Democrats in Connecticut are celebrating after huge gains in the Connecticut General Assembly and victories across all statewide offices.
Governor-Elect Ned Lamont had a crowd of supporters cheering, chanting, “Yes!” when he asked if they would support him in his next role as Connecticut’s 89th governor.
“Tomorrow’s a fresh start for the state of Connecticut,” Lamont said during remarks at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford, site of his election night function, which turned into a post-election victory headquarters.
Lamont’s victory over Bob Stefanowski was the exclamation point on an evening that saw Democrats tighten their grip on state government in ways few could have predicted heading into Election Day.
Republicans had picked up 41 legislative seats since 2010, and appeared to have growing momentum behind their gubernatorial nominee, who managed to harness the frustration of many voters with his anti-tax message.
But, it was Democrats who overperformed, stealing numerous seats from the GOP in Fairfield County and beyond.
Democrats started the evening with 80 seats in the Connecticut House of Representatives and are projected to start the January legislative session with 92.
For the past two years, the Connecticut Senate had been tied 18-18, but Democrats flipped six seats and gave back none, providing them with a veto-proof supermajority in the chamber.
Senator Martin Looney, (D-New Haven), the top member of the Senate, said the gains showed that the Democratic candidates’ won on other issues in addition to the economy over their Republican counterparts.
Looney said while there is still deep division in the state with so many votes being cast for Republicans, ideas will only be a consideration moving forward.
“They didn’t win the election,” Looney said. “We did. And they trust us to go forward with it, and that’s what’s happening.”
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, (D – Berlin) struck a more conciliatory tone, saying the issues Republican Bob Stefanowski raised during the campaign about cost of living and tax burdens were legitimate concerns, and was even open to speaking with the former GOP nominee.
“I would meet with Bob Stefanowski tomorrow if he has ideas if he wants to lay out his plan, just like Ned offered,” Aresimowicz said. “When you close your mind to other people’s ideas, you’re doing the state a disservice.”
The Democrat who emerged with a level of swagger following the elections was outgoing Gov. Dannel Malloy.
The two-term incumbent, who announced last year that he would not seek a third term in office, was the primary focus of attack across all Republican candidates.
He had a simple response to the attacks against him.
“The strategy was just stupid,” he said. “Whoever was responsible for that should raise their hand and never be hired again.”
Malloy said the decision to focus on a governor who was leaving office didn’t make sense to him. He also said the strategy was suspect when Democrats were campaigning with attacks against Republicans, tying them to President Donald Trump, who has as many as six more years left in office.
He said the fact that Connecticut voters sided with Democrats shows they have more optimism about the state’s future, than the Republicans who attempted to place all of Connecticut’s problems on its outgoing governor.
“If people are as unhopeful about Connecticut’s future as Republicans say they are then we should have lost a lot of seats. Instead, we gained a lot of seats. I think people in Connecticut are smarter than we give them credit for,” Malloy said.