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Sprague First Selectwoman Cathy Osten defeated Ledyard state Rep. Tom Reynolds in the 19th District Democratic primary Tuesday in an effort to succeed longtime popular Democratic state Sen. Edith Prague, who will retire at the end of the year.
Prague quickly endorsed Osten this spring almost at the same time as she announced her retirement. The endorsement, along with a tenacious door-to-door and telephone effort by Osten and supporters, boosted Osten's campaign over the four-term Ledyard state representative.
The district encompasses Norwich, Ledyard, northeastern Montville, Franklin, Sprague, Lisbon, Marlborough, Hebron, Columbia and Lebanon.
Campaign teams for both candidates did the counting legwork Tuesday, producing unofficial results in the sprawling district by 8:40 p.m., when Reynolds called Osten at her campaign headquarters at TJ's Café in Sprague to concede the race. He also promised to endorse her in the upcoming November election.
Osten garnered 2,272 votes, or 58 percent, while Reynolds received 1,666 votes.
Osten thanked her mother, Patricia Osten of Norwich, "who called more people in the district than anyone."
She also singled out Prague for her support.
"Of course you, Senator," Osten said after a brief loud cheer erupted in the room when the final town's count were read aloud. "Without you, this could not be done."
"I'm proud to endorse you, Cathy," Prague said, "because you're my kind of person."
Osten barely got to touch her campaign party food, as her cellphone kept ringing. Along with local supporters, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman called separately to congratulate her.
Osten next will face current 47th District state Rep. Christopher Coutu, R-Norwich, for the 19th District seat. Osten lost to Coutu in the state House race in 2010. But Osten said this race will be different.
"There were no debates last time, because he refused to debate," Osten said. "That won't happen this time."
She also noted that she faced Coutu as an incumbent in his House district last time. This will be a new district for both candidates with no incumbent, Osten said.
Despite his primary defeat, Reynolds, 45, said he, too, anticipates a busy campaign season, as he supports Osten and Democratic Preston Selectman Timothy Bowles, who will seek the 42nd District House seat Reynolds vacated.
After that, Reynolds said he probably will be done with politics. He served 10 years locally in Ledyard followed by eight years as a state representative.
"It's hard to imagine getting in again," Reynolds said. "Eighteen years is a long run. It's an extraordinary burden on the family."
Reynolds and his wife Trina have two boys, ages 8 and 12.