Twenty Three Takes on Tuesday’s Election


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I just hope that voters understand that what’s good for teachers is good for kids. I work in the district of Stonington. Which you know, is — how should I put it politely — it’s fairly well off. We do okay. You know, we’re not really hurting for funds. But we have to make sure that districts — locals like New London, Bridgeport, Hartford, Stamford, et cetera — that they have the resources they need to educate their students.

And I hope Heather Somers and Greg Howard will, at least in my area, understand that they need to look out for those locals as well.

I just have an issue with teachers, as well as police officers being involved in the state legislature, because I don’t think the police should be making laws and then enforcing the laws. It seems a little bit contradictory, the same way I don’t think teachers should be involved in making the laws that directly impact your education.

— Bruce Yarnall, Connecticut Education Association

I think Governor Lamont may find himself in situations where he will need to negotiate with the Republican caucus in order to get certain bills passed or amended. The House and Senate Democrats will not always be on the same page as him and may put him in uncomfortable positions – particularly on budgetary matters.

The House Republicans will continue to provide the necessary checks on the majority Democrats and the Governor when we feel legislation will move the state in the wrong direction.

— Devin Carney, State Representative

Everyone talks about systemic racism in Connecticut and specifically how we need to change those laws specific to zoning and housing and how those intersect with education. 

For me, it’s a matter of are we willing to confront the real work that’s required It was nice that everyone changed their Instagram profile pictures and were posting Black Lives Matter ‘hashtag this,’ but now is when the rubber meets the road as to whether we as a state want to confront those institutional issues that perpetuate racism.

I’m not a housing or zoning expert but it’s widely known that individual town zoning laws can be restrictive and discriminatory, maybe not intentionally, but there are repercussions as to how those laws are on the books. So do I think some type of zoning reform is needed? Absolutely.

— Chris Soto, former State Representative

I think I would just say democracy working for the people. That’s really what it was … I mean, so many people voted in our districts, such a high percentage that you really, truly got to see people participating. And I think that that is just, that’s the goal.

I think that [it’s] fantastic that the two parties have two excellent candidates to offer, and that one hasn’t done something horrendous in order to make people who would normally vote for them go a different direction. I think that that’s really positive and I think that southeast Connecticut should be proud of that fact …. It would be nice if that would translate up to a national level and people could be as excited about their national candidates as they can clearly about our candidates down here.

It was overwhelming the number of votes that came in yesterday … people are definitely looking at their candidates, they’re thinking about it. And I think that that is a bright spot for southeast Connecticut.

— Anna Reiter, campaign manager for Dave Rubino

I think local leadership matters. I think at the end of the day, what mattered in this election was local leadership…I think they [voters] are looking for folks that care about the issues that affect them on a day-to-day basis.

Senator Formica was one of the leaders on the Take Back The Grid Act, and then Holly [Cheeseman] with her insulin legislation and Devin [Carney] on constituent services sides, and Kathleen McCarty’s history in terms of her service to Waterford it all added up. I think that was really important, but the local leadership matters really prevailed in this election for the folks that won in southeastern Connecticut.

Holly and Paul and Devin and Kathleen, being there for constituents, they were able to divide local issues from national issues. If you look at the numbers with these guys, they’ve been part of the community for a long time.

And I think if you look at the COVID-19 pandemic, these have been the trusted leaders during the pandemic side of getting the services needed, the unemployment claims, of being the day-to-day folks.

— John Kleinhaus, political strategist

I think we’re very well represented at the State Capitol. Every one of them, I call them, they immediately call me back. So I don’t have any complaints with our representation at the State Capitol overall.

I’m a little disappointed that Republicans weren’t able to gain some seats. And the reason I say that is, it’s not bad to have opposition. I mean, even if you’re not in the majority, I think it’s good to be able to force a discussion and there won’t be much discussion with the opposite party this year because it’s going to be one party rule. And I don’t know that that is necessarily healthy for the state.

— Carl Fortuna, First Selectman, Old Saybrook

Both parties did not come out well in this election. And quite frankly, both parties need to take time out, to think of the country first, think about how they can make this process work better for everybody.

