Voters return Formica in 20th Senate District

Paul Formica, center, state Senator representing the 20th District, reacts to the polling results with supporters at the Flanders Fish Market in East Lyme, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. Formica's daughter Olivia Formica, right, 25, of East Lyme, and Salem selectman Ed Chmielewski, left, celebrate. (Tim Martin/The Day)
Paul Formica, center, state Senator representing the 20th District, reacts to the polling results with supporters at the Flanders Fish Market in East Lyme, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. Formica's daughter Olivia Formica, right, 25, of East Lyme, and Salem selectman Ed Chmielewski, left, celebrate. (Tim Martin/The Day)

State Sen. Paul Formica retained his 20th District seat on Tuesday over Democratic challenger Ryan Henowitz of New London.

The district comprises Bozrah, East Lyme, part of Montville, New London, Old Lyme, part of Old Saybrook, Salem and Waterford.

Unofficial results showed Formica winning with 25,026 votes to Henowitz's 16,663 votes.  

"It's been an honor to serve in the state Senate and to be given an opportunity to do it again is incredible," Formica said shortly before 10 p.m. at Flanders Fish Market, the restaurant he owns. During the campaign, he said, voters identified the top issues as the state deficit and the need for lawmakers to collaborate.

"People are tired of biusiness as usual," He said. "We've got to change the way we do things in Hartford. I want to be part of that - opening up lines of communication. The problems are bigger than one side can solve."

Outside Waterford Town Hall in the afternoon, Joe San Juan, an unaffiliated voter, said he cast his ballot for Formica, for whom he worked when Formica was East Lyme’s first selectman.

“He’s honest and up front,” San Juan said. “He always does right by the people.”

Matt Alloway, another Waterford voter, said he, too, voted for Formica.

“I hear him all the time on the radio,” Alloway said. “Only thing I didn’t like about him was his flier. It didn’t say what party he was.”

Alloway’s wife, Janet, said she voted for Henowitz because of his stands on family issues.

Bruce Caron, another Waterford voter, backed Formica.

“I liked him the first time he ran and I’m sticking with him,” he said. 

Formica followed up his victory over Betsy Ritter, a Waterford Democrat, in 2014 — the first time a Republican had won the 20th District seat since 1990. Formica won nearly 56 percent of the vote. Andrea Stillman, another Waterford Democrat, had held the seat for five terms before deciding not to seek a sixth in 2014. Formica

Formica lost to Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney in a bid for the 2nd Congressional District seat in 2012. Before that, he was elected first selectman of East Lyme three consecutive times, in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

During his first term in Hartford, Formica founded the legislature’s tourism caucus, a bipartisan group committed to promoting the state's attractions. During his re-election campaign, he said preserving the Millstone Power Station’s economic viability would be a top priority in the next General Assembly session.

Henowitz, 33, a former Army medic, is pursuing a master’s degree at Eastern Connecticut State University, where he obtained his bachelor’s degree. From 2012 to 2014, he worked as a lobbyist for AFT Connecticut, a labor union that represents teachers, nurses and state employees. During this year’s state legislative session, he worked with the Working Families Party to advocate for a bill calling for paid family medical leave for workers, a measure that failed.

In 2015, he mounted an unsuccessful primary campaign for the New London City Council. Former New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio had appointed him the city’s veterans’ liaison.

In August, Henowitz filed a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission, claiming Formica had violated elections laws by paying an advertising agency that employs his daughter. Formica denied the charge, stating later that his daughter was not working on his campaign.

The commission has yet to rule on the complaint.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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