Casting ballots at the Hartford Public Library last November CTMIRROR file photo

Four Bridgeport state legislators, New Britain’s state senator and five other state representatives are gearing up for primaries on Aug. 9.

The secretary of the state’s office said Wednesday there will be 12 legislative primaries in total this year – three in Senate races and nine in House contests.

A trio of incumbent Senate Democrats are facing a difficult path to their party’s nomination, and will have to hold off strong challengers. Five House Democrats and two House Republicans are facing opponents as well. Only two primaries, both Democratic, have a pair non-incumbent candidates competing for the nomination – one in an open seat in Hamden and another in a Republican-held seat in Bristol.

At the center of attention are two Democratic senators from Bridgeport – Ed Gomes and Marilyn Moore. Both incumbents were denied endorsements by their party at district conventions in May. They will have to hold off party-backed challengers to win the nomination for their seats.

From left, Mayor Joseph P. Ganim, Rep. Stephen Stafstrom and Sens. Marilyn Moore and Edwin Gomes.
From left, Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim, Rep. Steven Stafstrom and Sens. Marilyn Moore and Ed Gomes.

Gomes, 80, is a four-term state senator who, after losing his seat in 2012, took it back in a 2015 special election.

After Gomes served his first three terms in the 23rd District, Democrats decided not to give him their backing again in 2012. Three years later, he sought the party’s endorsement in a 2015 special election, but Democrats opted for another candidate.

The Working Families Party decided to offer Gomes their spot on the ballot, and he won the special election. He has caucused with the Democrats since returning to office, and sought the party’s endorsement at the district convention this year.

But Bridgeport Democrats decided instead to back Dennis Bradley, 32, the board of education chairman in the city. Gomes was initially kept off the primary ballot after the convention chairman failed to file paperwork with the secretary of the state demonstrating his eligibility. Gomes took the case to court, and a judge ruled in his favor on July 8, placing him on the ballot.

Moore is also facing her own intra-party struggle in the 22nd District, which includes Trumbull and parts of Bridgeport and Monroe. Two years ago, she forced a primary against then-incumbent state Sen. Anthony Musto and won. She held on in a tight general election battle to keep the seat in Democratic hands and earn her first term.

Democrats in the district who were still upset with Moore’s coup d’état in the last cycle voted to give the party’s endorsement to Bridgeport City Council President Tom McCarthy.

Moore won the 2014 primary by just 82 votes. Her victory came largely as a result of higher-than-usual turnout from Bridgeport voters. And while Musto was from Trumbull, McCarthy’s Bridgeport roots could play a major role in a different outcome in this cycle.

Two Bridgeport Democratic state representatives – Charlie Stallworth and Andre Baker – are also facing challengers.

Stallworth has to hold off Maria Pereira, a member of the board of education in Bridgeport, in the 126th District. Perennial Bridgeport mayoral candidate Charles Coviello is running against Baker in the 124th District.

Outside of Bridgeport, a few other races are garnering some attention as well.

Sen. Terry Gerratana
Sen. Terry Gerratana. Keith M. Phaneuf /

State Sen. Terry Gerratana of New Britain has an unexpected primary challenge in the 6th District from Sharon Beloin-Saavedra, president of the board of education in New Britain.

Many believed Gerratana would retire after this term, but she decided in March to run for re-election. Beloin-Saavedra, who had been planning to run if Gerratana left her seat, decided to go forward with a primary challenge.

In West Haven, 12-term Rep. Louis Esposito, was taken aback when Democrats in his district chose to endorse city council clerk Michael DiMassa at the convention. DiMassa hopes to hold off Esposito in the primary to win the party’s nomination.

In Hamden, the Democratic primary to fill retiring House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey’s seat in the 88th District features a veteran and a Bernie Sanders-inspired newcomer.

James Pascarella, president of the town’s legislative council, received the party’s endorsement. But he has to face local business owner Joshua Elliott, who had initially planned to challenge Sharkey in a primary. Elliott has said he was prompted to run by Sanders’ call for a “political revolution” during his presidential campaign.

Two other Democratic House incumbents have challengers: Ernest Hewett of New London and Terry Adams of Stamford.

State Reps. Jay Case of Winchester and Jason Perillo of Shelton are the only two Republicans facing primaries.

The winner of the Democratic contest in the 77th District will face Republican state Rep. Cara Pavalock, who narrowly won her first term in the House in 2014.

Laura Bartok, a Bristol social worker, received the backing of local Democrats in the district. But Christy Matthews, a University of Connecticut undergraduate, was able to gather enough signatures to force a primary.

State Legislative Primaries in 2016
Ten incumbents in the state legislature will face primary challengers on Aug. 9. There will be nine races primaries in the 151-seat House and three primaries in the 36-seat Senate, according to the secretary of the state’s office. (i) denotes an incumbent.
District Party Endorsed Candidate Challenger
SD-6 Democrat Terry Gerratana (i) Sharon Beloin-Saavedra
SD-22 Democrat Tom McCarthy Marilyn Moore (i)
SD-23 Democrat Dennis Bradley Ed Gomes (i)
HD-39 Democrat Ernest Hewett (i) Chris Soto
HD-63 Republican Jay Case (i) David LaPointe
HD-77 Democrat Laura Bartok Christy Matthews
HD-88 Democrat James Pascarella Joshua Elliott
HD-113 Republican Jason Perillo (i) Ruth Parkins
HD-116 Democrat Michael DiMassa Louis Esposito (i)
HD-124 Democrat Andre Baker (i) Charles Coviello
HD-126 Democrat Charlie Stallworth (i) Maria Pereira
HD-146 Democrat Terry Adams (i) Dan Dauplaise

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated Christy Matthews was inspired to run for office by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. While she supported Sanders in the primary, her decision to run was made independently of Sanders’ campaign.

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