You know, we find ourselves in a difficult situation in the country. It’s really unfortunate because there’s so much division. I think that all of us … especially those in leadership positions have a responsibility to make their voice heard, make sure that these people who were sent to Washington work together, because, at the end of the day, if they can’t find a way to compromise, then they ought not to be in [the] position.” 

Of course everybody hates Congress, but they love their own Congressman. Which is the case with myself. Joe Courtney does a pretty decent job for the region, a very good job, actually, for the region. And he is capable of working and has worked across the aisle. So we’re fortunate in that manner.

I think all of our political people need … to come together and get rid of this pandemic. I think every one of our political people need to set a good example, wear a mask and make sure others do it as well.

– Tony Sheriden, Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut

There’s always a strong bias toward incumbency.

A lot of it is just familiarity, right? People get to know the names … people who are elected to office serve their constituents and they, the constituents, remember that. And even if you personally don’t get served, maybe your neighbors did, or maybe some program that your kid was involved in was helped or something like that. And so you remember the people and they become more valuable to you.

Most of the forecast thought that the U.S. Senate was going to flip, that Trump was going to be easily unseated. None of those things have come to fruition. And I would say that speaks in part to the pull of incumbency, but the research going into this did indicate that that’s where people were: that they were just going to play it safe.

You take a public that is relatively uninformed and relatively uninterested in politics in general, and it’s pretty easy to see how we can end up in the situation we end up … It’s a lot easier just to vote for the person you know than to figure out if the person running against them does any better.

— Nicole Krassas, Professor of Political Science, ECSU

Especially in the pandemic, people want their workplaces safe and they want to be safe when they go into these places, whether it would be Walmart or it’d be a hospital, for sure.

I really do wish that Martha Marx had gotten elected … that did not happen, unfortunately, but I would have loved to have a nurse at the State Senate. That would have definitely, I think, helped us with any legislation being passed on the pandemic, and just having some insight for somebody who worked in the field and actually has to live it.

I would love them [the legislature] to put some pressure on OSHA on workplace safety. I would love them to pass some legislation making sure that these companies and organizations were enforcing the governor’s mandates … we’re playing this game on what freedom is and what community health should be. It’s a political game and it’s actually very sad because it does cost people lives.

— Sherri Dayton, President, Backus Federation of Nurses, AFL 

I’m sure that the issue [tolling] is going to come up. There are many Democrats who feel that issue needs to come back again. I know Sen. Alex Kasser, who won her re-election, and Sen.Haskell have expressed it during their campaign… Sen. Osten seemed to be someone who was quite in favor of it, and I thought had a good chance of potentially losing her seat….

I have a hard time believing what the governor tells us because of the history he has with this issue. Shortly after he was elected governor, everything that he promised and pledged then completely changed. So, I don’t believe it, but I understand why the governor may want to take a hands-off approach this time because he is up for re-election in two years. The campaign starts relatively soon, so I can see him trying to take the direction where he’ll let the legislators be the ones to carry this.

– Pat Sasser, No Tolls CT

Sen. Needleman has been the chair for one session, and now moving into the second one. I don’t see there being any big change because they’re the same players. And I hope that as we move forward with our energy agenda, we continue to be thoughtful about being innovative through different ways of going about grid modernization.

I think that Sen. Needleman has registered support for thinking out of the box in the past. He has started to understand, I think some of the advocates will tell you, that the infrastructure of natural gas is kind of going in a different direction than it was in the past. We are not really thinking that the gas infrastructure is going to save us money, in fact, we think it’s going to end up with a lot of stranded assets because of the fact that we have to continue to build toward a lower carbon emissions future. I think that Sen. Formica is also very aware and very supportive of offshore wind and other ways of generating clean energy….

I think if the case can be made that it’s not going to detrimentally affect ratepayers from a pocketbook standpoint, that [Needleman and Formica] would be open to [shifting resources from natural gas to renewable energy]. I do think that most politicians are very sensitive to how it impacts their constituents financially. We are just making these natural gas infrastructure investments, and then customers will have to carry the burden of those investments for 30 years as the usage of gas goes away.

