Connecticut governor race up for grabs amid voting dispute
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s battle for governor between Democrat Ned Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski remained close early Wednesday, as Republicans challenged the legality of newly registered voters and poll workers struggled to count ballots that became wet during a rainy Election Day.
The two major party candidates have jostled for months over who is better is positioned to fix Connecticut’s fiscal ills. As of 1:30 a.m., the race remained too close to call, prompting Lamont’s campaign manager to send home supporters who gathered at a post-election party in Hartford.
“One thing that we’re sure of, when the votes are counted, we are confident that Ned Lamont’s going to be the next governor of the state of Connecticut,” said Mark Bradley, noting that results from Democratic-friendly cities and towns were still being tallied.
Stefanowski’s campaign manager sent supporters home from the GOP’s party in Rocky Hill as well.
The scenario was reminiscent of 2010, another tight gubernatorial race that took poll workers several days to count the vote.
Stefanowski’s campaign raised concerns Tuesday with a judge about some new voters in New Haven and the University of Connecticut being allowed to cast ballots. Some were still waiting in long lines when the polls closed at 8 p.m. and others swore as a group that they had never registered to vote before in the state. The new voters were taking advantage of the state’s Election Day voter registration law.
“Those ballots that were cast by people who were not registered by 8 p.m. are going to be set aside and depending on the outcome of the election will determine if we need to go to court on Friday,” said State Republican Party Chairman J.R. Romano.
A court hearing was tentatively planned for Friday to determine whether the ballots cast in New Haven and the University of Connecticut should be included in the total tally. Gabe Rosenberg, a spokesman for the Secretary of the State’s Office, said the registrars were advised to segregate the ballots but still count them Tuesday.
Voter turnout was high for a midterm election in many communities, with more than 42 percent of the state’s record 2.16 million registered voters casting ballots by 5 p.m. Tuesday, according to Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s office. Merrill said Election Day had gone relatively smoothly despite some long lines and some ballots getting dampened by rainwater from voters’ jackets.
There were also reports of broken machines in some polling places.
The vote for governor headlines midterm balloting in Connecticut that includes contests for a Senate seat, the state’s five U.S. House seats and other statewide and local races. Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy easily won his bid for a second term , as well as Democratic U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes, John Larson and Joe Courtney. The Associated Press declared former national teacher of the year Jahana Hayes the winner in the 5th Congressional District race early Wednesday.
Democrats were also hoping to make gains in the General Assembly and continue control of the state’s constitutional offices, such as attorney general. Meanwhile, voters approved two ballot questions that amended the state’s constitution to protect state lands and transportation funding.
Stefanowski, of Madison, and Lamont, of Greenwich, led a pack of five men vying to succeed Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat who narrowly won the state’s top office in 2010 and 2014. Oz Griebel, a former Republican and Hartford business advocate who was running as an independent, conceded the race by mid-evening.
“I obviously did a very poor job of convincing people that they should vote for the best ticket and not the lesser of two evils,” he said.
Lamont and other Democratic candidates have made this election partly a referendum on President Donald Trump. Lamont has promised to be the state’s firewall against the president’s policies.
But the state’s continued economic challenges, including projected budget deficits, have also been a key issue.
Republican state Rep. Doug Dubitsky, who greeted voters in a drizzling rain outside a polling place in Norwich, said he wasn’t sure how much influence the president would ultimately have on the state’s election.
“It’s hard to tell how the whole Trump situation is going to play out,” he said. “Certainly there are angry people who hate Trump and will vote against anybody who is associated with Trump. And there are some who love Trump and will vote for anybody that’s associated with him.”
“Most of the people that I’ve spoken to are really concerned about Connecticut’s economy,” he said. “Because really, everything flows from that: education health care, municipal issues.”
Stefanowski has painted Lamont as a clone of the unpopular Malloy who would preside over tax increases, while Lamont has accused Stefanowski of proposing a reckless tax-cutting plan and being a threat to Connecticut’s values, including the state’s strong gun control laws and protections for women.
A rare Republican voter in heavily Democratic Hartford, Ken Lerman said high taxes — not Trump — were foremost on his mind as he cast his ballot.
“Our taxes keep rising. We can’t afford it,” said Lerman, an attorney and chairman of the Hartford Republican Town Committee. “We need a change in government.”
Libertarian Rod Hanscomb and Mark Stewart Greenstein, co-founder of Americans for Minimal Government Party, were also on the ballot.
Associated Press writer Dave Collins in Hartford, Conn., contributed to this report.
For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics