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Republicans field candidate seeking Formica's seat

New London — Democrat Martha Marx of New London has a Republican challenger in the race for the 20th District Senate seat being left open by state Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme.

Jerry Labriola Jr. of Old Saybrook accepted his party’s unanimous endorsement on Monday, promising a “really positive, issue-driven campaign” and a “steady hand in unsteady times.”

He is three months behind Marx in terms of campaigning.

“Some of you may say I’m a late entrant into this race. Well, you know what, that’s exactly the case. We have to get this thing revved up starting tomorrow,” he told a crowd of three dozen Republicans at the party’s convention at Waterford Town Hall on Monday.

“I don’t think it’s too late if we work hard," he said. "And we plan to work very hard and be very organized."

Labriola thanked Formica for his service and said he had “big shoes to fill.” Formica previously had announced he would not be seeking a fifth term in office.

“I’ve worked with fellow Republicans to develop policies ranging from mental health care support to tax relief that show the path to a better way. I know Jerry will continue these efforts to advocate for our constituents,” Formica said in a statement.

The 20th District represents the communities of Bozrah, East Lyme, New London, Old Lyme, Salem, Waterford and parts of Old Saybrook and Montville. 

Labriola, 64, was born and raised in Naugatuck, where he later served as town attorney; while living in Wallingford, he served on that city’s board of assessment appeals. He also coached the Ansonia girls soccer team from 2007 to 2011. He is a partner in the Labriola Law Group in Naugatuck, served for 14 years in a variety of positions with the Connecticut Republican Party and was the party chairman when Formica won his first term as senator in 2014.

"When we worked to get Paul elected, I never thought I’d be standing here eight years later in this position," he said Monday. "But here we are.”

Labriola has four children and is married to Barbara Labriola, who serves as treasurer for the town of Old Saybrook, and five grandchildren. He last ran for office in 2010, when he was defeated by Democrat Rosa DeLauro in a race for the 3rd District Congressional seat.

Labriola’s brother David is a state representative in Oxford and his father, Jerry Labriola, was a state senator who ran for both lieutenant governor and governor.

"I’m running to better the lives of the people of the 20th district and to bring a reasonable common-sense approach to the issues we face," Labriola Jr. said in a statement to the Day. "Connecticut is not affordable for far too many families. Historic inflation, rising health care costs, and Connecticut’s heavy tax burden are straining household budgets. Our state continues to struggle to create opportunities for all people to achieve prosperity and security.”

Labriola Jr. said his aim is to make Connecticut more affordable “for every working- and middle-class family and create a pro-jobs economy supported by a strong education and workforce training system.”

“Connecticut must support and strengthen our cities like New London, which can be hubs for jobs and economic development and spark growth across our entire region,” he said.

Labriola will face Marx, who recently was elected to her second term on the New London City Council. She was unanimously endorsed to run by fellow Democrats at a party convention held remotely last week. Former New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, who previously had announced his intention to run for Formica's seat, stepped aside when Marx announced her candidacy.   

Marx, 59, a mother of four who recently became a grandmother, has worked since 1985 as a registered nurse with the Visiting Nurse Association of Southeastern Connecticut. She is president of the union AFT Local 5119, representing visiting nurses and home health aides. Marx recently ended her term as chairwoman of the New London Democratic Town Committee, which is now led by Zak Leavy.

She was narrowly defeated twice by Formica in the past two elections, losing by 1,175 votes of the more than 50,000 votes cast in 2020.

“I’m glad I have a challenger,” Marx said on Tuesday. “I love the Democratic process. I’m very confident I will get support from voters in the 20th District. I have lived here for almost my entire life here. I’ve raised my children here and taken care of people here for the past 37 years.”

“I know the needs of our community and I’m a little saddened the Republicans put up such a partisan candidate. I didn’t always agree with Senator Formica but at least the district knew we had a moderate voice in Hartford,” she said. “I look forward to being a strong voice and an advocate for southeastern Connecticut residents, who tend to vote moderate.”

Marx said health care would be a big focus of hers in Hartford, as well as “helping the working class families trying hard to pay rent, pay their mortgage, put gas in their cars and making sure they have a fair shot in life.”

g.smith@theday.com

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