Linares defeats Democratic challenger in 33rd state Senate District

Incumbent Republican Sen. Art Linares defeated Democrat Norm Needleman in a hotly contested race for the state Senate seat representing 12 lower Connecticut River Valley towns.

"This is your victory tonight,” he told a roomful of supporters at the Water's Edge in Westbrook. "We are going to push and never stop fighting until we make Connecticut the best it can be."

With result from all but one town in the district in, Linares received over 5,000 votes more than Needleman.

Green Party candidate Colin Bennett, a 37-year-old bookstore owner from Westbrook, received fewer than 1,000 votes. It was his second bid for the 33rd District seat.

Linares, a 28-year-old Westbrook resident, has served two terms in the state Senate, where he is one of 15 Republicans and 21 Democrats. During the campaign he said he was hoping to be part of a Republican majority in the Senate that would work to “restore balance” in the state budget. He said he spent Election Day campaigning in Clinton, where he won by more than 1,000 votes.

Needleman, 65, is the Democratic first selectman of Essex and founder and president of Tower Industries, a pharmaceutical products manufacturer based in the town. It was his first bid for a seat in the General Assembly, where he had hoped to bring his experience running a business and a small town to tackle the state’s spending and revenue problems. Needleman said during the campaign that, if elected, he would complete his current term as first selectman, which ends in November 2017, while serving in the Senate, and decide whether to run again for the town position at that time.

Needleman, who won in Lyme and by about 500 votes in Essex, said it was a "great campaign" and that he is grateful for his supporters. "We gave it our best shot," he said. "It has a lot to do with the power of incumbency."

Numbers for Colchester were not yet available.

Unaffiliated voters outnumber both registered Republicans and Democrats in the district, which comprises about 70,000 voters in Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Haddam, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook.

j.benson@theday.com

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