Advocates Plan Strategy for Ranked Choice in Legislative Session

In the upcoming legislative session, lawmakers in Hartford will need to tackle COVID relief head-on, deal with a looming budget crisis, and they may work to legalize recreational marijuana. Still, some activists are pushing to put another issue on the agenda: ranked-choice voting.   The voting change has been long supported by third parties as a way to eliminate the “spoiler effect,” where votes for a third-party candidate draw votes from a similar major-party candidate, causing the other candidate to win. Maine and Alaska already use ranked-choice voting, and Massachusetts held a ballot referendum to consider the change, though the measure

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Audit finds Lax Oversight of Public Campaign Financing

For the last nine years, the State Election Enforcement Commission has failed to report the use of grant money financing candidates running for the Connecticut General Assembly, according to a recent audit report.  The commission is responsible for the Citizen’s Election Program, which gives grant money to campaigns for state senate or state representative through the Citizen’s Election Fund, a pool of money that comes from the sale of abandoned property.  By law, the commission must report annually on the amount of money in the fund and the number of people who have contributed to it. The commission is also

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Data Suggests Few Absentee Ballots Late or Rejected in 2020

Despite the unusually large number of absentee ballots sent through the mail for the 2020 election, data shows that the percentage of rejected ballots across Connecticut was consistent with the prior 2016 elections.  The Connecticut Examiner analyzed absentee ballot data from seven cities in Connecticut — New Haven, New London, Bridgeport, Hartford, Middletown, Danbury and Waterbury — in part to make this comparison. In one example, out of the 8,659 absentee ballots that Middletown received, 99 were rejected. This represents 1.1 percent of the total number of absentee ballots received. Ashley Flynn-Natale, the town clerk, said that 20 of those

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John-Michael Parker Talks Housing, Education and Regionalization

For John-Michael Parker, the newly elected state representative for the towns of Madison and Durham, art and music have always offered a critical means of connecting with others.   It was true when he was growing up in Madison, and it is true again since he moved back to the area in 2018 after a decade of living and working in New York City. “The arts had been the place where — and right here in this community — I got to grow and develop and learn a lot,” said Parker. So perhaps it is no surprise that music found a

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A Closer Look at Voter Turnout

A higher percentage of Connecticut voters cast ballots in last week’s election than in 2016, but long lines at the polls were likely due more to COVID precautions, as fewer ballots were cast in-person. More than 1.85 million voters cast ballots in the November general election out of more than 2.33 million eligible voters, according to the unofficial results available Wednesday from the Connecticut Secretary of the State’s office.  That equals a statewide voter turnout rate of 79.65 percent, up 2.7 percent from 2016, when more than 1.67 million cast ballots out of more than 2.17 million eligible voters –

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Twenty Three Takes on Tuesday’s Election

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

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Formica Named Deputy Minority Leader, Lays Out Next Term

State Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, has been named Deputy Minority Leader of the Senate when lawmakers return to session in January. Formica will join new Minority Leader State Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, as the new leadership of the Senate Republicans, who lost two seats to Democrats in the election on Tuesday and will go into the next session outnumbered 24-12 in the upper chamber. “It’s an absolute, incredible honor,” Formica said of his new role. “I’m very excited about the position, and I look forward to the challenge. We have a great caucus with very good senators who work

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Osten Offers Quick Take on Election

State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, will return to Hartford for her fourth term representing a district that stretches from Marlborough to Ledyard, beating back a challenge from Republican businessman Steve Weir with 54 percent of the vote.  “We ended up exactly where I was anticipating we would be at the end of the day,” Osten said. “I’m excited and honored to be reelected, because it lets you know what your job performance was.”  Speaking from the car as she drove up to Hartford, Osten said she was already putting in legislation requests for her fifth term. Among them are bills

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Paglino Offers Takeaway from Third-Party Bid

