HARTFORD, CT — Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski conceded the election to Democrat Ned Lamont Wednesday morning, which means Lamont will be the person to succeed outgoing Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. Stefanowski announced the news on a local radio program around 9 a.m. Connecticut's election results came late after another year of slow ballot counting and voting snafus.
The election results yielded a tight race with both men taking the leads repeatedly as the ballots were very slowly counted Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Stefanowski at one point built a 5 point lead over Lamont late Tuesday but once the state's largest cities began to report votes the lead shrunk until Lamont finally took the lead for good early Wednesday.
Voter turnout was more than 65 percent, according to the Secretary of the State's office. The 2014 midterm election was 55.6 percent and turnout for the 2016 presidential election was 76.94 percent.
As of 12:20 p.m. Lamont had 643,417 votes (47.15%), Stefanowski has 618,179 (45.3%) and Oz Griebel has 54,131 (3.97%) with 94.62% of precincts reported. Lamont also has 16,666 votes under the Working Families voting line and Stefanowski has 25,046 under the Independent voting line. Combined this means Lamont is leading by around 17,000 votes but that number is expected to grow still as more New Haven votes need to be counted.
At a noon press conference Wednesday Lamont focused on bringing opposing groups together in an effort to get the state back on track. He said that he had hoped to give his victory speech last night, but the delay was a good thing because voter turnout was so high.
"The rain was heavy, but the voter turnout was heavier," Lamont said.
He said he spoke with Stefanowski Wednesday who called to congratulate him on his victory. He said Stefanowski was gracious. He also talked to Democratic and Republican leaders in Connecticut and said it's time to leave labels at the door and to run with good ideas.
"We've got to work together to get through this thing and that's how we are going to do it,"Lamont said.
He also said he wants to work with labor and business communities.
For the rest of today Lamont planned to recuperate from a long election season and get up early Thursday to work on the state's issues. He'll enter the governor's mansion and immediately have to deal with a projected $1.9 billion budget deficit in the coming fiscal year followed by a $2.5 billion deficit after that.
Lt.Gov-elect Susan Bysiewicz said the administration will work to help small businesses grow and create good-paying jobs and ensure equal pay for equal work. Creating a fair and balanced budget will be one of the big priorities along with access to affordable healthcare and the protection of people's rights.
"We plan to reach across the aisle and we will treat every person in our state with the fairness decency and respect that they deserve," she said.
Lamont will head into Hartford with both a Democratic-controlled State House and State Senate. The State Senate was previously tied, but Democrats picked up some seats including a major upset in the 26th district where Will Haskell, 22, beat longtime incumbent Sen. Toni Boucher in what has been a Republican seat for about half a century.
Connecticut voters sent a straight blue ticket in the U.S. Senate and Congressional races along with the statewide races for treasurer, comptroller, attorney general and secretary of the state.
The election between Lamont and Stefanowski was framed partly by two men who weren't running; current-Gov. Dannel Malloy and President Donald Trump. Both men are unpopular in Connecticut, but a Quinnipiac University Poll found that Trump's unpopularity was more of a factor in how people voted for governor.
It'll be the third term in a row for a Democratic governor. Gov. Dannel Malloy bested Republican Tom Foley in the past two elections.
The third time was the charm for Lamont. He won the 2006 U.S. Senate Democratic primary against incumbent Joe Lieberman, but Lieberman came back as an independent and won. Lamont was defeated by Malloy in the 2010 Democratic primary for governor too.
Stefanowski appeared on the 99.1 PLR Wednesday morning and said Lamont won "fair and square," and that he gave it his all. He said it's too soon to comment on whether he would run again in four years.
In a statement released Wednesday, Stefanowski said he "called Ned Lamont to concede the race for governor and congratulate him on a hard-fought victory. I wish both Ned and the state of Connecticut success over these next four years."
"While this is not the result we would have hoped for, I am glad that we were able to draw so much attention to the tax burden in this state," Stefanowski said. "Think about it – at the beginning of this race, we were laser-focused on cutting taxes, while other candidates were talking about raising taxes. We were able to mold the discussion in such a way that the other candidates slowly began to come around to the same conclusion to varying degrees."
"I have learned a lot over the course of this campaign, but the biggest takeaway for me has been the realization that CT is one big family," he said. "That won't end with the campaign. We will continue to share that bond regardless of today's outcome."
The race for Connecticut governor spilled over into Wednesday as both Lamont and Stefanowski sent home their supporters around 1:30 a.m. as ballots continue to be counted. The Nutmeg State continued it's unsavory tradition of burning the midnight oil counting votes while much larger states like Florida finished hours ago.
The night began with some fireworks from the Republican Party and Stefanowski campaign filed a legal action saying some ballots, especially in New Haven, were cast illegally.
