When state Rep. Howard Scipio, a Democrat who has represented New Haven for eight years, suddenly died this spring, a seat opened that no one was waiting to fill.
In the chaos following Scipio’s April 30 death, four people, including his daughter, sought the Democratic nomination, but after four ballots the district committee couldn’t settle on a candidate. With no Democratic nominee, two Democrats and a Republican entered the June 19 special election.
Toni Edmonds Walker, 49, a Democrat whose family was Scipio’s neighbor for decades, defeated former Mayor John Daniels and Keith Garrett, who ran on the Republican ticket. Walker will fill out the remainder of Scipio’s term, representing the 93rd Assembly District, which includes Davenport, Ezra Stiles, Morse and Pierson colleges, through 2002.
“I knew Mr. Scipio well, and I knew his compassion for people, and that’s something that I share very strongly with him,” said Walker.
Scipio had lived next to the Rev. Edwin Edmonds, Walker’s father and a visible community activist. Walker knew Scipio for about 20 years.
Walker did not consider running for Scipio’s seat until district residents urged her to run. The May 11 Democratic nominating convention was the first time the local Democratic committee was unable to decide on a nominee.
Scipio died April 30 from a heart attack. He was 79.
“He was probably the best constituent worker that I have come across,” state Sen. Toni Harp said. “He answered every phone call and did his best to resolve every problem.”
Scipio, a former SNET executive, first ran for the state House of Representatives in 1992. Locally, Scipio was moderator for Ward 28 from 1965 to 1991 and Democratic co-chair of Ward 28.
He also participated in the 1944 Normandy invasion.
Harp remembered Scipio as an influential member of the Human Services Committee and chair of the Public Health Committee.
Walker said she was concerned with the same issues that Scipio was.
“I don’t hear a lot of compassion from the people who are terminating the welfare support after 60 months,” Walker said.
Walker, who is coordinator of adult education grants for the city Board of Education, has worked with welfare recipients and youth in the past and became involved with long-term healthcare issues after witnessing Scipio’s work with the elderly. Walker suggested tax relief for seniors living at home.
But before Walker can influence policy, she’ll need to learn the Hartford ropes.
On her first day at the Connecticut Statehouse, Walker returned from the rest room and heard the bell notifying representatives to vote. She thought it was a fire drill, so she jumped up to run out.
“It was a comedy of errors the first day,” Walker said. “There was no freshmen orientation; I was thrown right into a voting booth.”