Republicans say they may take state Senate, Dems disagree
By Ed Jacovino
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 11:32 AM EDT
“Our best chance to make gains … runs through eastern Connecticut,” Republican State Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. said. He pointed to seven Democrat-controlled districts in which Republican candidates have won state campaign finance grants — putting them on par in spending with their Democratic opponents.
Democrats now control 22 of the 36 Senate seats, leaving Republicans with 14. The last time Republicans controlled the Senate was from 1995-97. If Republicans pick up four seats in the Nov. 6 election, they would tie the Democrats, meaning any party-line vote would be broken by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, a Democrat.
“We need five,” Labriola said. “The trick is to hold the 14 we have and then look to play offense, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Labriola counts two districts in which Democrats aren’t running for re-election as the party’s best chance.
One is the 19th Senate District, which includes Hebron and Columbia and extends south and east to Ledyard. The seat is held by Edith G. Prague of Columbia, who is retiring. State Rep. Christopher D. Coutu, R-Norwich, is running against Democrat Catherine A. Osten for the seat.
The other is the 33rd Senate District, held by Eileen M. Daily of Westbrook, who’s also retiring. Republican Art Linares is running against Rep. James Crawford, D-Westbrook, for that seat.
The faceoff in Manchester between Cheri A. Pelletier, a Republican, and Sen. Stephen T. Cassano, a Democrat, in the 4th Senate District is on Labriola’s short list as well. The district also includes Andover and Glastonbury.
So are the contests to unseat Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr. of Brooklyn in the 29th District; Andrew M. Maynard of Stonington in the 18th District; Andrea L. Stillman of Waterford in the 20th District; and Edward Meyer of Guilford in the 12th District.
Labriola said voters are unhappy with changes the Democrat-controlled House and Senate and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, also a Democrat, have made.
Among them are legislation authorizing the New Britain-to-Hartford busway project, state funding for Jackson Laboratory to operate on the University of Connecticut Health Center campus in Farmington, and up to $125 million in subsidies for hedge fund Bridgewater Associates to build a corporate headquarters in Stamford, he said.
“The voters know that Connecticut’s economy is stuck in reverse, and they’ve had it with million-dollar-per-inch busways to nowhere, million-dollar-per-job boondoggles such as Jackson Labs, and sweetheart money giveaways to billionaires,” Labriola said.
Jonathan Harris, executive director of the state Democrats, said the Republican chances of taking the Senate are slim. He said he believes his party is in the position to pick up at least one seat in the Senate — not lose five.
Central to Harris’ campaign is the 4th Senate District race between Democrat Karen Jarmoc, a former state representative, and Sen. John A. Kissel, a Republican. Both live in Enfield.
“We’re taking nothing for granted, but I think there’s chances with the races out there that we’re going to pick up a seat,” Harris said.
He’s also looking at the 13th Senate District race between Democrat Dante Bartolomeo and Sen. Leonard Suzio, a Republican from Meriden.
Harris said Republicans were strong in 2010 and picked up some seats that have flipped between Democrat and Republican control, but said that this year the Democrats can win them back.
He added that residents don’t want a Republican Senate to block the “progress” made under Malloy, who followed four terms of Republican governors.
“It would be a step backwards,” Harris said. “The last two years, Governor Malloy with the cooperation and collaboration of the House and Senate has confronted the issues that the Republican governors for 16 years had ignored.”
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