Stefanowski announced on Twitter that both registrar offices in New Haven and Mansfield have agreed to set aside all Election Day Registration ballots that were not processed before 8 p.m. A state court judge has set a 10 a.m. hearing Friday if necessary.
Democrats are projected to keep their majority in the State House and regain their majority in the State Senate after several upset races, according to the Connecticut Post. Democrats and Republicans were tied in the State Senate since the 2016 election.
Prior to polls closing, the Stefanowski campaign kicked a Hearst Connecticut reporter and photographer out of their election result event, but they were quickly allowed back in. Several other reporters came to the Hearst reporter's defense and the campaign backtracked the decision. Hearst owns the largest number of newspapers in the state including the Connecticut Post and New Haven Register.
While all of this drama unfolds the entire state of Connecticut is waiting for results to come in to determine whether Stefanowski or Lamont will be the next governor succeeding unpopular two-term Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. The polls recently placed the race as a dead heat.
Republicans are seeking a court order over Election Day registration in New Haven and Mansfield. The two areas are hotspots for same-day registration due to the close proximity of Yale University and University of Connecticut students. The Hartford Courant was the first to report about the GOP legal challenge.
New Haven was experiencing massive issues for Election Day Registration. Wait times exceeded four hours and hundreds of prospective voters likely won't be able to cast their ballots. Previously registered voters are guaranteed a ballot if they are in line before 8 p.m., but the same doesn't apply to those looking to register on Election Day. It isn't the first time prospective voters have been turned away in the city.
The line wrapped around the interior of City Hall into Tuesday evening.
Stefanowski said his campaign received reports that people were still being allowed to vote in New Haven and at the University of Connecticut despite their applications not being completed by 8 p.m.
"The registration applications must be processed by 8pm. We're getting reports that THEY AREN'T EVEN PROCESSING THEM and allowing them to vote without being fully registered," Stefanowksi tweeted.
He went on to say that those ballots need to be kept separate from others to preserve the integrity of the election. Republicans alleged in a court filing that some ballots were improperly cast as people who weren't registered by 8 p.m. were still allowed to vote. Stefanowski said they are asking the court to segregate the ballots, but not disqualify them.
Under state law, "EDR applicants may vote only if they have completed the voter registration process,and are admitted as electors, by 8:00 p.m.," according to the Office of Legislative Research summary of the state statute.
The ACLU of Connecticut said in a statement that, "New Haven's repeated failure to staff its polling places with enough workers to ensure people's rights to vote is practically inviting a lawsuit."
The ACLU is arguing that the state law should be interpreted as those in line to registered by 8 p.m. should be allowed to register and vote.
"The 8 p.m. cutoff imposed today in New Haven is artificial, does not carry the weight of the law and is based on a non-binding advisory opinion from the Secretary of the State's office, not the letter of the law," said ACLU CT Legal Director Dan Barrett.
It appears that both constitutional amendment questions will overwhelmingly pass. Both were leading by more than 8-to-1 margins in favor with 26 percent of precincts reporting. One amendment would establish a transportation "lockbox" that would ensure transportation revenues such as the gas tax would be used for transportation purposes such as the upgrade of rolls, bridges and rail lines.
In the past the state legislature has swept transportation funds for other purposes. Gov. Dannel Malloy congratulated voters on passing the measure and said it will help secure the future of transportation in the state.
The second question would require hearings when the state moved to sell land.
Heavy Voter Turnout
Across Connecticut voters have been encountering long lines. Polls at many locations look like a presidential election year instead of a midterm. The Secretary of the State office reports that turnout was 21.48 percent as of 10 a.m. Not all towns reported figures. Overall turnout for the 2014 midterm election was 55.6 percent with about 1.09 million votes cast, according to the Secretary of the State office. Total turnout for the 2016 presidential election was 76.94 percent.
Whoever the next governor is will face an unenviable task on day one as the state grapples with a projected $1.9 billion deficit in the next fiscal year. Thrown into the mix are three independent candidates with Oz Griebel currently polling around 7 percent, which could change the election result.
Voters are most interested in Connecticut's economy, which has lagged since the 2008 recession. Taxes and government spending are big issues, too, as the state seems to be in a constant budget deficit coupled with massive unfunded pension liabilities.
District 2 U.S. Rep. Joseph Courtney cast his ballot at 7 a.m. at Vernon Center Middle School.
"As a good Red Sox fan, I never make predictions, but do I see a difference? Yes," he said of the turnout. "For a midterm election, this is amazing. People are looking at every issue as important these days."
"It's been very continuous," Tolland Republican registrar Leonard Bach said.
The father-son duo of Tim and Tim Sullivan voted in Vernon at about 8 a.m. The younger Sullivan said the economy was the driving force behind the importance of voting. Dad said the slate has never been more important top to bottom.
