Welch-Collins still tops 38th District Democratic primary after recount

Waterford — A recount in the Democratic primary for the 38th state House district wrapped up on Tuesday, with Representative Town Meeting member Baird Welch-Collins securing the nomination by edging out area nurse manager Patrick Murphy by just eight votes.

Welch-Collins, a 23-year-old social studies teacher at Norwich Free Academy, in November will face two-term incumbent Republican Kathleen McCarty, a retired teacher.

For more than four hours Tuesday, a half-dozen Democratic polling volunteers guided by Waterford head moderator Cheryl Larder opened sealed bags — locked in a cabinet in Town Hall since last week's primary — and recounted using a mix of voting machines and hand counts.

Officials found no changes in vote totals for the top two vote-getters. Welch-Collins earned 616 total votes in Waterford and Montville compared to Murphy's 608.

The initial 449 total votes for Nick Gauthier, a labor organizer and political activist, dropped by one after Tuesday's recount, with officials finding one discrepancy in Waterford.

Because the 38th District encompasses the entirety of Waterford, more than 1,400 votes from all four voting districts had to be recounted Tuesday. Montville's recount on Monday took about an hour, as the portion of town within the 38th District includes only two voting districts. Montville's recount led to no changes in the results.

Larder and Waterford Town Clerk Dave Campo said results would be sent to Secretary of the State Denise Merrill on Tuesday.

Making his first run for office, Murphy bested Welch-Collins by 62 votes in Montville. But Welch-Collins, endorsed in the Democrats' May convention, held on to a 70-vote advantage over Murphy in Waterford.

Murphy, who took off a few hours from work to witness Tuesday's recount, remained positive after the votes were tallied. He said he was committed to campaigning for Democrats seeking spots on the General Assembly and pushing for progressive issues.

He also didn't rule out a run for office down the road, saying he'd speak with his campaign team and Democratic leaders "about my options and paths forward."

"We've generated a lot of enthusiasm and interest," he said.

Welch-Collins has served as treasurer of Waterford's Flood and Erosion Control Board for almost three years and previously was a substitute teacher in Montville. He was elected to the RTM in 2017.

Welch-Collins did not immediately respond to a message Tuesday afternoon. He said recently that he would work to unify support from those who voted for his opponents, and that he looked forward to a respectful campaign against McCarty.

The closeness of the race, he added, "shows all the candidates did a good job" in energizing Democrats to retake the 38th District seat.

McCarty faced Welch-Collins' father, Green Party candidate Bill Collins, in 2014.

b.kail@theday.com

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