Republicans remain in the minority at the General Assembly, but they picked up 14 Democratic seats in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, the biggest shift to one party since Connecticut abolished the party-lever in 1986.
Pending recounts in one Senate and three House races, Democrats will have advantages of 100-51 in the House and 23-13 in the Senate, one short in each chamber of the two-thirds necessary to override a veto — a shortfall less significant if Democrat Dan Malloy is certified as the winner of the race for governor.
House Speaker Christopher Donovan, D-Meriden, said all the legislative losses were overshadowed by one apparent result: “We have a Democratic governor.”
Republicans picked up only one seat in the Senate, defeating Thomas Colapietro of Bristol. They had hopes of picking up an open Democratic seat in Manchester, where a recount is under way, and unseating Anthony Musto, who represents Trumbull and part of Bridgeport.
In the House, where the previous biggest shift since 1986 was just eight seats, the GOP had a stellar night that they attributed to candidate recruitment, a consistent message of fiscal restraint and, as always, local issues.
“Very clearly, from day one, a lot of these candidates who we worked with, we cultivated a message and an overall strategy,” said George Gallo, the chief of staff for the House Republicans.
The Democrats who lost are:
Jason W. Bartlett of Bethel, Theresa W. Conroy of Seymour, Thomas Drew of Fairfield, Elizabeth Esty of Cheshire, Steve Fontana of North Haven, Ted Graziani of Ellington, Annie Hornish of Granby, Tom Kehoe of Glastonbury, Joan Lewis of Coventry, Corky Mazurek of Wolcott, James O’Rourke III of Cromwell, and Peggy Reeves of Wilton.
Republicans also picked up two open seats that had been in the hands of Democrats who did not seek re-election: Demetrios Giannaros of Farmington and Jim Shapiro of Stamford.
The House recounts involve an open seat in the 35th District that had been held by Democrat Brian O’Connor, Hornish’s seat in the 62nd and Mazurek’s in the 80th.
At least half the Democrats who lost were from districts Republicans had held in the recent past.
Bartlett, who won in 2006 after two previous unsuccessful efforts, saw his margin drop in the Democratic year of 2008. Hornish unseated a Republican in 2008. Reeves had won an open seat in 2008, succeeding a Republican.
Others faced personal problems or local issues.
O’Rourke faced an investigation for his role in the death of a woman who froze to death after a night of drinking. She had run from his car, but O’Rourke failed to summon police. He was cleared of criminal wrongdoing, but suffered politically.
Esty is a freshman whose career was collateral damage to the horrific home invasion that claimed the lives of Dr. William A. Petit’s wife and two daughters. Her opposition to the death penalty was a major issue.
She was defeated by Al Adinolfi, the Republican she unseated two years ago with just 50.9 percent of the vote. This will be the second time Adinolfi will be returning the House after losing his seat.
The loss of Fontana will affect the race to succeed Secretary of the State-elect Denise Merrill of Mansfield as majority leader. He was competing with Brendan Sharkey of Hamden and Andrew Fleischmann of West Hartford for the leadership post.
Other leadership changes seem unlikely.