MASHANTUCKET — State Sen. Joe Markley of Southington won the Republican endorsement for lieutenant governor Saturday, but faces a three-way primary in August with New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart and Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson for the nomination.
Columbia First Selectman Steven Everett failed to win enough support at the convention to qualify for a primary.
Markley, who entered the the race in March 2017 and made no secret that he considered himself to be the frontrunner, captured 53.6 percent of the delegate vote.
The Southington lawmaker praised both of his rivals in the primary, and then issued a call for party unity. “We have an ability to save the state of Connecticut,” he told the convention. “Our principles are the answers to our problems.”
Let’s get this done together,” he added. “Let’s save the state of Connecticut.”
Stewart, who finished second with 26.2 percent of the delegate vote, launched a bid for governor in March and only switched to the lieutenant governor’s race Friday morning.
That move, coupled with rumors that Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton — the convention’s choice to run for governor — was considering her as a running mate, caused sparks Saturday.
The delegation from Southington, which had been supporting Peter Lumaj, cast all of its votes on the second gubernatorial ballot for Boughton’s chief rival, Tim Herbst of Trumbull.
Stewart cast her superdelegate ballot for Boughton, and the entire New Britain delegation backed the Danbury mayor. Stewart has said only that Boughton would make “a great governor.”
Her supporters said the 31-year-old Stewart, who already has won three elections as mayor in a heavily Democratic city, is the party’s rising star.
“We need real winners in Connecticut,” Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei said in his nominating speech, adding that Stewart has stabilized New Britain’s finances and proven a Republican leader can work cooperatively with unions to cut labor costs. “She’s exactly the type of leader we need.”
Tesei was Stewart’s running mate during her brief campaign for governor.
Stewart ran a strong second to Markley in four of Connecticut’s five congressional districts, drawing only modest support in the 4th District — which is based in Fairfield County and includes Stevenson’s home community.
“Listen, I’m pleased we’re moving forward,” Stewart said. “We’ll see you on August 14th. We’re in the primary. I think that’s the goal that we wanted from the beginning. Joe’s got a lot of friends, the insiders in the party. I’m definitely not a party insider and so I think we’re going to do well in August, and that’s what we’re going to push toward.”
Stewart added, “You have to think about what balances the ticket, and you have to think about who is going to balance the Republican party in November, and I don’t know that Joe is that person. I certainly don’t know that if we have two men on the ticket it’s going to be a good thing for the party, so I think that voters are going to have a great decision to make.”
Stevenson drew just under 20 percent of the vote, with more than half of her support coming from the 4th Congressional District.
Stevenson was gracious about Stewart’s late entry to the race, but said it hasn’t discouraged her from seeking the party nomination.
“I’m certain it has” drawn some delegates away, she said as the voting was winding down. “There was no question I would have carried most of the votes she has received. But that’s OK. Competition is good.”