Voters finally get their say in tumultuous 2016 election

In a much anticipated Election Day, voters across the state will go to the polls Tuesday to elect federal, state and local officeholders who will help to make policy and spending decisions on their behalf.

In southeastern Connecticut, where the polls are open until 8 p.m., citizens will have their say on who should fill four state Senate and 11 House seats, as well as one slot in the U.S. Senate and another in the U.S. House of Representatives.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is being challenged by Republican State Rep. Dan Carter of Bethel.

Five-term Democratic Congressman Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, is facing three challengers: Republican Daria Novak of Madison, Libertarian Dan Reale of Plainfield, and Green Party Candidate Jonathan Pelto of Mansfield.

Voters also will cast their ballots in the tumultuous presidential race that is expected to contribute to record turnout at the polls.

Electors in Groton will also decide whether to approve a $184.5 million project to rebuild and reconfigure public schools, with about $100 million of the cost likely to be reimbursed by the state.

The most contentious local race to be settled is between Republican Heather Somers of Groton and Democrat Timothy Bowles of Preston to replace Andrew Maynard, the Democratic senator in the 18th District, who did not seek re-election.

It has been a mud fight, with both sides throwing accusations in a battle that state Republicans view as winnable in their effort to tip the balance of power in the state Senate in their favor. If Republicans gain four seats they will have a 19-17 edge over Democrats, who now rule the Senate with a 21-15 split.

The contest in the eight-town district has been ruthless, with Bowles laser-focused on Somers' one-time minority ownership in Hydrofera LLC, a business that was later sold, but that in 2001 received a $1 million equity investment from a quasi-public agency.

In campaign fliers, press releases and online posts, Bowles, 66, a retired state employee and former Preston selectman and one-term state representative, has alleged Somers "pocketed millions" and "left taxpayers paying her bill." Somers, 50, a former Groton mayor and town councilor and the 2014 GOP lieutenant governor candidate, countercharges that Bowles' accusations are "totally false and inaccurate."

She, in return, has attacked Bowles, saying that he has voted to raise taxes, helped push Connecticut into record debt, and supported the early release of violent criminals.

Bowles' campaign spokeswoman said the Democrat never voted to increase taxes and that he never will.

Somers, who has been endorsed by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, has also questioned Bowles' "inability to articulate a constructive plan to solve the state's fiscal woes," and cited a recent court-ordered garnishment of his wages to pay an outstanding personal debt of about $38,000, saying both disqualify him from holding public office.

In other state races, voters will decide whether to return incumbents or send new representatives to Hartford.

19th Senate

Republican Barbara Richardson Crouch and two-term incumbent Democrat Cathy Osten are vying for the seat that includes Columbia, Franklin, Hebron, Lebanon, Ledyard, Lisbon, Marlborough, Montville, Norwich and Sprague.

Crouch, 51, a Sprague resident who has a background in finance, economic development, education and nonprofits, pins the state’s current economic doldrums on Democrats, saying Osten votes in lock step with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. The state, she said, has hindered business growth with too many regulations and taxes.

Osten, 61, said she has tackled overregulation at every turn. "I like to fix things for people," said the Hillary Clinton supporter whose political hero is John F. Kennedy.

Osten, the first selectwoman in Sprague and a former corrections officer who served in the military during the Vietnam era, has been heading up efforts to develop better economic ties between this area and Rhode Island with a series of roundtable meetings.

20th Senate

Incumbent Republican Paul Formica of East Lyme is running for a second term against Democrat Ryan Henowitz, a New London resident who has not held elective office.

Formica, 63, a former East Lyme first selectman who owns the Flanders Fish Market in Niantic, has championed tourism promotion and sustaining the Millstone Power Station’s economic viability. He says the Democrats’ dominance in Hartford is harmful to the state budget process. Henowitz, 33, a former Army medic who has worked as a political activist and union lobbyist, vows to advocate for working families, school funding and more affordable public higher education. 

33rd Senate

Republican incumbent Art Linares faces two challengers — Democrat Norm Needleman and Green Party candidate Colin Bennett.

Linares, who is running for a third term, will celebrate his 28th birthday on Election Day, and after the tallies hopes to be part of a Republican majority. The co-founder and executive vice president of a Middletown-based solar energy firm, he said if re-elected he hopes to work to improve the state's business climate and to restore fiscal health to Connecticut. He is a resident of Westbrook.

Needleman, 65, is the first selectman of Essex and founder and owner of a pharmaceutical company based in his town. He hopes to bring his experience in business and in running a small municipality to the state’s spending and revenue problems, describing himself as a “fiscally conservative, socially progressive Democrat.”

Bennett, 37, is in his second bid as a Green Party candidate for the seat. A resident of Westbrook and owner of a Deep River bookstore, he said he is mainly motivated to run by environmental concerns and concern that the state budget crisis has caused harmful cuts to funding for mental health care, social services and other areas.

The 33rd Senate District includes Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook.

23rd House

Devin R. Carney, a 33-year-old Republican from Old Lyme, is running unopposed for a second term in the 23rd District, which includes Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and a section of Westbrook.