– Amy McLean, Connecticut Director of Acadia Center

Fortunately for the arts we’ve had very strong legislative support across the aisle, which has never been a partisan issue …. I think the real challenge is an economic one. We’re in the middle of a pandemic and a presidential election and [in need of] stimulus funding. But I think there are bigger forces at play that will affect all of our ability to navigate through this.

— Steve Sigel, Executive Director of the Garde Arts Center

I think the outcome was very positive [for marijuana legalization]. There were a number of legislators who signed on to supporting legalization and they did so for a few different reasons: public safety and public health are among the top reasons. Right now we have a multi-million dollar industry that is completely unregulated and has no public health and public safety guarantees, and I think this incoming class of legislators really appreciate that. They also see the benefit of the additional revenues for the state at a time when the state really needs that revenue.

There was a strong level of support this current year, but the session was cut short. I think the level of support has only increased, and I think it’s increased substantially in the House of Representatives. I think you have a Governor who is supportive of legalization, and you now have legislative leaders of both chambers who are supportive. I would expect in the next few weeks and months, leadership will be talking to members to gauge the level of support. We know that a majority of them are, so we’re optimistic.

Overall, the Democratic caucus tends to be more supportive than the Republican caucus, at least from a leadership perspective. So, I think the fact that Democrats have increased their ranks was helpful, but we weren’t watching any races in particular. I think there were so many retirements this year that many of the new folks coming in have a supportive position on legalization, which is positive. Overall, I think it was a very positive result towards the goal of legalization.

– Adam Wood, co-director of Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana 

I’m very happy to see that the voters in our state have reflected on the value of the policies that the Democrats have brought about — science-based as well as long-term management and working toward the quality of life of citizens are critical pieces to people in our state and that is one of the reasons that I’m sure that national politics have also weighed in to what we have seen in our state as well.

The way I look at this is it’s going to require education efforts to help people understand the long term impacts that we as a state have had from our poor choices in the past and going forward we need to make sure that people recognize that if we do not change policies and [essentially] stay on the same path we are going to leave about a quarter of our population behind and they will not be able to achieve their full potential. So, I’m hoping to have conversations with my colleagues and not only on the Democratic side but also on the Republican side and see if we can come up with a way to undo some of the wrong that has happened but also work toward an equitable and safer plan for all people.

— Saud Anwar, State Senator

I’ve always said that land use reform deserves a robust conversation with all the new legislators when they return in January and we look forward to participating in that conversation as some of many voices on this issue. We’re looking forward to engaging legislators on a bipartisan basis to have to advance reforms to address a problem that we all know, which is that our land use system is outdated and needs to be reviewed and revised.

— Sara Bronin, Desegregate CT 

I think the issue is that there are more progressive Democrats that were elected. They have identified affordable housing as part of their top issues and other initiatives that will have a lot of momentum. So, it will be interesting to see how these issues play out, particularly given the limitations on debates and public discourse during the pandemic…. 

We’re also going to be identifying our top legislative priorities and making sure that we have a very focused agenda that will address issues that towns need to help their communities recover from the pandemic — economic development issues, municipal costs, public health issues. 

There are some issues that realistically we know are not going to move forward because of the significant number of progressive Democrats — issues like prevailing wage reform and collective bargaining reform are typically nonstarters when you have a lot of progressive legislators in the caucus. It’s been a tough issue for years but certainly the increase of the size of the caucus will make it even tougher. We’ll be focusing our efforts on other issues that are more doable.

— Betsy Gara, Executive Director of Connecticut Council of Small Towns

I’m here in New London, which is like an oasis in the middle of Trumpville. We’re just feeling very ostracized in this increasingly conservative Republican end of the state. We would have loved to participate in the success of the Democrats in other parts of the state. We’re very disappointed Martha didn’t win. I think the 20th senatorial district reflects the national split between the values of the two parties. 

Certainly the legislative representation from southeastern Connecticut does not reflect the political direction of the City of New London. We just sort of stand out alone in this region. We don’t have the representation we want other than our own two representatives that we elected. I would say, it’s good news for us in general for us that the Democrats in the legislature have more influence than they had in the last session….

