After two years of gridlock, the Democratic Party looked poised early Wednesday morning to regain control of the Senate by a four-seat margin.
Democrats managed to secure the additional seats needed to break the current 18–18 tie in the state Senate, riding a wave of anti-Trump fervor across the country. Four incumbents, including Republican stalwarts Sen. Michael McLachlan, R.-Danbury, Sen. Len Suzio, R.-Meriden, and Toni Boucher, R.-Wilton, lost their re-election bids in a midterm election that saw almost unprecedented voter turnout. As of 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday, the state House of Representatives also saw an increase in Democratic representation with 57 seats to 46 Republican seats.
“I wrote two speeches tonight and I am so happy I’m giving this one,” 22-year-old Georgetown graduate Will Haskell said in his victory speech, according to the Hartford Courant. “This campaign started with the crazy idea to challenge someone who has been in Hartford as long as I’ve been alive. Every generation deserves a seat at the table and no one is entitled to another term because they’ve been there a long time.”
The election results mirror the results seen in the U.S. House of Representatives, where Democrats took back a majority after picking up 37 seats for a total of 229 seats. Republicans had won a 241–194 majority in the 2016 election.
In keeping with historical trends, New Haven’s delegation to the Connecticut General Assembly has stayed solidly Democratic. New Haven state Sen. Gary Winfield and Martin Looney both won re-election with over 80 percent of the vote, while Democratic state representatives Pat Dillon, Robin Porter, Juan Candelaria, Roland Lemar and Al Paolillo all bested the competition with at least three-quarters of the vote.
City Hall, which last had a Republican mayor in 1953, expressed its support for Democratic candidates.
“There is no question that Mayor [Toni] Harp would like to see a Democratic sweep tonight,” said mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer.
A key upset of the night came in District 26, where Obama-endorsed Haskell defeated longtime Republican incumbent Boucher.
Both parties relied heavily on high voter turnout, which exceeded expectations across the nation. According to political commentator Nate Cohn, about 114 million votes were cast for candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, compared to around 83 million in 2014.
Many Republican candidates attacked their Democratic opponents by tying them to unpopular democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy, but Democratic efforts to paint their opponents as connected to President Donald Trump proved more successful.
The latest list of results for the Connecticut General Assembly “doesn’t look great,” according to Stefanowski spokesman Kendall Marr.
The high level of support for Democrats in the general assembly, however, did not carry over to the governor’s race, which was neck-to-neck as of early Wednesday morning. Democratic candidate Ned Lamont was projected to win for most of the election season, but the polls narrowed in the last month before the election.
Several cities, including New Haven and Fairfield, saw high levels of same-day voter registration, which resulted in lines with wait times of more than four hours. The long wait resulted in a controversy over whether or not unregistered voters who arrived to registration sites before the 8 p.m. deadline would be allowed to register and vote.
New Haven’s weather conditions exacerbated the disorder. Voters, soaked from the rain, filled out wet ballots which resulted in the malfunctioning of tabulating machines. Poll station workers were allegedly forced to resort to drying the ballots using hair dryers, according to the Associated Press. This manifested in delays counting votes throughout multiple precincts such as Dwight’s Ward 2, Hill’s Ward 4, East Rock’s Ward 9, Dixwell’s Ward 22, Edgewood’s Ward 24, and Westville’s Ward 25 and Ward 26.
“I think everyone is a little surprised about New Haven and how long it’s taken to get the final results. Now there’s the possibility of discrepancies and injunctions and lawyers getting involved,” former New Haven Republican Town Committee Chair Jonathan Wharton said. “It’s disconcerting that the results might be delayed for a couple of days.”
In an interview with the News, Republican state Sen. Len Fasano, R.-North Haven, shared Wharton’s uncertainty about final tabulations.
“I’ve got to wait to see where we are,” he said late Tuesday night.
The two-year tie in the Senate contributed to the state’s record-setting budget impasse last year. Legislators passed their two-year budget in November 2017, after a 123-day stretch, making Connecticut the last state in the nation to pass a budget.
The Connecticut General Assembly is in session from February to May.
Asha Prihar contributed reporting.
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