Economy seen as key in 40th, 41st state House wins
Groton — Republican newcomer Aundre Bumgardner, 20, is the official winner of the 41st House District race and there will be no recount, Groton Town Clerk Betsy Moukawsher said Wednesday.
Bumgardner, who worked full-time campaigning, defeated four-term incumbent Democrat Elissa Wright, a 68-year-old attorney, by 39 votes on Tuesday, according to official results, Moukawsher said.
Moukawsher was notified Wednesday afternoon by the Secretary of the State’s Office of the decision not to hold a recount. The final total was Bumgardner, 3,627 votes; Wright, 3,588 votes.
“Each side should be very proud of their efforts,” Moukawsher said.
Bumgardner said he was humbled by his victory.
“I hope people do trust me. I’m honored, and I will fulfill voters’ requests for leadership,” he said.
He said he knocked on 5,000 doors and found voters concerned about jobs, taxes and the economy.
“People are ready for a new direction and new blood,” he said.
Wright said Wednesday she had not been informed of the final results and wanted to wait before making a comment.
In a legislative race, a recount is triggered if the difference between candidates is one half of one percent of all votes cast, or a difference of 20 votes or less, said Av Harris, spokesman for the Secretary of the State’s Office.
In addition to the close race between Wright and Bumgardner, Republican businessman John F. Scott unseated six-term Democratic incumbent Edward E. Moukawsher in the 40th House District Tuesday.
Groton has been represented for eight years in the house by Democrats in both districts. Wright held her seat for four terms. Prior to that, Republican Lenny Winkler held the post.
The district lines that comprise Groton were redrawn in 2011, and that change put part of Ledyard into the 40th district, and part of New London into the 41st District, but both districts continued to cover Groton.
Scott, 45, president of Bailey Agencies Insurance, believes the economy played a major role in the shift toward Republicans.
“Jobs are being lost and our current representatives in Hartford just weren’t getting it done for us,” he said.
Chris Fryxell, director of public affairs for House Republicans, said the recession hit southeastern Connecticut harder than other parts of the state.
“If you look at the way that the state budgets over the last few years, (with) big tax increases, we were sort of told that all that sacrifice we were making was going to fix things,” he said. “It was going to be the medicine that we needed.”
Yet unemployment remained high, he said.
Then the Republican Party put forward credible candidates to run against the Democratic incumbents, Fryxell said. During their campaigns, Bumgardner and Scott both focused on improving the business environment in the state.
“The goal is to make it easier for jobs to start and thrive here and bring jobs back to a region that needs them,” Fryxell said. “I think both will be kind of relentless advocates of the business community.”
Dean Antipas, chairman of the Republican Town Committee, said the change in Groton is significant.
“These Democratic candidates were not fly-by-night candidates,” he said.
Others had tried to unseat Wright before, including Town Councilor Harry Watson, Antipas said.
“I’m very happy for the young man, let me tell you,” he said of Bumgardner. “He had all his heart and mind in this thing. I’m very anxious to see what he’ll do.”
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