Republicans score upsets in Connecticut special legislative elections

Republicans score upsets in Connecticut special legislative elections
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Voters in two suburban legislative districts in Connecticut elected Republicans in special elections Monday, handing the GOP seats that Democrats won in November.
 
Republican Gennaro Bizzarro won a state Senate seat in New Britain, outside of Hartford, in a district Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Poll: Warren leads Biden in Maine by 12 points MORE won by more than 23 points in 2016. Bizzarro took 53 percent of the vote over state Rep. Rick Lopes (D).
 
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The seat opened when Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) appointed the incumbent, Theresa Gerratana, to a post in his administration.
 
Republicans also won the 99th state House district, where Joseph Zullo beat Democrat Josh Balter by a 51 percent to 43 percent margin.
 
The district, covering part of East Haven on Long Island Sound, had been held by Democrat James Albis, another Lamont appointee, even though it gave President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE 53 percent of the vote in 2016.
 
Meanwhile, Democrats held two state Senate seats and a state House seat, all of which cover districts that Clinton won in 2016.
 
Republicans said they won the seats in part because the state budget is in such dire straits.
 
Lamont, in office for about two months, has proposed raising new taxes to close a multibillion-dollar budget hole.
 
“This was a referendum on the budget and tolls,” Bizzarro told the Hartford Courant.
 
Democrats downplayed the results, which still leave their party with substantial majorities in both the state House and Senate.
 
“Connecticut Democrats are pleased to have won three of the five seats up in yesterday’s special election. The bottom line is the Democrats held the majority in both legislative chambers and we feel confident that Gov. Lamont will be successful in working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to gain passage of his agenda,” said Nancy Wyman, who heads the Connecticut Democratic Party.
 
Democrats pointed to state legislative special elections the party won in deep-red states like Oklahoma, Missouri, Kentucky and South Carolina in 2017 and 2018 as evidence of a building blue wave that crested in last year’s midterm elections.
 
This year, though, it is Republicans who are putting together a winning streak.
 
Earlier this month, Republicans won a Democratic-held state Senate seat in Minnesota, in a rural district where President Trump won by 13 points in 2016.
 
“Democrats under the disastrous leadership of Govs. [Dannel] Malloy and Lamont have failed to bring the economic recovery of their neighboring states into Connecticut, and instead, short of a tax on breathing, are passing punitive and petty taxes on beverages and paper bags,” said Matt Walter, who heads the Republican State Leadership Committee.
 
“While Democrats continue to embrace the failed socialist idea of a government spending its way to prosperity, Republicans like Sen.-elect Bizzarro and Rep.-elect Zullo will continue to flip seats in the deepest of blue states to protect freedom and capitalism.”
 
Republicans may extend their winning streak next week, when voters in rural Kentucky choose a new state senator to replace a Democrat who won a job as a county judge-executive. In that district, Clinton took just 18 percent of the vote in 2016.