After what was shaping up to be a long night, the 4th Congressional District race ended earlier than expected Tuesday when incumbent Jim Himes took the stage to claim victory shortly after 11 p.m.
“We’re going to have some fun tonight!” he said. But he added, “We have a lot of work yet to be done in this country.”
Supporters of both Himes and his Republican challenger, state Sen. Dan Debicella, were prepared to wait long into the night for results. Polls had shown the race to be close, and problems in Bridgeport kept some polling places open until 10 p.m.
But Debicella conceded about 10:30, saying that even without complete figures from Bridgeport, it was clear he had lost.
“The good news is that we’re up by 5,000,” said Debicella, surrounded by supporters. “The bad news is that the results aren’t in from Bridgeport yet, and we’re going to lose there by significantly more than 5,000.”
Debicella congratulated Himes on his victory.
“We’ve enjoyed a spirited debate on the issues, and I wish him nothing but the best as he returns to Washington,” Debicella said. “The stakes for our country are too high not to hope for success in the next two years.”
In Bridgeport, Himes took the stage to the cheers of a thrilled crowd, thanking family and supporters and as well as his opponent. “We have had one of the cleanest, most issues oriented campaigns,” he said, wishing Debicella luck.
Then, to Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, who was standing in the crowd: “Mr. Mayor, Bridgeport is always interesting!”
Darlene Walker, born and raised in Bridgeport, said she would have stayed until the end even if election results had been delayed. “I’d support Himes no matter what,” she said. “He’s been so good for this city.”
Alvin Oneal, munching on carrot sticks and other snacks provided by Himes’ campaign, said Himes has always been involved with the city, and the district. “He’s always been there to support us,” he said.
“He hit the ground running, didn’t he Alvin?” said Lorraine Scelfo, a Holiday Inn employee who said Himes has been to every event imaginable in Bridgeport.
Himes beat Chris Shays, a moderate Republican, in 2008 largely thanks to an outpouring of support for President Obama in Bridgeport and other cities. Debicella did his best to frame Himes as a Democrat who marched in lock step with his party – the “anti-Shays.”
But he was unsuccessful.
“Tonight, the voters of Fairfield County have spoken. While the outcome was not what we hoped for, I’m proud of the campaign we ran,” said Debicella.
But he wasn’t entirely conciliatory – he said Republicans would still take the majority in the House. “The important thing is that we can finally say, ‘House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi!”