Heather Somers of Groton wins Republican primary for lieutenant governor

Heather Somers, of Groton, departs her home en route to Rocky Hill for a television interview, with her campaign manager Jon Conradi, Wednesday, August 13, 2014. Somers has won the tightly contested three-way Republican primary for lieutenant governor.
Heather Somers, of Groton, departs her home en route to Rocky Hill for a television interview, with her campaign manager Jon Conradi, Wednesday, August 13, 2014. Somers has won the tightly contested three-way Republican primary for lieutenant governor. Tim Martin/The Day

Groton town councilor Heather Bond Somers on Wednesday narrowly beat party-endorsed candidate Penny Bacchiochi to become the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.

It was a tightly contested three-way Republican primary for lieutenant governor that yielded no winner Tuesday night. Vote tallies Wednesday indicated that Somers had won by 771 votes. Bacchiochi, a state representative from Stafford Springs, conceded the race to Somers Wednesday afternoon.

Former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker of Bridgeport came in third.

Somers, a past Groton mayor, will now run with gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley, a Greenwich businessman, against incumbent Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman on Nov. 4.

“I would just like to thank southeastern Connecticut because they came out big for us,” Somers said. “And I think that is very important because I think that shows … people in our part of the state are excited about having a seat at the table.”

Somers said she probably hadn’t slept in three days and that the reason her team succeeded in the close race was because her message of being an “outsider” resonated with people.

“I think we also offered a different skill set,” Somers said. “We brought to the table someone with real business experience and also accountable municipal leadership.”

On primary day, Somers and her husband Mark Somers headed to Fairfield County to shake hands with voters in Greenwich, she said. They made their way up the Connecticut shoreline to Groton based on reports of busy polls. She had volunteers in 85 towns across Connecticut reporting where the busiest polling places were, she said.

Wednesday morning, the state Secretary of the State’s office was still missing vote tallies from about 15 towns and cities. At 3:27 p.m., Secretary of the State Denise Merrill announced in a statement that Somers had officially won the race. There will not be a recount despite the close race because the vote difference was not low enough to trigger an automatic statewide recount, Merrill said.

Somers won by 771 votes, getting 34.5 percent of the vote. Bacchiochi had 33.6 percent of the vote, and Walker came in third with 31.9 percent of the vote. There were 78,421 votes cast, which is 19.6 percent of registered Republicans.

Somers said it was easy to stay positive on primary night because of the energy at The Spot Café, where her supporters had gathered.

“Not only was having these young people on the campaign great, but this excitement for our part of Connecticut that has really been underrepresented at this level before, it’s hard to not think you are going to be successful with the kind of energy we had in the room last night,” Somers said. “Everyone was really ... optimistic and nobody wanted to leave.”

Somers, 48, is serving her fifth term on the Groton Town Council, has served as Groton Town mayor and co-founded Hydrofera LLC, a medical device manufacturing company that was sold to Hollister Inc. in 2012.

Somers repeatedly criticized one of Malloy’s Next Five programs that would have provided $115 million for the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates to relocate its headquarters to Stamford from Westport. But the Journal Inquirer recently reported that Somers’ former company Hydrofera in 2000 received a $1 million equity investment from the former Connecticut Development Authority, now called CT Innovations.

When Hydrofera was sold to Hollister, the state got about half of its investment back, or $475,000. Somers said in exchange for the $1 million investment, her company was required to create 100 jobs. The company created 40 jobs and paid an $80,000 penalty for not reaching the 100-job mark.

Somers initially got into the race with former gubernatorial candidate Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton. Five days after the Republican State Convention, in which she won 32 percent of delegates’ votes, she split from Boughton to run alone and control her own public campaign funds.

Delegates at the Republican State Convention in May endorsed Bacchiochi, who has been a state representative for 12 years and owns her own real estate and property management company in Stafford.

Bacchiochi’s campaign may have suffered from comments she and one of her campaign aides made during the campaign. On WTIC radio, Bacchiochi said that one of her opponents was attacking her because her husband and four stepsons are black. Walker accused Bacchiochi of lying and demanded an apology, which she gave. Also during the campaign, a Bacchiochi campaign aide accused Somers of “white privilege” in a Facebook post. Somers called for Bacchiochi to disavow the comments. Bacchiochi fired the consultant, Regina V. Ross Roundtree.

In a press release, Somers thanked the other candidates for running in the primary and offering their names as candidates.

“Now we have 12 weeks to turn our state around by electing Tom Foley as the next governor of Connecticut,” Somers said in the release.

Bacchiochi called for unity in her concession.

“This was not the result we had hoped for, that we had worked so hard for the last 17 months. But I fully accept the will of the Republicans voters,’’ Bacchiochi said in a statement.

Walker, who Somers frequently called a “Washington insider,” and his running mate gubernatorial candidate Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, each lost their respective races. In addition to his time as U.S. comptroller general, Walker was also head of the U.S. Government Accountability Office for 10 years.

“Let me be clear, I will support the ultimate Republican ticket no matter the outcome in the lieutenant governor’s race,” Walker said. “There is no question in my mind that Connecticut cannot afford another four years of a Malloy administration.”

Somers said she and Foley had spoken along the campaign trail.

“I think we found we were on the same wavelength about what we want to see in the future,” she said.

The two plan to “hit the ground running” and already have meetings lined up, she said.

“We are ready to have Dan Malloy start counting the days until it’s a new direction for the state of Connecticut,” Somers said.

Malloy released a new campaign ad on Wednesday following the primary in which he portrays Foley’s debate with workers from Fusion Paperboard in Sprague. The company said in July it was laying off 145 workers and closing down the mill after receiving about $2 million in low-interest loans from the state to upgrade its paper machine. The ad quotes Foley as saying to workers and company Logistics Director Michael D’Auria, “You have failed because you lost these jobs.”

The ad goes on to say that Foley bankrupt The Bibb Co., a former textile manufacturing company in Georgia, and laid off workers when his company the NTC Group restructured Bibb. Foley’s spokesman Chris Cooper said the layoffs occurred after Foley had left Bibb. Foley left Bibb in 1996, and it closed in 1998.

Malloy will hit the campaign trail today, visiting East Hartford, Bridgeport and New Britain.

Somers, meanwhile, said she plans to go to dinner somewhere locally to spend some “good quality time” with one of her daughters and her husband Wednesday evening after she returns thousands of phone calls.

j.somers@theday.com

Twitter: @JohannaSomers1


Heather Somers, candidate for lieutenant governor, with her husband, Mark Somers, at her side talks to her supporters at The Spot cafe after a long primary election day Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014.
Heather Somers, candidate for lieutenant governor, with her husband, Mark Somers, at her side talks to her supporters at The Spot cafe after a long primary election day Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014. Dana Jensen/The Day

Vote totals

Somers received 27,083 votes, Bacchiochi received 26,312 votes and Walker received 25,026 votes.

The trigger for an automatic statewide recount is a difference of less than 1,000 votes or less than one-half of 1 percentage point, whichever is less. In this race, that would have been a margin of 393 votes. Because Somers received more than that margin — 771 votes — there will be no recount.

Source: Connecticut Secretary of the State

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