Green Party candidate Justin Paglino, a physician from Guilford, challenged incumbent Democrat Rosa Delauro for Connecticut’s third House district.  DeLauro beat back Paglino and her Republican challenger, real estate developer Margaret Streicker, with 54.7 percent of the vote.  For Paglino, his 1.4 percent of the vote counts as a win.  “I’m happy I got over one percent of the vote, because that means that the Green Party gets to keep a ballot line for the next election in two years,” Paglino said. “It was very grueling work getting 2,100 signatures over the summer, so I’m glad we don’t have to

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The Election Blow by Blow for Southeast Connecticut

Against a backdrop of Republican gains in state and federal races across the country, and gains for Democrats on the state level in Connecticut, Republican Greg Howard’s victory over incumbent State Rep. Kate Rotella, D-Stonington, was the exception in southeast Connecticut, where voters largely chose to keep their incumbent representatives in Hartford.   Howard, a popular football coach and longtime Stonington Police detective, centered his campaign on Rotella’s vote in favor of a police accountability bill in the July special session, which he called “rushed and ill-advised.”  Democrat Christine Goupil will likely represent Clinton, Killingworth and Westbrook in the Connecticut House

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As Small Towns Vote Absentee, City Turnout Remains a Question Mark

Cities across Connecticut have lagged behind smaller towns when it comes to the percentage of voters who have requested absentee ballots, raising questions about how many of these remaining residents will turn out for the final vote on Tuesday. In several small Connecticut towns, including Old Lyme, East Lyme, Essex, Lyme and Chester, between 41 and 46 percent of the voters have requested absentee ballots.  In cities the percentage of people requesting absentee ballots is significantly lower.  In New London, which has a total of 16,449 registered voters, 3,719 have requested absentee ballots so far, or 22.6 percent. Norwich’s numbers

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Door to Door with Senate Candidates for Southeast Connecticut

Every day of the 2020 campaign for the Connecticut State Senate has run under a shadow of pandemic, with reports in the final weeks before election day of increasing hospitalizations and a rising statewide daily positivity rate for COVID-19. “A second wave,” Gov. Ned Lamont called news on Thursday of a 6.1 percent state positivity rate. But with time still before the election, candidates are finding ways to get out the vote and get in touch with district residents. To get a flavor of the election and a sense of the challenges, CT Examiner checked in on two competitive races

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Green Party Drops McCormick After Inflammatory Facebook Comments

The Green Party of Connecticut announced on Friday that it had dropped its support for Tom McCormick, the party’s candidate for the 1st Congressional District seat held by Democratic U.S. Rep. John Larson after McCormick posted inflammatory comments on social media. In a statement, the Green Party of Connecticut said it dropped support for McCormick because, in response to a post on the Manchester, CT Crime & Safety Watch Facebook group about a theft of tires from a car, he said, “The thieve (sic) needs a necktie.”  Activists from two Hartford-area groups advocating for racial justice – POWER UP –

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Goulart and Nolan Stake Different Directions in New London Race

After competing once before in a 2019 special election to fill the seat of then-State Rep. Chris Soto, who left to join the incoming Lamont administration, Democrat State Rep. Anthony Nolan and Republican Kat Goulart face off again to represent New London and the 39th District in the State House of Representatives.  Nolan, a father and grandfather, longtime New London police officer and 4-term city council member who won 51 percent of the vote in the four-way 2019 race, said he is hopeful for a second-term in Hartford. Goulart received 14.7 percent of the vote in that race. “I think I’m

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Policing Drives Race Between Howard, Rotella

The police accountability bill is at the forefront of the race between first-term incumbent State Rep. Kate Rotella, a Stonington Democrat, and her challenger Greg Howard, a Republican and longtime Stonington police detective. Howard won the endorsement of the Republican Town Committee after Shaun Mastroianni withdrew from the race in early August. After Rotella appeared at a protest outside of the Stonington Police Department and voting twice for policing bills, Mastroianni stepped aside to allow Howard to run, according to The Day. In an interview with CT Examiner, Howard described himself as an expert on the police accountability bill, which

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Southeast Connecticut Towns Best Statewide Absentee Voting

