Incumbent Secretary of the State Denise Merrill listens to speeches nominating her for her third run for the office. Clarice Silber /
Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo accepts the Democratic nomination to seek a third term Saturday at the Hartford Convention Center. Clarice Silber /

Democrats nominated the unopposed Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo by acclamation and Secretary of the State Denise Merrill by a roll call vote Saturday, an easy warmup before tackling contested endorsements for the other underticket offices of attorney general, treasurer and lieutenant governor.

Merrill, the only incumbent other than Lembo running for re-election to a statewide constitutional office, was endorsed by a margin that saved her from a primary with her sole opponent, Karen Talamelli Cusack of Woodbridge. Merrill won 89 percent to 11 percent.

Voting for secretary of the state was delayed over the failure of some delegates to register using a new electronic tally system. The delays gave candidates in the other races time to criss-cross the floor of the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.

“We have made Connecticut’s state finances among the most transparent in the nation,” Lembo told the convention in his acceptance speech. “That didn’t come easily. The body of government isn’t always keen on the idea.”

The comptroller, who launched the state’s searchable online database on spending and revenues, also has pressed to mandate independent analyses of the hundreds of millions of dollars in economic incentives Connecticut provides annually to businesses.

Lembo touted his work in developing a state-administered retirement benefit program for private-sector workers who lack access to a pension or defined-contribution benefit. Connecticut’s first state healthcare advocate, he helped win legislative approval of a proposal to hold big pharmaceutical and insurance companies accountable for excessive prescription drug costs and profiteering.

“We’re talking about the people working to exhaustion to reach the middle class or hold on to their place in the middle-class —  people who wonder, sometimes, if their government even thinks about them anymore,” he said.

Lembo also jabbed at state Republican leaders, warning their refusal to criticize President Trump would harm the GOP in November.

“Do you really think that you can emerge from behind the veil of silence, in the calm between tweet-storms, and pretend you’re something new? Something different?” Lembo said. “You obviously think the people of Connecticut have not been paying attention. The voters are not chumps. They’re not stupid.”

Lembo and his husband, Charles, live in Guilford with their three children. Lembo’s son, Charles, delivered the seconding speech for his father’s nomination.

Incumbent Secretary of the State Denise Merrill listens to speeches nominating her for her third run for the office. Clarice Silber /

Merrill, whose office oversees state elections, had a good sense of humor about the tabulation problems that delayed her confirmation as the party nominee for a couple of hours.

“The irony of this being the nomination for the secretary of the state has not escaped me,” she said.

Merrill thanked her fellow Democrats for supporting her not only at the convention, but throughout her first two terms as they backed one initiative after another to expand access to voting.

“I have dedicated my career to bringing more people into the political process,” she said. “It has been the honor of my life to serve as your secretary of the state.”

During Merrill’s tenure, the legislature enacted measures to allow Election Day registration, online registration, and automatic voter registration renewal through the motor vehicle licensing process.

“We’re seeing the results,” she said, adding that more than 150,000 new voters have been added to the rolls through the automatic renewal process alone. “We have more registered voters than ever before in Connecticut. … It’s working.”

The candidates for attorney general are Sen. Paul Doyle of Wethersfield, Assistant Attorney General Clare Kindall of Bloomfield, former federal prosecutor Chris Mattei of Hartford and Rep. William Tong of Stamford.

The Democratic candidates for treasurer are Arunan Arulampalam, John Blankley, Dita Bhargava and Shawn Wooden. All but Blankley are racial minorities.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

Clarice Silber was a General Assignment Reporter at CT Mirror. She formerly worked for The Associated Press in Phoenix as a legislative and general assignment reporter. In 2016, she conducted extensive interviews and research in Portuguese and Spanish for the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative team at McClatchy, which was the only U.S. newspaper to gain initial access to the Panama Papers. She is a Rio de Janeiro native and graduated from the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

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