Democrat Soto defeats two challengers for seat in 39th House District

New London — Democrat Chris Soto breezed past two challengers Tuesday to secure a seat in Hartford representing New London in the 39th House District.

Soto, 35, defeated Green Party candidate Ronna Stuller, 67, and Republican Andrew R. Lockwood Sr., 56, in convincing fashion with preliminary numbers showing the race wasn't close. Soto garnered 4,904 votes compared to Stuller's 440 and Lockwood's 517. 

Soto celebrated the victory at his campaign headquarters off Ocean Avenue, where he thanked his supporters and promised to to listen to the needs of constituents.

"For those that are in this room and know me, you know I'm about action. For those that don't know me you're going to see I'm about action," Soto said. "All I've got to say is watch me work."

Widely credited with energizing the local Latino vote, Soto jumped into the political arena by challenging six-term Democratic incumbent state Rep. Ernest Hewett. Hewett earned a party endorsement but was defeated by Soto by a nearly 2-1 ratio during this summer's primary.

Outside the District 2 polling place on Tuesday, Deacon Earl Wilson Sr. and Dwight "Professor" Baldwin, both retirees, said they shared a belief that Soto was the right choice for New London.

"He's a highly qualified individual," Wilson said.

"And he's young. We need youth," Baldwin said.

Soto is a U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduate and founder of the local nonprofit Higher Edge, an organization guiding low-income youth into college.

Lockwood, the former co-chairman of the local watchdog group Looking Out for Taxpayers who recently highlighted dismal conditions at the high rises on Crystal Avenue, said he would continue to "stir the pot" on local issues.

Stuller, chairwoman of the New London Green Party, said she planned to take a day off, shut off her alarm clock and weed her yard. She wished Soto well.

"He's got a lot of energy and he seems to do his homework," Stuller said. "I feel pretty confident with having him as a representative."

g.smith@theday.com

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