When Connecticut residents head to the polls to cast their votes on Tuesday, they will see two Yalies on the ballot for the state’s top two elected officials. But in some districts, Yale alumni will also be vying for votes further down the ballot.
Although Yale’s most prominent pair of alumni on this year’s state ticket will no doubt be running mates Ned Lamont SOM ’80 and Susan Bysiewicz ’83 — the Democratic hopefuls for the governor and lieutenant governor offices, a handful of Yale-affiliated candidates are also seeking out opportunities to represent their constituencies in the state Senate and House. Two Yalies are running for state House seats: John-Michael Parker ’10 and Matt Blumenthal LAW ’15 in the 101th and 147th Districts, representing Madison and Stamford, respectively. Former state Rep. James Maroney ’96 is running in the 14th Senate district.
All three candidates are Democrats and were included in former President Barack Obama’s second wave of endorsements this election cycle.
“A combination of feeling frustrated about not only our national political leadership but also the national political conversation and the divisiveness … made me want to get more directly involved in politics,” said Parker, a first-time candidate with no previous political experience, in an interview with the News.
Parker, who grew up in nearby Madison before attending Yale to study neurobiology, recently returned to his hometown after several years both teaching in New York City and serving at the helm of the New York branch of The Future Project, an education nonprofit he co-founded with two other Yale graduates — Andrew Mangino ’09 and Kanya Balakrishna ’09.
He told the News that the time he spent serving his community in New York motivated him to consider service within the community in which he was raised and “how to fight for the whole community and how to fight for social change.”
Those considerations — and some time on tour with his band — eventually led to Parker’s return to Madison and his decision to run to represent the 101th District, which encompasses Madison and parts of neighboring Durham.
Parker faces an incumbent Republican opponent and 30-year Madison resident Noreen Kokoruda. Kokoruda, who was first elected to the seat in February of 2011 after a special election, is seeking her fifth term this election. In her first two reelection bids — in 2012 and 2014 — Kokoruda comfortably defeated Democratic challengers. In 2016, she was unopposed in both the primary and general elections.
Like Parker, Blumenthal has never held elected office before, but is the son of U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73, who has held his seat since 2010 but is not up for reelection this year. The younger Blumenthal, a veteran of the Marine Corps Reserve who served in Afghanistan, seeks to fill a seat held by William Tong for the last 12 years. Tong stepped down to run for attorney general and is this year’s Democratic nominee.
Blumenthal’s platform for the 147th District, which encompasses Stamford and Darien and is part of the state’s wealthiest areas, includes issues such as education, transportation and financial reform for the state. His opponent, Anzelmo Graziosi, is also an attorney and is running a campaign centered on fiscal conservatism.
Blumenthal, whose educational pedigree mirrors his father’s, is still involved with Yale — he supervises a clinic at the Law School.
In the races for state Senate, which is currently evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, Maroney represents another homegrown Yale candidate. He was raised in Milford and ran both track and cross country during his time at Yale. Prior to his involvement with local politics, he founded First Choice College Placement, an educational consulting company where he is still director.
Maroney’s platform is centered on educational reform, promoting small business and increasing environmental protections. His vision for the state acknowledges the challenges Connecticut currently faces, stating on his website that, “in the past, we may have made mistakes as a state, but it is time to start looking forward and capitalize on our natural advantages.”
Maroney will battle Pam Staneski for the seat currently held by Democrat Gayle Slossberg, who is not seeking reelection after 14 years in office.
Parker, Blumenthal and Maroney were three of 14 Connecticut candidates endorsed by Obama on Oct. 1. In the endorsement, which he published on Twitter, Obama said that his endorsements highlighted a contingent of candidates who actively stood for the Democratic party’s values while fighting against the recent vitriol of politics.
“Democratic candidates who aren’t just running against something, but for something — to expand opportunity for all of us and to restore dignity, honor, and compassion to public service,” Obama wrote.
The 14 endorsed candidates also included Lamont and Bysiewicz and a slew of local contenders. No Connecticut candidates were included in Obama’s first wave of endorsements.
There are 151 members of the Connecticut House of Representatives and 36 members in the state’s Senate.
Angela Xiao | firstname.lastname@example.org .