The main event today is the inauguration of Dannel P. Malloy as Connecticut’s first Democratic governor in a generation, but the day also belonged to 24 new House members and five new senators who began their legislative careers on a day of celebration and sober talk, endings and beginnings.
“Guess what? We may be dysfunctional but from this day forth we are family,” House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero, R-Norwalk, said in a light greeting to his colleagues, who laughed with appreciation.
Upstairs, Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney, R-Fairfield, pledged cooperation with the new governor and Democratic majority “at every turn possible.” And there will be plenty of turns.
Republican State Chairman Chris Healy was not feeling as charitable. He issued a statement at noon criticizing Malloy for giving jobs to six state legislators.
In a borrowed office, Nancy S. Wyman studied a roster of the Senate before taking her oath in the morning, preparing for her new role as the chamber’s presiding officer. She checked a pronunciation of a Republican’s name.
Andrew J. McDonald, who ceased to be a senator at 10 a.m. and became Malloy’s general counsel, told Wyman she was correct. For good measure, he offered her an unsolicited view of the Republican’s approach to politics.
Despite fear of a national anti-incumbent tidal wave in the last election, Democrats managed to hold onto sizable majorities in both the House and Senate. But they did lose 14 seats in the House and one in the Senate.
Their margins on opening day: 94 Democrats to 51 Republicans in the House, with six vacancies. In the Senate, Democrats outnumber the GOP, 20 to 13, with three vacancies.
It was a day for pep talks and admonitions of tough times ahead.
“We’ve got a long road ahead of us,” Wyman told the Senate.
“The times demand we favor results, rather than rhetoric,” said Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn. “We all have much to do these next two years. Let’s get started.”
In House, the new majority gave similar advice.
“Realize what’s possible,” said Rep. J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, the House majority leader. “Make something happen.”
Sharkey joked about the migration of House Democrats into the Malloy administration.
“I began to worry whether we would have a majority by the time we were sworn in,” said Sharkey, who had six House Democrats leave to take other jobs in state government.
House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, said legislators must protect the social safety net as they help Malloy close a deficit estimated as high as $3.67 billion.
“We need to cut what doesn’t work and support what does,” Donovan said.
Susan Bysiewicz, the outgoing secretary of the state, who suffered one of the most snake-bitten political years imaginable, took a last moment in the spotlight before her term expired.
Under the constitution, it was up to her to open the Senate session and administer the oath to the Senate. Once William was re-elected as president pro tem, Bysiewicz exited the chamber.
M. Jodi Rell was absent from the Capitol. She took her leave Tuesday at noon.
She played host today at the Executive Residence to Malloy, his wife and legislative leaders. She is not expected at the inauguration ceremony later this afternoon.