As Governor-elect Ned Lamont SOM ’80 begins his entry into politics after a successful career in business, he will rely on a team of experienced legislators and advisers to guide him, including longtime state Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven.

Walker, who has spent 17 years representing New Haven in the Connecticut General Assembly, was named a co-chair of the Lamont administration’s transition team as he and Lieutenant Governor-elect Susan Bysiewicz ’83 prepare for their Jan. 9 inauguration. While preparing Lamont to assume the governorship, Walker will bring her experience representing New Haven, a Democratic stronghold. During the midterm elections, the Democratic Party regained a supermajority at the state level — increasing their representation in the Connecticut House of Representatives and winning a majority in the state Senate, which is currently evenly split 18–18.

“[New Haven Mayor Toni Harp] is pleased to know that Representative Walker was named to Governor-elect Lamont’s transition team,” mayoral spokesperson Laurence Grotheer told the News. “The issues of Connecticut’s urban centers — New Haven, foremost of them — remain a prominent part of Governor-elect Lamont’s agenda.”

The Elm City, one of Connecticut’s largest municipalities, has often been the reason for Democratic success in statewide elections. In outgoing Gov. Dannel Malloy’s 2010 election bid, he trailed his Republican challenger until the Elm City — where Malloy had won by a landslide — counted its votes to put him ahead. Lamont’s election was similarly close, and New Haven contributed more than 20,000 votes to helped him narrowly defeat Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski.

Walker, one of seven delegates serving New Haven in the state house, represents the neighborhoods of Beaver Hills, West Rock, Dwight and the Hill. She will join with the other co-chairs — including outgoing attorney general George Jepsen, President of Eastern Connecticut State University Elsa Núñez and former private equity executive Garrett Moran — and the transition team’s president to guide Lamont into elected politics. The governor-elect also announced a 12-member business advisory council, which includes high-flying executives such as Indra Nooyi SOM ’80, the chairwoman of PepsiCo Inc.

In recent years, state-level Democrats have been frustrated by the party’s narrow control of Connecticut. Malloy is one the country’s most unpopular governors, and the state Senate is currently split evenly between Republicans and Democrats. With this month’s elections, however, the Democratic Party has recaptured majorities in both legislative chambers as well as in statewide offices up and down the ballot.

Democratic President Pro Tempore of the Senate Martin Looney, who represents New Haven on the Senate side, highlighted his hopes for the Lamont governorship and its ability to advance previously deadlocked causes such as paid family leave and increased minimum wage. He praised Lamont for appointing Walker to co-chair the transition team, noting that she is especially well-respected by both sides of the partisan aisle.

Walker did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Walker, who has served as a legislator representing the 93rd district since 2001, knows New Haven’s leadership well — she worked closely with current Mayor Harp when Harp served as a state senator for the Elm City. They spent several years as co-chairs, from the House and Senate sides of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee — which is charged with overseeing all of Connecticut’s budgets and financial appropriations. Walker has continued to co-chair that committee, through a particularly challenging fiscal time for the state that included a decision to bail out state capitol Hartford this summer.

“[Walker is] an experienced leader in the General Assembly,” Looney said. “She’s someone who inspires a great deal of confidence — it was a very good appointment to make.”

Walker is a longtime New Haven resident with a powerful personal backstory. Born in North Carolina, she and her family moved to Connecticut at age five after the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross on her family’s lawn because of her father’s work with the NAACP. Walker’s father continued his work in New Haven, serving as a reverend and prominent civil rights leader in the area prior to his death in 2007.

New Haven’s delegation to the General Assembly includes seven representatives and two senators.

Angela Xiao | angela.xiao@yale.edu