State Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, D-West Hartford
State Rep.-elect Jillian Gilchrest, D-West Hartford

The field of candidates for the 5th state Senate District narrowed Friday when West Hartford Democrat Jillian Gilchrest decided against a run.

Gilchrest, who was elected this past November to her first term representing the 18th Assembly District in the House of Representatives, was considering a run for the Senate earlier this week when incumbent Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, announced she would not be sworn in with the new term starts Jan. 9.

Bye, who has represented West Hartford, Farmington, Burlington and a portion of Bloomfield in the Senate since 2011, instead will become commissioner of the state Office of Early Childhood under Gov.-elect Ned Lamont’s administration.

“The people of the 18th (Assembly) District elected me because our state has real problems and they expect me to help fix them,” Gilchrest said Friday. “If I decided to run for the Senate, I’d be taking my eye off the ball. There are currently three great candidates for the 5th district Senate seat.”

State Rep. Derek Slap, D-West Hartford, who represents the 19th Assembly District, has said he will run for Bye’s seat. Two other West Hartford Democrats, Deputy Mayor Beth Kerrigan and attorney Janee Woods Weber, director of organizational culture for the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Foundation, both said they are considering a run.

Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill is expected to schedule a special election for Bye’s seat later this month.

Unlike in a regular election, though, there is no option for a primary to settle the major parties’ nominations in a special election. That means the decision rests with party insiders from the four communities in the 5th Senate District.

Gilchrest added she will be one of West Hartford’s delegates to the Democratic nominating convention in the 5th District.

“I plan to take the next few weeks before the convention to vet these candidates thoroughly and to give each one of them an equal opportunity to make their case,” she said.

No Republicans have yet declared their candidacy for the 5th District seat.

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said this week he expects the GOP will field a candidate, adding more details should be forthcoming in the next few weeks.

Gilchrest, who will be teaching psychology and social welfare policy at St. Joseph’s University in West Hartford this spring, had been director of health professional outreach at the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She also was a senior policy analyst for the Permanent State Commission on the Status of Women.

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.

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