Themis Klarides raised the most, but ended up third in cash on hand due to loans Leora Levy and Peter Lumaj made to their own campaigns. CTMIRROR.ORG
Len Suzio
Len Suzio

The state’s largest business trade group is making its first major foray into the world of independent expenditures with a $400,000 campaign aimed at helping Republicans win a majority in the Connecticut Senate and narrow the Democratic majority in the House.

The Connecticut Business and Industry Association filed an independent expenditure report Wednesday outlining a plan to buy radio ads, direct mail and web marketing in support of four Republicans attempting to win Democratic seats. They also intend lesser spending in 11 House races, supporting two Democrats and nine Republicans.

“We’ve had an impact talking to the hearts and minds of lawmakers, but in an election year, the voters have the power to make change,” said Brian Flaherty, a former legislator who oversees government relations for CBIA. “This year we are putting some new resources and some urgency behind our efforts to elect men and women to the Capitol who are going to put jobs first and work to make this a better state to live and work.”

Sen. Dante Bartolomeo
Sen. Dante Bartolomeo Arielle Levin Becker / The CT Mirror

The CBIA says it is supporting four GOP candidates in swing Senate districts: Len Suzio over Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, D-Meriden; George Logan over Sen. Joe Crisco, D-Woodbridge; John French over Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly; and Heather Somers in the open seat being vacated by Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington.

Bartolomeo unseated Suzio in 2012 and then defended her seat in 2014, each race settled by fewer than 280 votes. In a district that matches liberal Mansfield and Windham with conservative rural towns, Flexer and French also are waging a rematch. She won the open seat two years ago by 500 votes.

If the GOP can hold its 15 seats, a gain of four seats would give the party a 19-17 majority. Democrats control the House, 87-64, meaning the GOP needs a net gain of a dozen seats for a majority.

In the House, the CBIA is supporting two moderate Democratic incumbents, Reps. John Hampton of Simsbury and Jonathan Steinberg of Westport, and three vulnerable GOP freshmen, Reps. Aundré Bumgardner of New London, Charles J. Ferraro of West Haven and Kathleen McCarty of Waterford. Bumgardner and Ferraro unseated Democrats in close races in 2014, while McCarty won an open seat that had been Democratic.

The group also is supporting six Republican challengers in competitive House districts: Kevin Skulczyk in the open 45th, where Democrat Paul Brycki is not seeking re-election after one term; Scott Storm in the open 60th, where Democrat Peggy Sayers is not running again; Brian Ohler in the open 64th, where he came close to unseating Democrat Roberta B. Willis two years ago;  Christopher Diorio in the 65th, where Democrat Michelle Cook won by 52 votes in 2014; Andrew Falvey in the open 103rd, where Republican Al Adinolfi is retiring; and Nicole Klarides-Ditria in the 105th, where Democrat Theresa W. Conroy has won and lost by fewer than 100 votes.

“With all the noise that is happening on the presidential race, to our members and CBIA the state legislative elections matter even more than what’s happening at the presidential level as far as its impact on jobs,” Flaherty said.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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