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Groton — A three-way Republican primary for lieutenant governor was too close to call early Wednesday morning.
But Groton Town Councilor and former mayor Heather Bond Somers appeared to have a narrow lead in the race over Penny Bacchiochi, a state representative from Stafford Springs and the endorsed candidate, and David Walker, a former U.S. comptroller general.
With nearly all 701 precincts reporting and about 78,802 votes tallied, the Associated Press said Wednesday that Somers had 27,178 and Bacchiochi had 26,462. Walker had 25,162.
An automatic recount is ordered if the vote-getters are within 1,000 votes or a half-percentage point of all votes cast, a spokesman for the office of the secretary of the state said. Municipalities have until 6 p.m. Wednesday to report final vote totals, he said.
As the numbers continued to roll in during the neck-and-neck primary, Somers’ staff members kept their eyes and ears on their phones, occasionally shouting out numbers.
Somers arrived at The Spot restaurant’s outdoor patio to chants of “Heather” shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday and made an appearance on CTN with her husband.
“It’s an exciting night, and we’ll have to wait and see what happens,” she said in a short interview at The Spot. “We’ve come a long way from having zero name recognition to being neck and neck in the race.”
Somers entered the race as the running mate of Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who dropped out of the race for governor after Somers decided she would not link her fundraising efforts with his.
She addressed the crowd shortly after 11 p.m., thanking volunteers and sounding hopeful about the election.
“It looks like it’s going to be a long night, but ... I am confident that we are going to come out ahead in this,” she said. “I am thrilled that southeastern Connecticut is going to have a seat at the table.”
“We’re tired of Hartford, we’re tired of Washington,” added Somers, saying the Republicans will have “the best team” to defeat Dannel P. Malloy in the fall.
While her staff, supporters and husband monitored the numbers at The Spot earlier in the night, Somers watched the news with her campaign manager at a close friend’s house.
Supporters of Somers — a town councilor and former mayor in Groton — were encouraged by evening reports that she had won Stamford by approximately 400 votes.
Dan Hetzel, a volunteer for Somers’ campaign, said she has “a diverse set of skills” that would serve her well as lieutenant governor, and said he would be pleased to have someone in the governor’s office to advocate for eastern Connecticut.
Walker, a former U.S. comptroller general who ran as a team with gubernatorial candidate John McKinney during the Republican primary, said at McKinney’s election night party that he did not expect to know the outcome of his race until very late in the night or very early Wednesday morning.
“After putting 21,000-plus miles on my car, over 100 events, two debates and winning every endorsement of every publication in the state, I’m hopeful that I will win,” Walker said in addressing the crowd in Fairfield.
“But we know politics is not a merit-based business.”