As Connecticut voters chose an overwhelmingly Democratic congressional delegation, the race for attorney general remained close through the night and was still too close to call hours into Wednesday morning.
In the race to replace outgoing Attorney General George Jepsen, a Democrat who was first elected in 2010 and did not seek re-election this year, Democrat William Tong and Republican Sue Hatfield engaged in the closest contest for Attorney General the state has seen in decades. Both candidates would make history in the post — Tong would be the first Asian-American while Hatfield would be the first woman to serve as Connecticut’s top civil law enforcement officer.
Connecticut’s state-level ballot featured several other too-close-to-call races, but a trio of Democrats broke through and emerged victorious early Wednesday morning — incumbents Secretary of State Denise Merrill and Comptroller Kevin Lembo both narrowly defeated their Republican challengers, while fellow Democrat Shawn Wooden’s victory over Republican Thad Gray for treasurer was called shortly thereafter.
As of 2 a.m., 78 percent of the precincts were reported for down-ballot races. In New Haven, a longtime Democratic stronghold, 32 of 40 precincts were unannounced while 14 of Bridgeport’s 24 precincts and 14 of 24 in Hartford were also unreported.
Early Wednesday, representatives for the Tong campaign told the News that they would not issue any official statements until the morning, citing the ongoing tight nature of the race.
“We are not going to make any statements until we have all the votes in,” Rowan Kane, Tong’s campaign manager, told the News at 2 a.m. on Wednesday. “There’s going to be a lot of change in what you see, from where we are right now, overnight … we’re confident that the numbers are going to look good for us in the morning, but we want to get those numbers in.”
Tong is the son of Chinese immigrants, and previously represented Stamford in the House and co-chaired the legislature’s judiciary committee. He ran a campaign explicitly denouncing the policies and rhetoric of the Trump administration. In the rallies and talks leading up to the election, Tong highlighted the battles he envisioned taking on as Connecticut’s attorney general — including joining with counterparts in other states to preserve the Affordable Care Act as well as taking on more activist positions on issues such as climate change and the petroleum industry.
A longtime Republican, Hatfield is a state prosecutor and an early backer of Trump. Hatfield ran on her experience as a criminal prosecutor. As the national conversation over immigration and family separation heated up over the summer, Hatfield threw her support behind the Trump administration’s immigration agendas. Early in her career, she served as a policy adviser to then-Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, who served as a Republican congressman for Pennsylvania. In 2016, she was a delegate for Trump at the Republican convention.
“[The attorney general race], in particular, is interesting because you have a Republican candidate who supported Donald Trump’s policies of separating children from their families at the border,” Geoff Simpson, Lembo’s campaign manager, said. “It just feels like that’s not a value that most of Connecticut holds.”
Hatfield’s campaign did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Tong became the Democratic nominee for the post after a three-way primary, emerging with 57.8 percent of the vote. Hatfield battled it out with John Shaban, a former representative in the state House, for the Republican ticket. She defeated Shaban with 79.3 percent of the primary vote.
On the campaign trail, Tong clearly stressed that the state’s top civil law enforcement officer would also be an important part of Connecticut’s national identity, essentially turning the race into a referendum on national politics.
In general, as of early Wednesday, Tong dominated urban centers and wealthy areas including Stamford, which he represented for more than a decade in the legislature. On the other hand, Hatfield picked up smaller towns and rural precincts.
“It’s difficult to tell why one person would vote for [Lembo] but not vote for William Tong or not vote for Ned Lamont,” Simpson told the News late Tuesday night, when Lembo led in his race but Tong and Lamont both trailed their Republican opponents. “The Democratic line up, we all represent a similar set of values.”
Jepsen announced he would not run for re-election in November 2017.
Angela Xiao | firstname.lastname@example.org .