Republicans claim victory in Fairfield special election
FAIRFIELD — Republican Brian Farnen won the special election Tuesday to fill the town’s open seat in the state House of Representatives.
He won with about 2,460 votes, according to unofficial totals, while Democrat Jennifer Leeper received 2,378 votes.
The Republican victory, combined with Democrats holding on to a seat in the other special election in eastern Connecticut, means no change in the Democratic legislative majority.
Farnen will fill the seat vacated by First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick after she successfully won the town’s top job in November. Democratic leaders said her enthusiastic campaigning for Farnan was likely the difference in the race.
Farnen ran on a platform of bringing jobs to Connecticut — citing his work as general counsel for the Connecticut Green Bank. He said he wanted to work across the aisle to find compromise among republicans and democrats.
Leeper, a current member of the board of education, said she wanted to bring her experience in public policy for the Connecticut Department of Education to the state Legislature. She said her background will allow her to see if policy is achieving the goals set for it.
In Colchester, Democrats retained the seat vacated by the recent death of Linda Orange, meaning that the majority in the state House of Representatives is now 91-59, pending another special election to fill the Greenwich seat left by Fred Camillo when he won the recent first selectman race.
At the end of the 2018 election, Democrats held a 92-59 majority.
“Special elections are always difficult,” said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby. “These are difficult times of the year to get voters out.” She said that when Kupchick won the Fairfield selectman race in November, it likely set the scene for Farnan’s follow-up victory.
Turnout in the Fairfield election was about 30 percent of registered voters.
“Brian’s a moderate, fiscally responsible, aware environmentally,” Klarides said. “He’s been in Fairfield many years and is the perfect fit for the district.”
In the four-town Colchester-centric race, including Mansfield, Lebanon and Windham, Klarides recalled that Orange was a Democrat who leaned right.
“The election there was close and that shows there will be a big battle there in November,” she said. While the Democrats held on in this election, it could be difficult to keep it in November, she said.
Over the weekend, the state’s anti-toll leaders descended on the four-town district in attempt to swing the seat.
“I think the Democrats are underestimating the tolls issue,” Klarides said. “This tolls issue, in my entire career, I’ve never seen anything that gotten more of a response.”
Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said the Brian T. Smith won the Colchester seat by about 202 votes over Republican Mark DeCaprio.
“Voters in eastern Connecticut showed they wanted to continue the thoughtful and committed representation they have experienced with Linda Orange.”
Aresimowicz said that in Fairfield, Kupchick played a “dynamic” role in helping Farnan.
According to Holly Lanese, the secretary of the registrar of voters office, there were 16,534 voters on the active rolls for Tuesday’s election. Lanese said there were 5,133 Democrats, 4,666 Republicans, 6,478 unaffiliated voters and 258 classified as other within the rolls.
Farnen said he was excited and called it a great day. He said his victory was due to the work of the team that he was able to win in the face of strong Democratic opposition.
“The Democratic party brought two U.S. senators, the governor’s office, a sitting congressman and a lot to win this seat,” he said. “My friends and family and neighbors — we were able to keep this seat and we are really excited and really, really proud.”
Leeper said she was proud of the campaign that her team ran, adding that the volunteers brought a lot of enthusiasm to their work.
“We won three of the four districts and I think that’s something to be very proud of,” said Leeper. “We always knew Southport was going to be really tough, and it was.”
Leeper said she wishes Farnen the best of luck and hopes he represents the district honestly.
Farnen said he wanted to bring fiscal reform to the legislature. He said Connecticut has a spending problem and needs to live within its budget.
Ken Dixon contributed to this report
This story has been updated to correct an inaccurate word in a quote. Farnen said Democrats brought in a “sitting congressman” to help win the seat. The initial report stated they brought in a “city” congressman.