Carried into office by a nationwide blue wave, newly elected Democratic majorities in both chambers of the Connecticut General Assembly are looking forward to implementing progressive policies and jumpstarting the state’s lackluster economy.
With a 23–13 Democratic majority in the state Senate and a 92–59 majority in the Connecticut House of Representatives, Democratic Governor-elect Ned Lamont SOM ’80 will likely face fewer obstacles to implement his liberal agenda than his deeply unpopular Democratic predecessor Gov. Dannel Malloy had during his last two years with an even 18–18 split in the state Senate.
Noting the state’s fiscal crisis and the issue’s importance to voters, Lamont and legislative Democrats have spent their first week after the election focusing on their plan for the economy. On election night, Lamont barely pulled out the victory from Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski, who centered his entire platform around lowering taxes and promoting economic development.
“We’re digging in right now,” Lamont said at a press conference at Gateway Community College in New Haven on Thursday. “We’ve got a small but smart, experienced budget SWAT team going through each and every item in the current budget cycle, taking a fresh look at those numbers. So we’ll be ready over the course of the next 45 days.”
At the press conference, Lamont introduced many of the new members of his transition team, which includes a bipartisan combination of business leaders, politicians and activists — including New Haven Director of Labor Relations Tom McCarthy, Republican New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart and Aetna Chief Human Resources Officer Elease Wright.
A veto-proof majority slipped through the Democrats’ fingers on Wednesday after incumbent Sen. George Logan, R-Hamden, defeated his Democratic challenger Jorge Cabrera by 85 votes following a recount conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday. Cabrera was in the lead at first with all precincts reporting by Nov. 7, but Logan ultimately came out on top with a 65-vote lead when vote totals from Ansonia changed on Nov. 8.
“It is an honor and privilege to have this opportunity to represent you in the Senate for another term,” Logan said in a Facebook post on Wednesday. “I look forward to working with Governor-elect Lamont and his new administration in a bipartisan manner to move CT forward in a way that improves the lives of everyone living and working in CT.”
In spite of the loss in Hamden, Democrats still managed to unseat several prominent Republicans.
Long-term Republicans Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden and Rep. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, all lost their seats on Nov. 6. But perhaps the most noteworthy upset of the night was the victory of 22-year-old, Obama-endorsed Will Haskell, who defeated Boucher — a state senator who has served in Hartford since Haskell was born.
“I’m eager to bring your stories to Hartford and begin the long road of building a state government that makes us proud,” Haskell wrote in a Facebook post on Nov. 9. “To those who did not vote for me, please know that I want to be your voice as well, and look forward to learning from you over the next two years.”
On the campaign trail, Lamont stressed that fixing Connecticut’s struggling economy will be his top priority as governor. On Tuesday, Lamont met with ten of Connecticut’s largest employers — including Aetna and Webster Bank — to discuss economic growth and solving the state’s fiscal crisis.
Lamont also met with the mayors of the state’s five largest cities on Tuesday: Bridgeport, New Haven, Stamford, Hartford and Waterbury.
“I am going to work with mayors and first selectmen, business leaders, legislators, and labor to jumpstart our economy and create good jobs with good wages across CT,” Lamont tweeted on Wednesday.
According to mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer, the mayors lobbied Lamont for improvements in municipal aid programs. For example, although enrollment in New Haven Public Schools has increased over the last few years, state aid for school systems has not changed.
Grotheer emphasized the importance of New Haven’s role in the Greater New Haven region.
“New Haven is happy to accept the responsibility and rightly proud of cultural offerings and excited about being [the] financial center of the region,” Grotheer said. “But without a regional funding mechanism, the burden falls disproportionately on New Haven taxpayers.”
Harp also hopes that the state legislature will find “reliable and predictable” sources of revenue, Grotheer said. When actual revenue does not meet levels of projected revenue from the state budget, municipal aid is often cut first, placing strain on city budgets.
Democrats received a bump from higher turnout rates on Nov. 6 across the state, especially in cities. Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill estimates statewide turnout at 65 percent — about 15 points higher than the national average. In New Haven, turnout this year surpassed that of the 2016 presidential election, with about 58 percent of voters at the polls, compared to about 53 percent in 2016.
The makeup of the U.S. Senate is still not finalized as voters wait on final results in Florida and Mississippi.
Nathalie Bussemaker | firstname.lastname@example.org