State Rep. J. Brendan Sharkey of Hamden beat Rep. Andrew Fleischmann of West Hartford for House majority leader in voting by the Democratic caucus Thursday night.

Sharkey will take over in January when the current majority leader, Denise Merrill of Mansfield, becomes the next secretary of the state.

“Team building is going to be the key, Sharkey said after the vote in a closed-door caucus. “There is still work to be done.”

The caucus also endorsed House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, for another term. Donovan called the vote between Sharkey and Fleischmann a “tough choice” for House members.

“People liked both the candidates … We can only have one majority leader,” Donovan said.

“Brendan Sharkey is a very capable, intelligent, experienced legislator. He’s going to be a great majority leader,” Fleischmann said after the vote.

The contest for majority leader had been expected to be a three-way race, but Rep. Steve Fontana of North Haven lost his bid for reelection on Tuesday.

Sharkey has been the Democratic leadership’s go-to person for regionalization efforts and lessening the financial burden of state mandates on towns.

Several of Sharkey’s initiatives — including extending a tax on home sales that was set to expire and no longer requiring towns pay to store the belongings of evicted tenants. — were signed into law last legislative session.

Democrats maintained sizeable majorities in both the House and Senate in Tuesday’s election, but they lost the two-thirds margin in the Senate necessary to override a veto. Recounts are being conducted in three House races, but Democrats are expected to lose their veto-proof majority there as well.

In the Senate, Donald E. Williams Jr. of Brooklyn and Martin M. Looney of New Haven remain the president pro tem and majority leader, respectively.

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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