de la Cruz secures second term in 41st District

Democratic incumbent state Rep. Joe de la Cruz easily won a second term representing the 41st House District by defeating Republican Kenneth Richards by at least 2,000 votes.

Unofficial numbers from the Groton and Republican headquarters Tuesday night differed slightly. The Democratic numbers showed 5,294 votes for de la Cruz and 2,406 votes for Richards. Republican numbers had 5,678 votes for de la Cruz and 3,030 votes for Richards. De La Cruz got higher vote totals in all five of the polling districts. The 41st House District comprises parts of Groton and New London.

De la Cruz, a longtime sheet metal worker, touted his support for working people during the campaign. Speaking around 9 p.m. at the Democratic headquarters in Groton after the unofficial results showed him as the winner, de la Cruz said he would "fight" for increasing the minimum wage and paid family leave during his second term.

He observed during his first term that "a lot of stuff happens in Hartford when the doors are closed on the caucus rooms."

"I want to open that up," he said.

Richards, who runs the Westerly Ambulance Corps, ran on a platform of smaller government and reining in spending. After seeing the unofficial results at the Republican headquarters in Groton, he said he felt he ran a good race and was impressed by the support he got given it was his first run for state office. He said the constituents he talked to were concerned about tolls, taxes increasing and controlling spending.

De la Cruz has said tolls are part of the solution to the state's fiscal woes. That was a main area of disagreement between him and Richards, who called said tolls another regressive tax.

"I ran on tolls and people listened to me," de la Cruz said Tuesday night. "I told them the truth about tolls, that we needed them, and I'm going to go up there and do exactly what I told everyone I'm going to do."

At a time of political divisiveness, de la Cruz and Richards said they wanted to keep the race civil and debate policy, not wage personal attacks. They spent time together at the polls Tuesday, and even posed for a picture with Aundré Bumgardner, who de la Cruz unseated two years ago to win the 41st seat.

De la Cruz's mother, Deborah, said when people saw them having fun together at the polls, they said, "I don't get it. I thought they hated each other."

It's not like that between them, she said.

j.bergman@theday.com

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