37th House

Fixing the state's budget is a top priority in the 37th District House race, where Republican Holly Cheeseman and Democrat Beth Hogan are facing off to fill the seat being vacated by Democrat Ed Jutila, who is retiring after a dozen years of representing citizens in the towns of East Lyme and Salem.

Hogan, 57, an attorney who co-owns a law firm in Old Lyme and is a project manager at a nonprofit in Middletown, serves on East Lyme’s Board of Finance and was East Lyme first selectwoman from 2005-07.

Cheeseman, 61, serves as an East Lyme selectwoman and is the executive director of the Children’s Museum of Southeastern Connecticut. She ran unsuccessfully for the same House seat in 2010, and also briefly ran in 2012, but withdrew for family reasons.

38th House

In the race to represent Waterford and Montville's districts 1 and 3, incumbent Republican Kathleen McCarty, a 66-year-old retired teacher and sitting school board member, has pointed to her focus on education and public health in her first term in Hartford as reasons to send her back.

Democratic challenger Sharon Palmer, 72, another former teacher who retired as the state's Commissioner of Labor last year, has said the district would be better off if McCarty's Democratic predecessors had kept the seat and promised to address Waterford's school funding woes "like a dog with a bone."

And Lauren Shaw, a 21-year-old UConn Avery Point student, is offering her Green Party candidacy as an option for those disenchanted with the two major parties. She has said she hopes to advance the progress third parties have made in Connecticut, and is also inspired to fight against cuts to the state's budget for the Department of Developmental Services programs for people with disabilities. 

39th House

New Londoners have three choices to fill the seat left vacant with the defeat of longtime Democratic legislator Ernest Hewett during a hard-fought primary.

Democrat Chris Soto, 35, a U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduate and founder of a local nonprofit, soundly defeated Hewett in the primary and now faces two challengers: Green Party candidate Ronna Stuller, 67, and petitioning candidate Andrew Lockwood, 56, a Republican.

The candidates have sparred over their support for the local magnet school funding with Soto and Stuller supportive of the evolution of the school district and Lockwood voicing skepticism about the school district administration's ability to be fiscally responsible.

40th House

Republican incumbent John Scott, elected to his first term in 2014, faces Democratic challenger Christine Conley, a three-term member of Groton’s Representative Town Meeting.

Both candidates say the economy and state budget are central issues, but differ on how to address the challenges.

Conley, 34, is an attorney and Scott, 47, the president of Bailey Agencies Insurance. This district is made up of portions of Groton and Ledyard.

41st House

After serving his first term, Republican incumbent Aundre Bumgardner, 22, is being challenged by Democrat and Groton Town Councilor Joseph de la Cruz, 45.

For De la Cruz, a big motivation to serve is to attack the opioid addiction crisis, which has affected his family. On fiscal matters, the Democrat says incremental changes are needed and he is reluctant to demand more from state unions. Bumgardner disagrees, saying painful cuts will be necessary and that state pensions and benefits need to better reflect the private sector.

The two also have different views on Groton’s proposed $184.5 million school construction plan: de la Cruz supports it while Bumgardner does not.

Their district represents the far southern tip of New London and western Groton.

42nd House

Mike France, 54, the Republican incumbent, is running unopposed for re-election in the 42nd District, which includes most of Ledyard, all of Preston and a portion of the Uncasville section of Montville.

43rd House

Stonington and North Stonington make up the 43rd District, and this race features two North Stonington residents — eight-term incumbent Democrat Diana Urban, who is being challenged by Republican Nicholas Mullane, the town's first selectmen for 32 years before not seeking re-election last fall.

Mullane, 78, has listed his priorities as the development of a long-range budgeting plan for the state, as well as improving Connecticut’s business climate and implementing tax reform.

Urban, 65, said she would continue her effort to implement results-based accountability in state government, work toward developing a state education formula that people can understand, and continue her work on issues involving children, domestic violence and animal cruelty.

46th House

This contest pits two-term incumbent Democrat Emmett Riley against 2014 Republican challenger Rob Dempsky and petitioning candidate Bonnie Hong, who seeks a return to politics after a 30-year hiatus.

Riley, 47, is seeking his third term in the traditionally heavily Democratic district that covers the urban and southern sections of Norwich. He easily defeated then-political newcomer Dempsky in 2014, but Dempsky says voter frustration over continuing state budget woes could mean the difference for him this year.

Hong, 69, a former Norwich City Council president and alderwoman in the 1980s, had hoped to challenge Riley in an August primary, but her petition was disqualified on a technicality. She then filed as a petitioning candidate on the November ballot.

47th House

Republican incumbent Doug Dubitsky is facing a challenge from Democrat Kate Donnelly to represent the state’s second-largest geographic district in the General Assembly.

The 47th District covers the northernmost part of Norwich, parts of Lisbon and Lebanon, and all of Canterbury, Sprague, Franklin, Scotland, Hampton and Chaplin. Dubitsky, 53, is an attorney in Chaplin and is running for his second term. Donnelly, 64, is an outreach manager for Solarize CT in Hampton.