New London is unique to the region because we are literally 50 percent black and brown and 50 percent caucasian. We are very integrated and we have a fair representation of the different economic classes also. 

My biggest disappointment is that New London, that Martha wasn’t successful and that New London didn’t get that Democratic seat in the state legislature. It would be very important to New London if we had a senator that was caucusing with the majority party. We lose an incredible amount of influence just because our senator does not caucus with the majority party.

— Mike Passero, Mayor of New London

I’m sad, not because I expected to win, but because I hoped the issues I care about might have won. I’m in a minority party, but these are issues most Americans support. It’s just sad when they don’t win elections.  

The two-party system prevents us from feeling free to vote for what we actually want. We’re told that you either vote for one candidate or you get their opponent who’s worse. It feels more like extortion than democracy.

I’m looking forward to a time when instead of being shamed or castigated for voting our values, we can have the freedom to do that with ranked choice voting, voting first for the candidate we like best and then indicating second and third choices as backup so we don’t have to worry about tipping any elections. If I only have two choices, I’ll take the lesser evil, but when I know there’s a system that would allow me to vote my values, I’m angry it hasn’t been implemented yet.

—  Justin Paglino, Green Party candidate for Congress

We ended up exactly where I was anticipating we would be at the end of the day. I’m excited and honored to be reelected, because it lets you know what your job performance was. 

I don’t think anything will change. I don’t see the makeup of the general assembly impacting the work that I do because my district is more moderate, and my bills will all have bipartisan support.

— Cathy Osten, State Senator

This is going to be a very important legislative session ahead of us in 2021, and we hope that everyone keeps in mind the struggle that small businesses have been going through over the last 9 months because of COVID. There is going to be a real need for the new legislature to focus on economic relief to help out the small business community. 

We knew that numbers in either chamber wouldn’t change dramatically, but there were some changes, and our big takeaway looking ahead to next year is that four out of the six legislative leaders are new. With that comes new responsibilities, committee chairs, committee assignments, and a whole host of freshman lawmakers, so there is going to be a learning curve for everyone involved, lawmakers and advocates alike. 

Paul Formica is the new deputy minority leader in the Senate, and Paul is a small business owner himself, so it’s certainly positive to have lawmakers who have direct small business experience in leadership positions.

 — Andy Markowski, State Director, NFIB

We think this election will bring new legislators to the State Capitol that will be real champions for workers, especially since some of these new legislators have backgrounds having worked with unions, like Jorge Cabrera. 

Labor laws currently fall short in a lot of areas, particularly with paid sick leave. We’ve made some progress on that, but the laws still don’t affect all workers. Many companies have less than 50 employees and don’t have to pay sick leave, but all workers need it so they don’t have to choose between going to work sick or taking care of themselves and losing a paycheck. We hope we can make progress on that.

— Alberto Bernardez, District Leader of 32BJ SEIU

I think the — unfortunately, the election results are a lot about what was happening at the presidential level … the top of the ticket, the presidential thing, obviously it gets a lot of attention, but what happens at your local level is really what impacts you the most in your lives. So we really try to get folks to separate the top of the ticket from what’s happening locally, but obviously it’s just not easy with the amount of tension and emotion that was around President Trump and Vice President Biden.

We’re just kind of fighting hard to remind folks what the Connecticut residents need, which is creating the jobs and growing the economy. We just can’t lose sight of that.

Obviously we want everyone in the legislature to support economic growth … and I think a lot of people are ready for something new and something that’s pro-growth, pro-business.

— Chris DiPentima, President, CBIA 

We are now a supermajority, but I hope it doesn’t change much. I always think we should be magnanimous in victory or in defeat, so I’m committed to beliefs that regardless of how many members we have, we should always be listening to good ideas regardless of who they come from. 

Donald Trump was a factor in the election, so many of these elections were decided on the general sentiment in Connecticut that we did not like the direction that Donald Trump was taking the country. The energizing of women and minority communities helped a lot of us get elected, might not have otherwise gotten elected. Because of that, we can’t take things for granted, and listen as much as talk. I’m a strong believer in building consensus, it never was just a political slogan for me. 

— Norm Needleman, State Senator