While uncertainty and controversy clouded Connecticut’s race for governor for many hours after the polls closed Tuesday, it was abundantly clear that the outcome would be historic for Hispanics and also cement their clout at the state Capitol.
“It is a good time for us,” said Norma Rodriguez, who heads the Connecticut Hispanic Democratic Caucus.
For the first time, three Hispanics will hold seats in the state Senate. The previous high of two was achieved in 2012 and 2016. Moreover, the new Senate taking office in January will include three Democrats for the first time.
Moreover, Hispanic leaders expect newly elected Governor Ned Lamont to be more attuned to their concerns because of their votes in the major cities having secured his victory.
“Bridgeport and New Haven delivered big for Lamont,” said state Rep. Chris Rosario, who was handily re-elected in Bridgeport. “We should have his ear,” Rosario said.
“We (Bridgeport) gave Lamont 4,500 more votes than we gave (Governor Dannel Malloy) in 2014, ” Rosario added.
In Senate races, Matthew Lesser, District 9, and Dennis Bradley, District 23, led the Hispanic surge with strong showings.
A third Senate seat in District 17 will continue to be represented by someone of Latino heritage with Jorge Cabrera, who is of Puerto Rican descent holding an edge over incumbent Republican George Logan, whose background is central American.
Awaiting official confirmation Wednesday morning, Cabrera’s supporters were cautious, but feeling good about the outcome. The Democrat’s margin in Hamden and Woodbridge appeared to be enough to counter Logan’s strong showing in Naugatuck Valley towns.
The Democrats who will be seated in the Senate this January will be part of their party’s significant majority in the upper chamber, which had been bogged down by an 18-18 split for the last two years.
In the state House, eleven Hispanic Democrats were re-elected with strong showings and are expected to hold key roles in their party’s widening majority.
Well into Wednesday morning, some question remained as to who would succeed Dannel Malloy as governor. Stefanowski, endorsed by President Trump, held a narrow lead over Lamont with the results from many heavily Latino urban precincts reportedly not yet added to their tallies. However, the urban vote, notably a huge edge in Bridgeport, put the Democrat over the top.
The races for the other five constitutional offices were also close, especially for attorney general, but eventually all the Democratic candidates where victorious. With a new governor, lieutenant governor (Susan Bysiewicz), attorney general (William Tong) and treasurer (Shawn Wooden), Rodriguez noted, there will be more opportunities for Hispanics to get key positions at the Capitol.
Also adding to the lack of clarity about the outcome of the races for statewide offices is that Republicans hoped to disqualify the votes of some same-day registration applicants in New Haven and Mansfield.
With Bradley’s landslide victory, Bridgeport, for the second time in its history, will be sending a Hispanic Democrat to the state Senate, the first being Andres Ayala in 2012.
Bradley, president of the local school board, trounced Republican John Rodriguez, earning more than 87 percent of the votes unofficially.
Lesser, a former state representative from Middletown, defeated Rocky Hill Town Councilman Ed Charamut by about 1,500 votes for the District 9 seat. This contest gained statewide notoriety when a Charamut campaign flyer included a characature of Lesser, who is Jewish as well as Hispanic, appeared to many to be anti-semitic. Charamut apologized but stayed in the race.
Lesser’s decision to step away from his 100th District seat, meant a net loss of one for the Latino House delegation. However, the eleven other Hispanics, all Democrats, who are current representatives encountered virtually no problems getting re-elected Tuesday.
Six of the Hispanic incumbents did not have any significant opposition: Minnie Gonzalez of Hartford, Jason Rojas of East Hartford, Robert Sanchez of New Britain, Chris Soto of New London, Geraldo Reyes of Waterbury and Hilda Santiago of Meriden. Although third party candidates were on the ballot for the seats held by Reyes, Sanchez and Rojas, they were not a significant factor in the outcome.
Julio Conception had little trouble handling three opponents in District 4, which includes northeast and downtown Hartford. Earlier this year, Conception won a three-way special election contest to complete the term of Angel Arce, who resigned amid controversy in regard to an alleged communication with a minor.
Also in Hartford, District 6 incumbent Edwin Vargas routinely put away his Republican opponent Michael Barlowski, garnering more than 87 percent of the vote. Since Vargas won a tough 2012 primary, he has had little trouble retaining this seat.
In New Haven District 95 incumbent Juan Candelaria buried John Carlson (R) by several thousand votes.
However, New Haven also was the setting for controversy as the Republicans questioned election day registrations.
Two Bridgeport Districts with large Hispanic populations had nominal contests on the ballot. In District 128, Christopher Rosario easily dispatched Ethan Book (R). This was the third time Book has opposed the highly visible Rosario and has yet to clear 14 percent of the vote. In District 130, another strong incumbent, Ezequiel Santiago, soundly defeated Terry Sullivan, a Republican.
A tighter contest was expected in District 41, which includes Groton and part of New London. However, one-term incumbent Joseph de la Cruz handily defeated Kenneth Richards III by more than 2,500 votes in unofficial tallies.
The Hispanic delegation lost one seat in the Senate when Art Linares did not seek re-election, running unsuccessfully for the Republican state treasurer nomination. However, he will still have a strong connection at the state Capitol since his wife of one year, Rep. Caroline Simmons, District 144, a Democrat, was unopposed for her Stamford seat.
Statewide, Democratic Senator Christopher Murphy won a second term, but his party will remain the minority in the Senate.
Democrats also swept the five congressional races helping their party gain momentum that is projected to give them control of the House of Representatives. The lone newcomer is Jahana Hayes in the Fifth District.
Anger with President Trump’s policies was reflected in the Bridgeport voting, Rosario said. “Standing in the rain outside the polls there were women, immigrants, Jewish people and Millennials,” Rosario said.