Marx ‘figuring it all out’ in aftermath of win
State Senator-elect Martha Marx, a Democrat who campaigned in the 20th District on healthcare and reproductive rights, said it all came down to choice.
Marx beat contender Jerry Labriola Jr., a former state GOP Chairman, with roughly 52.26% of the vote. The seat was left open by four-term state Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, as he prepares to retire from public service.
Voters made their way to the polls this year in the wake of the seismic reversal of Roe v. Wade, a Supreme Court precedent that for 50 years treated abortion as a right.
“I knew that’s what it was going to be about,” Marx said in a phone interview this week. “You can’t take rights away from people and not think that they’re going to come out and defend them.”
Turning the 20th District from red to blue helped maintain what currently looks like a 24-12 Democratic majority in the Senate pending recounts, according to the CT Mirror. Preliminary results show Senate Democrats picked up one seat overall.
Labriola, despite describing himself as pro-choice and stating he would have voted for an abortion bill that passed the state legislature earlier this year, lost the race on the battlegrounds of East Lyme and Old Lyme.
Marx in her two previous contests against Formica won 71% of the vote in New London but lost all other towns in the district. This time, she said she didn’t spend as much time campaigning in New London.
She carried 69.36% of the city vote and picked up the two smaller, suburban towns.
Even as candidates in both parties tried to position themselves as moderates to appeal to the growing majority of unaffiliated voters across the state, Marx didn’t back away from her ardent support of progressive causes like labor unions and a public option for health insurance coverage.
In East Lyme, unaffiliated voters account for 42% of the 13,552 people registered to vote as of Nov. 1, according to data from the Office of the Secretary of the State. That’s compared to the 33% who identify as Democrats and 23% who align themselves with Republicans.
Marx won 53.52% of the vote in East Lyme.
Resident Jo-el Fernandez, a registered Democrat, told The Day after voting at the East Lyme Community Center that she came out to preserve both abortion rights and democracy.
“I’m happy we don’t have a lot of extremism in Connecticut, it seems, compared to the rest of the country,” Fernandez observed of the largely blue state. But she said while she has voted for candidates other than Democrats in the past, she didn’t this time.
Labriola, who was sequestered Tuesday night in a private corner of Flanders Fish Market while the results came in, left without conceding the race or addressing the supporters who were waiting for him in the function room. He posted a message on social media the next morning saying he accepted the voters’ decision.
Marx said she did not hear from her opponent after the election, adding Formica called to wish her well and to offer his assistance if she ever needs it.
Labriola’s campaign sent a mailer in the runup to the election written by Barbara Labriola affirming her husband’s support of women’s rights “when it comes not just to choice but to equality and representation as well.”
Marx said it wasn’t enough for her opponent to claim to be pro-choice.
“He would not talk about it,” she said. “And he supported candidates who nationally would put a ban on abortion. You can’t support candidates that want to to put a ban on abortion yet say you’re pro-choice.”
She declined to comment on how she might address reproductive rights in her first legislative session, which begins Jan. 4.
“I’m not talking about legislation,” she said. “I have no idea what’s going to be introduced. It’s two days after I won. I put 50 hours a week into winning.”
Too soon to tell
The state Senator-elect also refused to talk about her expectations going forward, including what committees she’d like to serve on, what kind of legislation she’d like to raise, and whether or not she will resign her seat on the New London City Council.
The 59-year-old nurse said her first order of business is finding out which committees she will serve on. She wouldn’t talk about her committee preferences because “it’s political.”
General Assembly rules dictate committees be assigned by the Senate president pro tempore and speaker of the House.
During her campaign, she said she’d be a champion for affordability in healthcare and housing, in addition to reproductive rights. But during Thursday’s phone interview, she brushed off questions about what kind of legislation that might translate into.
“I’m not ready for any of this call,” she said. “It's not a fair question and again it depends on what committee I sit on.”
Marx described her predecessor Formica as a well-respected lawmaker who loved his district and “did the best he could.” She said she would differentiate herself by advocating more for the working class. She cited her support for things he opposed, like a $15 minimum wage and the legalization of cannabis.
A former Democratic Town Committee chairwoman, she resigned that position when she started campaigning earlier this year. She said at the time she’d also give up her position on the City Council if elected to the Senate.
Marx first won a seat on the council in 2015. She failed in her reelection bid in 2017 but returned in 2021.
“It’s going to be hard enough to work as a nurse and as a Senator,” she told The Day in March. “That’s enough.”
But this week, she said she hasn’t had time to decide whether she will resign from the council.
“When you lose twice, you kind of don’t really plan for winning,” she said. “Though I thought I would (win). I definitely thought I was the best candidate, but I’m just now figuring it all out.”