"It's not just the governor, because the governor cannot do it alone," he said. "You have to push the agenda forward and that means everyone in elected office."
The older Sullivan said he has been a coach, scout leader and youth sports administrator for 25 years, but had never considered working for a political party until this year. He classified himself as a registered Republican who is now an active Republican.
"This is the most important year in Connecticut's history," he said.
Richard Truitt, 86, of Norwalk voted for a mix of Democratic and Republican candidates depending on the office. He was most excited to support Democratic State Sen. Bob Duff, who he's worked with on some issues.
In the race for governor, Truitt said he supported Stefanowski.
"I know some of the people who work for [Stefanowski] and they like him," Truitt said. "Ned Lamont has, I think, a good platform but I trust in the length of people who like Bob Stefanowski so I'm going that way."
Rain didn't stop New Canaan voters from getting to the polls. The Saxe Middle School polling site was bustling with activity.
"It's been consistent all day," said Saxe moderator Robert Mantilia. "We prepared for a heavy turnout, as if it were a presidential election, and all indications are that we're at that level."
Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than two-to one in New Canaan.
"I voted for Stefanowski and the Republican ticket," said resident Phil Hardin,adding that he wants to see more fiscal responsibility in Hartford. "Too many companies are leaving the state, the economy is in decline and taxes are too high."
Democratic State Senate candidate Will Haskell faces an uphill battle in his heavily-Republican district, but said he felt optimistic.
"I think history will be made today," Haskell said, adding that fighting gun violence was top concern of voters among the 4,000 homes he visited during his campaign.
Ellington had voter turnout of 36 percent as of noon. There were 45 people waiting in line at Rockville High School in Vernon at 5:45 a.m. before the polls opened.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill reminded voters to contact the state election hotline at 866-SEEC-INFO or email [email protected] if they encounter issues voting.
State treasurer candidate Shawn Wooden cast his ballot at the Hartford Seminary early Tuesday morning.
"What a great way to start off the day, voting at Hartford Seminary alongside my good friend and fellow candidate Secretary of the State Denise Merrill," he said. "I hope you all will feel the same powerful spirit we did as we cast our ballots - and let's carry that right through tonight when the polls close at 8 p.m."
The next governor will be a bit hamstrung as the state employee union contract won't expire until 2027. The deal was set to expire in 2022, but the agreement was extended as part of a concession deal last year expected to save the state billions in the long run.
The next governor could be a deciding factor on the future of electronic tolling and recreational marijuana legalization in the state as well.
Many eyes are on the governor race, but there are a number of other statewide races that could tip the balance of political power in CT.
Ned Lamont, Democrat
Lamont crushed Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim in the primary by a four-to-one ratio to secure his spot on the ballot.
He served as a one-term Greenwich selectman before his 2006 bid for U.S. Senate where he beat incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary.
Lieberman came back to challenge Lamont as an independent candidate and ultimately kept his seat.
Lamont first tried to run for governor in 2010, but lost to now-Gov. Dannel Malloy in the Democratic primary.
His business background is in the telecom industry where he started his own company, Lamont Digital Systems. The company's Campus Televideo provides cable television solutions to more than 220 colleges across the country. The division was sold in 2015.
Lamont supports paid family and medical leave, a $15 minimum wage and strong labor rights. He also wants a Medicaid buy-in option that would allow younger participants to join.
He wants to make the first two years of public college or university free for residents who commit to living and working in Connecticut after they graduate.
Lamont would push for legalized recreational marijuana. Taxes from sale and regulation could be used to fund opioid treatments.
He has come out in favor of electronic tolling of heavy trucks. A truck organization sued Rhode Island over a similar plan, but the case is pending.
He also believes air service should be expanded at Bradley, Tweed and Sikorsky airports.
Upgrades to the New Haven Metro North line could bring a trip from New Haven to New York down to one hour and 15 minutes. He also wants to invest in high speed rail that would bring the commute to an hour.
To tackle the opioid addiction crisis Lamont wants to increase the number of practitioners who can prescribe buprenorphine for addiction treatment and increase funding for proven addiction treatment. Lamont also wants insurers to cover the entire cost of the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone.
He also wants to cap out of pocket drug prices at $275 per month for consumers.
Susan Bysiewicz, Democrat Lt. Governor candidate
Bysiewicz previously served as secretary of the state and in the state legislature. She is a graduate of Yale University and Duke Law School and published a book biography on Connecticut's first female governor Ella Grasso.
Most recently she has been a business lawyer and has helped dozens of businesses secure tens of millions of dollars in funding, according to her campaign biography.
She supports equal pay for women, sustainable energy, and a single-payer medical insurance option for Connecticut residents.