With a week to go before the Nov. 3 election, a survey of town clerks and registrars in towns across southeast Connecticut shows that voters in the region have requested and returned ballots at a rate exceeding already high statewide totals. In many of the towns that number is 75 percent or higher. In Chester, for example, 83 percent of the people who requested absentee ballots have returned them; in Stonington, 79 percent of the absentee ballots issued have already been returned.  The Connecticut Mirror reports that statewide 70 percent of the more than 455,000 people who requested an absentee

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Melón, Haines Offer Sharp Contrast for Fall Election

Educator and real estate agent Judd Melón, an East Haddam Democrat, is challenging one-term incumbent State Rep. Irene Haines, an East Haddam Republican, for the chance to represent Connecticut’s 34th House district, that includes East Haddam and East Hampton. Melón taught Spanish literature and language in college and public high school for 10 years, and is a licensed real estate agent, but he said that he put teaching on hold to challenge Haines because he disagreed with several votes she’s taken, including votes against the minimum wage increase, expanding paid family and medical leave, and police accountability bills in 2019

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Palm Makes Her Case for a Second Term

Former Republican State Rep. Robert Siegrist is running to unseat one-term incumbent Democrat Christine Palm in a rematch of their 2018 race for state representative in the 36th district, which includes Chester, Essex, Deep River and Haddam. In their previous contest, Palm bested Siegrist by a margin of 212 votes, 50.8 to 49.2 percent. Palm has been endorsed by the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, the Sunrise Movement, and the Sierra Club of Connecticut. She has worked variously as a reporter, teacher, and a communications director for several nonprofits, and she provides sexual harassment trainings for corporations. She also previously

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Streicker, Paglino Challenge Long-time Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro

Democrat Rosa DeLauro is running for re-election after representing Connecticut’s third district in Congress for the last 30 years. DeLauro faces Republican Margaret Streicker, an entrepreneur and single mother of four from Milford, and Green Party Candidate Justin Paglino, a physician and father of two from Guilford. After initial agreements in September by press aids, DeLauro’s campaign later declined to participate in this story. Streicker and Paglino, however, had a lot to say about why they think it’s time for a change in representation for the third district.  “I want people to understand that they have a choice. This is

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McCarty and Welch-Collins — By the Issues

In a rematch of the 2018 election, incumbent Republican State Rep. Kathleen McCarty faces Democrat Baird Welch-Collins in a race to represent Waterford and Montville in the Connecticut General Assembly. In their previous contest, McCarty bested Welch-Collins by 351 votes, 51.6 to 48.4 percent. After three terms in Hartford and six years on the legislature’s Education Committee, McCarty — who also served for 20 years on the Waterford Board of Education — said that her focus will remain on schools and students if she is re-elected.  “We are going to be more challenged to narrow the gaps in education that

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Cheeseman and Steel Offer Contrasting Views in Race for State House

Cate Steel, an East Lyme Democrat and retired speech pathologist, is challenging incumbent two-term State Rep. Holly Cheeseman, a Republican, and executive director of the Niantic Children’s Museum, to represent East Lyme and Salem in the 37th District. Cheeseman is a graduate of Mount Holyoke and a former selectman of East Lyme. In 2018, she defeated Democrat Hugh McKenney 51.4 to 48.6 percent, a margin of 310 votes. Steel, who worked 35 years as a teacher and educator, currently serves on the East Lyme Board of Education. Asked about how they would prioritize state budget choices — in August, Gov.

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Hall, Goupil, May Vie for Connecticut House Seat

Three candidates are competing to replace three-term Republican incumbent Jesse MacLachlan, who represents the 35th District — the towns of Clinton Westbrook and Killingworth — in the state legislature. MacLachlan announced that he would not seek re-election in August. In 2018, MacLachlan defeated Clinton Democrat Jason Adler with 52.5 percent of the vote. The Democratic nominee, Christine Goupil, was elected First Selectman of Clinton in 2017, on a platform that included replacing the position with a town manager. By the end of her first term in 2019, the town approved the plan and hired Karl Kilduff to manage the town.