Both cited agriculture as a major issue in the district; Dubitsky co-sponsored a bill in June to create a matching grant program for farm projects, and Donnelly passed a right-to-farm ordinance in 2011 as first selectwoman in Hampton. Education and jobs are also concerns in the largely rural district.

139th House

Democratic incumbent Rep. Kevin Ryan is facing the latest in a long line of challengers for this seat, which includes Bozrah, Montville voting districts 4 and 5, and Norwich voting districts 2 and 3.

Ryan, 64, is banking on voters' trust that the Democrat will keep up his more than two-decade record of working in the policy weeds on behalf of the district and serving on a long list of House committees.

Republican Joseph Mark C. Taraya, a 31-year-old Navy veteran pursuing a degree in human resource management after his medical discharge last year, has no political experience but thinks it's time for a change and is hoping that a wave of anti-establishment sentiment will send him to Hartford.

a.baldelli@theday.com

WHERE TO VOTE

East Lyme

District 1: East Lyme High School, 30 Chesterfield Road, East Lyme.

Districts 2 & 3: East Lyme Community Center, 41 Society Road, Niantic.

*** Same-day registration on Election Day will take place at the Community Center.

Groton

District 1: Groton Public Library, 52 Newtown Road, Groton.

District 2: West Side Middle School, 250 Brandegee Ave., Groton.

District 3: Groton City Municipal Building, 295 Meridian St., Groton.

District 4: Mary Morrison Elementary School, 154 Tollgate Road, Groton.

District 5: School Administration Building, 1300 Flanders Road, Mystic.

District 6: S.B. Butler Elementary School, 155 Ocean View Ave., Mystic.

District 7: Robert E. Fitch High School, 101 Groton Long Point Road, Groton.

*** Same-day registration on Election Day will take place at the Human Services Building, 2 Fort Hill Road.

Ledyard

District 1: Ledyard Center School, 740 Colonel Ledyard Highway, Ledyard.

Districts 2 and 3: Juliet Long School, 1854 Route 12, Gales Ferry.

*** Same-day registration on Election Day will take place at the Town Hall Annex.

Lyme

Lyme Town Hall, 480 Hamburg Road, Lyme.

*** Same-day registration on Election Day will take place in the town clerk's office at Town Hall.

Montville

District 1 and 6: Town Hall gymnasium, 310 Norwich-New London Turnpike, Uncasville.

Districts 2 and 5: Mohegan Elementary School, 49 Golden Road, Uncasville.

Districts 3 and 4: Fair Oaks Community Center, 836 Old Colchester Road, Oakdale.

*** Same-day registration on Election Day will take place at Town Hall.

New London

District 1: New London High School, 490 Jefferson Ave.

District 2: Harbor School, 432 Montauk Ave.

District 3: Nathan Hale School, 37 Beech Drive.

*** Same day voter registration will be open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. at the registrars of voters offices in City Hall, 181 State St.

North Stonington

40 Main St., North Stonington

*** Same-day registration on Election Day will take place at the town clerk's office in the Town Hall.

Norwich

Precinct 1: John M. Moriarty School, 20 Lawler Lane

Precinct 2: Rose City Senior Center, 8 Mahan Drive

Precinct 3: Samuel Huntington Elementary School, 80 West Town St.

Precinct 4: John B. Stanton Elementary School, 386 New London Turnpike

Precinct 5: St. Mark Lutheran Church, 248 Broadway

Precinct 6: AHEPA 110-II, 380 Hamilton Ave.

*** Same-day registration on Election Day will take place at Room 108, City Hall, 100 Broadway.

Old Lyme

Cross Lane Firehouse, 14 Cross Lane, Old Lyme.

*** Same-day registration on Election Day will take place at Town Hall, 52 Lyme St.

Preston

Town Hall, 389 Route 2, lower level.

*** Same-day registration on Election Day will take place at Town Hall, upper level.

Salem

Town Hall, 270 Hartford Road.

*** Same-day registration on Election Day will take place at Town Hall.

Stonington

District 1: Stonington Borough Fire Department, 100 Main St., Stonington Borough.

District 2: Pawcatuck Fire Department, 33 Liberty St., Pawcatuck.

District 3: Deans Mill School, 35 Deans Mill Road.

District 4: B. F. Hoxie Engine Co. fire house, 34 Broadway Ave., Mystic.

District 5: School Administration Building, 49 North Stonington Road, Old Mystic.

*** Same-day registration on Election Day will take place at Town Hall, 152 Elm St., lower level.

Waterford

District 1: Town Hall- 15 Rope Ferry Road.

District 2: Quaker Hill Elementary School, 285 Bloomingdale Road.

District 3: Oswegatchie Elementary School, 470 Boston Post Road.

District 4: Great Neck Elementary School, 165 Great Neck Road.

*** Same-day registration on Election Day will take place at Town Hall, 15 Rope Ferry Road.

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