The key numbers in the fight for control of the Connecticut Senate are nine, six, three and four. The nine most competitive races involve six seats held by Democrats and three by Republicans.
The GOP needs a net gain of four seats to win a 19-17 majority, which would be their first since 1994, when Republican John G. Rowland won the first of his three terms as governor.
Republicans have tried to capitalize on Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s low approval ratings by tying vulnerable Democratic candidates for the Senate and House to the governor, who is not on the ballot. Democrats have employed the same tactic with Donald J. Trump, the GOP presidential nominee.
Grow Connecticut, an independent expenditure group, is running ads saying all Democrats would be a rubber stamp for Malloy. Some Democrats have distanced themselves from the governor by talking in speeches and mailers about their independence.
Governing Magazine deemed the state Senate a “tossup” in a late October story. In August, the Mirror identified nine districts that party strategists and outside groups alike see as battlegrounds in this election.
Here is a roundup of the latest news from those races.
4th District (D) – Andover, Bolton, Glastonbury, Manchester
Candidates: Steve Cassano (D, incumbent), Lorraine Marchetti (R)
The latest: Steve Cassano of Manchester is no stranger to close races, and this cycle is shaping up to be another one. He is facing Lorraine Marchetti, a former town councilwoman and school board member from Glastonbury. The two campaigns have exchanged accusations of falsehoods and dirty tactics since early September. Marchetti came under fire late in October for using a photo of a member of the Manchester Democratic Town Committee in a campaign mailer without his permission.
13th District (D) – Cheshire, Meriden, Middlefield, Middletown
Candidates: Danté Bartolomeo (D, incumbent), Len Suzio (R)
The latest: For the third cycle in a row, Danté Bartolomeo and Len Suzio are seen as being locked in in a close race heading into Election Day. Bartolomeo, the district’s two-term senator, and Suzio, the district’s one-term former senator, had photo finishes in the 2012 and 2014 elections, with Bartolomeo edging Suzio by a little more than 200 votes each time. Much like those races, criminal justice reform has been a major issue in the campaign. Suzio is one of Malloy’s strongest critics on sentencing reform. In addition, the state’s continuing economic challenges have shaped the tone of both candidates. While Bartolomeo is running on a message of optimism, Suzio argues that the state is on the wrong path.
17th District (D) – Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Derby, Hamden, Naugatuck, Woodbridge
Candidates: Joseph Crisco (D, incumbent), George Logan (R)
The latest: The race to represent the Naugatuck Valley has gone from an afterthought to the forefront of the discussion over the last six months. Joseph Crisco, a 12-term senator from Woodbridge, has won most of his reelection match-ups with relative ease during his two and a half decades in the Senate. This year’s race may be his closet yet, however. While Crisco and George Logan have not met for a forum or debate – Crisco refused – the candidates have clashed on economic policy throughout the campaign. Logan, the director of environmental management and governmental affairs for Aquarion Water Company, has tried to create separation from national Republicans, describing himself as a centrist who leans right.
18th District (D) – Griswold, Groton, North Stonington, Plainfield, Preston, Sterling, Stonington, Voluntown
Candidates: Timothy Bowles (D), Heather Somers (R)
The latest: The race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Andrew Maynard has generated more headlines than any other race in Connecticut this cycle, a campaign that has been nasty and personal. Both candidates have launched numerous attacks in the weeks leading up to November. Timothy Bowles, a one-term state representative who lost his reelection bid in 2014, has tried to tie Heather Somers to Trump in recent campaign mailers. In late October, State GOP Chairman J.R. Romano accused Bowles of violating state election laws in one of those mailers. Somers, the former mayor of Groton, has hit back with attacks of her own, accusing Bowles of being tied to the political establishment in Hartford.
22nd District (D) – Bridgeport, Monroe, Trumbull
Candidates: Elaine Hammers (R), Marilyn Moore (D, incumbent)
The latest: The race in this half-urban, half-suburban district has been relatively quiet this cycle. Marilyn Moore, a first-term senator from Bridgeport, soundly defeated her primary challenger in August. She now faces Elaine Hammers, board of finance chair in Trumbull. The two candidates participated in a forum late in October, the first and only major event in the campaign. Only in Bridgeport, a popular blog covering news in the city, described the tone as “civil” and “gracious,” and reported that the two agreed on many policy issues. Hammers’ main argument for her candidacy has been to help to give Republicans control of the Senate.
29th District (D) – Brooklyn, Canterbury, Killingly, Mansfield, Putnam, Scotland, Thompson, Windham
Candidates: Mae Flexer (D, incumbent), John French (R)
The latest: Mae Flexer, a first-term senator from Killingly, and John French, a board of education member in Windham, are in a rematch of the 2014 campaign in the state’s northeastern corner. Economic policy has dominated the discussion. French wants to drastically reduce state spending, and has broken with other Republicans in their pledge to restore funding to social programs cut by Malloy’s administration. Flexer supports restoring the funds. Maintaining state funding for the district’s hospitals has been a major issue as well. While Flexer said she is fighting to keep funding at its current levels, French has accused her of letting the state cut $1 million from Windham Hospital and $2 million from Day Kimball this year. Flexer recently scored a personal endorsement from President Obama.
30th District (R) – Brookfield, Canaan, Cornwall, Goshen, Kent, Litchfield, Morris, New Milford, North Canaan, Salisbury, Sharon, Torrington, Warren, Winchester
Candidates: David Lawson (D), Craig Miner (R)
The latest: Republicans have had a firm grip on the state’s largest geographical district since the 1980s, but that has the potential to change in 2016. Craig Miner, a state representative from Litchfield, is facing David Lawson, president of the board of education in New Milford. Interestingly, it’s environmental – not economic – issues that have become the main point of contention. The Connecticut League of Conservation Voters is backing Lawson.
31st District (R) – Bristol, Harwinton, Plainville, Plymouth, Thomaston
Candidates: Henri Martin (R, incumbent), Michael Nicastro (D)
The latest: The race to represent Bristol and its surrounding communities in the Senate has generated significant interest in the final weeks of the election. While it had been relatively quiet, that changed when a late mail piece, paid for by the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, tied Michael Nicastro to Malloy. Nicastro, former head of the Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, was quick to denounce it. Henri Martin, the first-term senator from Bristol, has only said his campaign was not responsible for it. Nicastro said Martin’s response is not enough, and challenged Martin to an additional debate, which Martin declined. The campaign primarily centered on economic policy before the mailer was sent.
33rd District (R) – Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland, Westbrook
Candidates: Art Linares (R, incumbent), Norm Needleman (D), Colin Bennett (G)
The latest: Despite winning by a comfortable margin two years ago, Art Linares is facing a strong challenge to keep his seat in the lower Connecticut River Valley for a third term. Norm Needleman, the first selectman of Essex, has criticized Linares for his public support of Trump. Linares has hit back by highlighting Needleman’s public praise for Malloy. Needleman has argued that he would be an independent voice in the legislature, calling himself a fiscal conservative and social progressive. Linares has campaigned on major reductions in state spending and changes to tax policy.