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Formica – Marx Offers Clear Choice in Senate Race

Democratic challenger Martha Marx is once again hoping to unseat Republican State Sen. Paul Formica in a rematch of their close 2018 contest to represent the 20th district, and the towns of Bozrah, East Lyme, New London, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Salem, and Waterford.  A three-term incumbent, Paul Formica is Deputy Senate Republican Leader, Ranking Member on the Appropriations Committee and the Energy and Technology Committee. He is a past vice-chair of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments and served as First Selectman in East Lyme from 2007 to 2015. For 35 years, Formica has owned and operated Flanders Fish

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Somers and Statchen Stake Positions in Rematch of State Senate Race

Republican State Sen. Heather Somers is running for a third term in the 18th district against Democrat Robert Statchen. This is the second time the two have competed for the chance to represent the towns of Griswold, Groton, North Stonington, Plainfield, Preston, Sterling, Stonington and Voluntown in the State Senate. In 2018, Somers won with 54.7 percent to Statchen’s 45.3 percent of the vote. Somers said that she has the most bipartisan or independent voting record in the Senate — a consistent theme, she says, of her campaign and time in Hartford. “For years now, I’m somebody who is challenging

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Sharp Contrast as Weir Faces Osten in Senate Race

Four-time Democratic incumbent Cathy Osten, faces Hebron business owner Steve Weir, the Republican candidate, in the race for the 19th State Senate District, representing Sprague, Hebron, Columbia, Franklin, Ledyard, Lisbon, Marlborough, Montville and Norwich. Osten, an Army veteran and long-time corrections officer and supervisor,has been co-chair of the Appropriations Committee — a key state budget committee — since  2017. She also serves as vice-chair of the Labor and Public Employees committee. She said that she is running to make a difference and represent her constituents. In 2019, Osten lost a bid for a 7th term as Sprague’s first selectman. Steve

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Cohen and LaPorta Sketch Out Priorities for Senate

Freshman incumbent Democrat Christine Cohen is running for re-election against Republican Joe LaPorta for the 12th District’s State Senate seat, representing Madison, Guilford, Branford, North Branford, Durham and Killingworth. Cohen, who chairs the Environment Committee, and founded and co-chairs the Coastal Caucus, “a bipartisan group of lawmakers who focus on the issues affecting coastal towns, cities and waterways,” has taken a prominent role in issues affecting the environment. Cohen also co-chairs the legislature’s Bioscience Caucus, where she works to promote the state’s biotechnology industry.  With her husband, Cohen also owns Cohen’s Bagel Company in Madison. They live in Guilford. “We

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A Closer Look the State House Race Between Dave Rubino and Devin Carney

Newcomer Democrat Dave Rubino, a human rights lawyer with a practice in Old Lyme, is challenging incumbent Republican State Rep. Devin Carney, an Old Lyme resident and native of Old Saybrook. Carney has held the house seat in the 23rd district, representing Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook, since 2015. Carney, who sits on the Transportation, Finance, and Planning and Development committees, said that “the biggest issue is how we are going to move forward from COVID.” He described the challenge as “multi-faceted,” involving public health and the economy. “Obviously we’ve had a lot of issues because of businesses

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Needleman and Saunders Stake Positions on Coming Term if Elected

In 2018, Democrat Norm Needleman of Essex won the long-held Republican State Senate seat for the 33rd district by just 0.2 percent of the vote. This November he faces Republican Brendan Saunders of Westbrook in what may well again be a close race in a district that stretches from Clinton to Deep River to Portland.  For Saunders, who formerly pastored a Baptist church in Old Saybrook and currently works full-time at a hotel in Colchester, the number one reason he’s running is because he believes the district needs a voice in Hartford more representative of the district. “When I looked

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Legislature Approves Early Processing of Absentee Ballots

HARTFORD — On Thursday, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a bill that would make it possible for absentee ballots to be processed on the Friday before election day. The bill passed the House on Wednesday 139-5 and the Senate on Thursday 35-1.   In July, the legislature passed a measure allowing any voter to use COVID-19 as a reason for voting by absentee ballot, a change that could substantially increase the number of absentee ballots that municipalities receive.  State Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, the chair of the Government Administration and Election Committee, said the purpose of the bill was to ensure

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