Bob Stefanowski, Republican
Stefanowski won the Republican primary with a convincing 29.4 percent out of five candidates, besting Republican nominee Mark Boughton by nearly eight points.
Stefanowski was most recently the CEO of DFC Global Corp. in London and Philadelphia. Prior to that he worked at several other businesses including a division chief executive officer position at General Electric from 1994 to 2007.
Stefanowski was briefly a Democrat for eight months and switched last July to the Republican party, according to the Courant. He asserted that other prominent Republicans, including President Donald Trump, were at one time Democrats.
Stefanowski plans to phase out the corporate income tax and business entity tax over two years and the state income tax over eight years. He would also work to eliminate the gift and estate taxes. A Quinnipiac University poll found that 49 percent of voters want to eliminate the tax, but 56 percent said it wasn't realistic to do within eight years as it makes up about half of the state's revenues.
He argues the gift and estate taxes drive people to other tax-free states and Connecticut is the only state that has both taxes. About $6 billion of adjusted gross income has left Connecticut for Florida.
They only raise about one percent of the state's revenues, but are a drag on the state's economy.
Stefanowski said he isn't opposed to considering recreational marijuana legalization, but the state should worry about bigger problems first.
Stefanowski said he wants to contract out certain government services including the DMV and implement zero-based budgeting that would start Connecticut's budget off with a blank piece of paper and add in only necessary services.
Stefanowski also wants to impose a 10-year term limit for state legislators and an eight-year term for governor along with the ability for voters to recall elected state officials.
He also wants to give voters referendum powers.
His tenure at DFC has become a source of attacks as the company offered controversial payday loans; short term loans with effectively high interest rates. The type of loans offered are illegal in Connecticut.
Stefanowski said he got rid of 28 out of 30 executives when he was hired by DFC and that he ended the company's controversial auto loan business that required a $3.3 million settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Joe Markley, Republican Lt. Gov Candidate
Markley first served in the State Senate in 1984 for one term and then again since 2010. He has been a critic of Gov. Dannel Malloy. His district covers Waterbury, Southington, Wolcott, Cheshire and Prospect.
Markley helped organize the massive "Axe the Tax" rally that sought to dissuade Connecticut from passing the income tax in the early 1990's.
Oz Griebel, Griebel Frank for CT Party
Griebel isn't affiliated with any major political party and recently surged into double-digit territory in the Quinnipiac Poll, which helped get him a spot in the latest gubernatorial debate.
Griebel led the MetroHartford Alliance for 17 years. The organization advocates for state policies on behalf of businesses. He also has served on the boards of numerous charitable, educational and business organizations.
Griebel maintains that the two-party system has failed Connecticut with anemic job growth over the past 30 years and has plunged the state into a budget crisis.
He supports recreational marijuana legalization with taxes that would be spent on mental health, substance abuse programs and education. He wants to incentivise the regional delivery of municipal services such as trash collection to save money.
Griebel is in favor of electronic tolling with a pilot program on I-91 and I-84 in the HOV lanes.
Griebel is seeking to eventually reduce the personal income tax to 4.5 percent, which is what it was when first enacted. He also wants to eliminate the business entity tax.
For pension liabilities he wants to securitize all state-owned assets except public parks and contribute the proceeds to state employee and teacher pension funds.
Lt. Gov Monte Frank
Frank is a past president of the Connecticut Bar Association and a litigation lawyer with Pullman & Comley where he represents businesses and municipal clients.
His hometown is Newtown and he leads Team 26, which is a group of cyclists who ride from Newtown to Washington to raise issues on gun violence.
Rodney Hanscomb, Libertarian Lt. Gov candidate Jeffrey Thibeault
Hanscomb served six years in the U.S. military
He cites states like fast-growing Washington, which has no income tax and a higher sales tax. A manager making $200,000 a year in California pays $18,000 per year in income tax, but nothing in Washington, which leads many executives to move their businesses to low or no income tax states, he said in his campaign biography.
He also wants to move state pensions to a 401k-style plan and dismantle the welfare system in Connecticut.
Mark Stewart, Amigo Constitution Party
Stewart wants to bring an NHL team back to Connecticut. He would veto any law longer than two pages and push to repeal three laws for every new one passed.
He also wants to reinstate the death penalty and end the income tax.
Stewart taught SAT prep courses while in law school and founded Education excellence, which "gives students more post-grad opportunities through outsourced in-school guidance counseling," according to his campaign website.
His first lieutenant governor candidate dropped out, which will require municipalities to repurchase ballots, which could cost towns and cities between $200,000 and $250,000 collectively, according to CT News Junkie.
This story included a tip from ProPublica's Electionland project, which monitors voting problems around the country. If you had trouble voting, or if you saw something you want to tell us about, here's how.
Lead image via Lamont campaign