matthew Went.
95th District New Haven
Juan Candelaria (D-95) was unopposed for the seat he has held since 2003.
100th District Middletown
Democratic incumbent Matt Lesser, who is of Argentine descent, defeated Republican Angel Fernandez
128th District Bridgeport
Democrat Christopher Rosario defeated Republican Ethan Book and Angel Reyes of the Peace and Progress Party. Rosario knocked off incumbent Christina Ayala in the Democratic primary.
130th District Bridgeport
Three-term incumbent Democrat Ezequiel Santiago defeated Republican David Goodman and Joel Gonzalez of the Peace and Progress Party.14,000 votes.
Bill Sarno CTLatinoNews.com
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