Election history: Larson won an open seat in 1998, succeeding Democrat Barbara B. Kennelly, who unsuccessfully ran for governor against John G. Rowland.
He previously was elected to six two-year terms in the state Senate, beginning in 1982. He won the endorsement of the Democratic State Convention for governor in 1994, but lost a primary to Bill Curry.
In 2008, he was cross-endorsed by the Working Families Party and won with 72 percent of the vote.
2008 general election:
|John B. Larson (D)||194,493||66 percent|
|John B. Larson (WF)||17,000||6 percent|
|Joe Visconti (R)||76,860||26 percent|
|Stephen E.D. Fournier (*G)||7,201||2 percent|
Campaign finance: Larson spent nearly $1.4 million in 2008. Visconti spent $15,816.
Background: Larson is a product of public housing, a state teacher’s college and blue-collar politics who always has managed to exceed expectations, first at the State Capitol and now in Washington. Larson became chairman of the Democratic Caucus in 2008, making him the fourth-ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
As caucus chair, he succeeded Rahm Emanuel, the hard-driving, charismatic field general who masterminded the Democrats’ congressional victories in 2006. If colleagues saw Emanuel as their brilliant, mercurial Patton, then Larson happily cast himself as Omar Bradley, the steady and unassuming “soldier’s general.”
Larson was elected to the state Senate in 1982, one of 23 Democrats in the 36-seat chamber. In 1984, a party-lever and a Ronald Reagan landslide turned those numbers upside down, giving Republicans a 24-12 advantage. The sociable Larson rallied the surviving Democrats. When the tide turned again in 1986, giving Democrats a 25-12 majority, Larson was elected to the top leadership post.
In Hartford, Larson surrounded himself with good staff and reached out to the right experts on pet issues. He authored and passed a ground-breaking family and medical leave act, getting expert advice from Ed Ziegler of Yale, the child development specialist and architect of the federal Head Start program. But he effectively went AWOL during the income-tax fight of 1991.
Larson refused to consider voting for the politically dangerous tax on wages proposed by Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr., allowing the biggest issue of his generation to be shaped and resolved without his participation. With Larson on the sidelines, the key vote belonged to a Greenwich Republican, William Nickerson, who extracted a sharp cut in taxes on investment income in return for his vote.
Liberals blamed Larson for not helping Democrats get a more progressive tax rate. His ability to remain as Senate leader was a testament to the strength of his personal relationships with colleagues. Lingering resentment by liberals undoubtedly hampered him in a 1994 primary for governor. He made a comeback four years later, defeating a more liberal rival, Secretary of the State Miles S. Rapoport, in a four-way race for the congressional nomination.
In Washington, he amassed a solidly liberal voting record. In 2002, the man who once disappointed progressives on the state income tax, became a hero to anti-war Democrats by opposing the use of force in Iraq.
He got on the leadership track in 2003, winning a three-way race for vice chair of the caucus. He did so in typical, low-key Larson fashion. He solidified his own base, then presented himself as the second-best choice to the other camps. His strategy avoided him from being low man out on the first ballot. On the second vote, he won what was then a two-man race, 116 to 87.
Larson’s brother, Timothy Larson, is a state representative and the former mayor of East Hartford.
Larson is married and the father of three children. He lives in East Hartford.
Education: B.S., Central Connecticut State University
2008 Financial Disclosure: Larson had a net worth between $105,007 and $326,000, ranking him 321st in the House, according to a review by the Center for Responsive Politics.
To see images of his financial disclosure filings, click here.