House Democrats endorse new leaders, pledge bipartisanship

House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, the incoming speaker.

mark pazniokas / ctmirror.org

House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, the Democrats’ choice to be the next speaker.

The new Democratic leadership of the Connecticut House of Representatives pledged a stronger working relationship with minority Republicans on Thursday, a reflection of the difficulty they face in conducting business with fewer Democrats and more challenges.

In their post-election caucus, Democrats formally endorsed House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz of Berlin to become the next speaker of the House, a challenging job given that he will be backed by the smallest majority in the history of the chamber.

Aresimowicz noted that House Democrats had borrowed from the GOP for a platform that set job creation and economic growth as priorities necessary to break the cycle of spending cuts in the face of falling revenues.

“That was not done by mistake. That was done to show them we are serious about a partnerhsip, serious about a cooperative government here in Connecticut,” Aresimowicz said.

The leadership of the Senate Democrats and House and Senate Republicans remained unchanged after their caucuses met earlier Thursday.

Aresimowicz was endorsed to succeed House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, in January. Rep. Matthew Ritter of Hartford was chosen to succeed Aresimowicz as majority leader.

“We have 11 new faces that we welcomed to our family today,” Ritter said. “The bottom line is what happened in the last nine months, even three days ago, is over. Now we get down to governing. We get down to business.”

Rep. Matthew Ritter, the Democrats choice for majority leader

mark pazniokas / ctmirror.org

Rep. Matthew Ritter, the Democrats choice for majority leader.

Democrats will hold a 79-72 majority in the House, barring changes resulting from recounts in three districts. The Senate will be evenly divided at 18-18, with Democratic Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman able to break ties as the presiding officer.

Assuming the GOP finds no legal bar to Wyman’s breaking a tie in the vote for leadership, Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, will be re-elected to a second term in January. Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff of Norwalk will return as second in charge.

Sen. Len Fasano of North Haven will return as the leader of the Senate Republican caucus.

House Republicans selected Themis Klarides of Derby for her second term as minority leader. She will lead the biggest GOP caucus since the 1985 and 1986 term, the last time Republicans were in the majority.

Among those backing her Thursday night was her sister, Nicole Klarides-Ditria, who defeated Rep. Theresa Conroy, D-Seymour. Klarides said her staff has determined they are the first sisters to serve together in the House of Representatives.

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