A statue on the first floor of the state Capitol.
The "Genius of Connecticut" under the dome of the state Capitol. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org

A Democratic state representative opposed to abortion is the only party-endorsed incumbent facing a challenge Tuesday in any of the seven primaries for nominations to the Connecticut General Assembly.

Three incumbents in other districts, including a state senator facing criminal charges arising from allegations of illegal fundraising in Bridgeport, will be on primary ballots as challengers after losing party endorsements.

Rep. Treneé McGee, D-West Haven, an abortion opponent elected in a special election last year, was endorsed for reelection but is challenged by Joseph Miller,  who has campaigned on his support of reproductive rights.

McGee and Miller said there has been no visible effort by outside groups to make their primary a broader referendum on whether the Democratic tent is big enough for a high-profile opponent of abortion.

McGee, a young, Black motivational speaker, is an awkward target for a reproductive rights movement whose demographics, leadership and racial history have been sensitive issues at times.

Miller, 24, filed his campaign papers on April 20, the day after the 27-year-old McGee made her first floor speech, a passionate and, at times, racially charged argument against what she saw as an expansion of access to abortion.

“It was really one of several factors that got me over the hump and decide to run,” Miller said.

McGee made race central to her opposition to a bill that made Connecticut a safe harbor against litigation from other states against abortion providers and patients. It also codified the ability of advanced-practice clinicians such as A.P.R.N.s and physician assistants to perform abortions by suction, also known as vacuum aspiration. 

“I want to speak to the history of this industry and why I think it’s destructive to my community,” McGee said. “Black women make up 14% of child-bearing population yet obtained 36.2% of all reported abortions. Black women have the highest abortion ratio in the country — 474 abortions per 1,000 live births.”

McGee also referenced the controversy over the historical influence of race and racism in the family planning movement and its founder, Margaret Sanger.

The bill passed on votes of 87-60 in the House and 25-9 in the Senate, with McGee one of the 13 members of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus in opposition. All are Democrats, 10 in the House and three in the Senate.

McGee and Miller both said her vote and speech were among several issues in a city still reeling from a scandal over its poor finances and allegations of criminal misuse of federal funds that forced the resignation of McGee’s predecessor, Michael DiMassa, who also was a city employee.

“My whole goal for the residents is really to restore integrity and fiscal responsibility and preserve and uphold our democratic values,” Miller said.

McGee said her constituents are, like many others, concerned about inflation.

“I think people are focused and concerned on things that impact them every day,” McGee said, relating what she hears while campaigning door to door. “What I still hear is the economy. What I always hear is taxes. And as of recently, a No. 1 thing people have been talking about on the doors is gas.” 

The West Haven primary is one of five Democratic and two Republican contests for House nominations to the General Assembly. There is one Democratic primary for Senate.

The only Republican incumbent in a primary is Rep. Cindy Harrison of Southbury, a first-term lawmaker who lost the party endorsement in the 69th District to Jason Buchsbaum, a Southbury selectman.

Republicans in the 78th District will choose between Joe Hoxha, the party-endorsed candidate, and Aileen Abrams, both of Bristol. It is an open seat, due to the retirement of Rep. Whit Betts, R-Bristol.

Two of the five Democratic primaries are in Bridgeport, where winning a Democratic nomination usually is tantamount to election. 

Democrats declined to endorse Sen. Dennis Bradley, who faces trial on federal conspiracy and wire fraud charges related to fundraising for election to his first term in 2018. The endorsed candidate is Herron Gaston, a clergyman and Yale admissions officer.

Marcus Brown, a city council leader, was endorsed in the 127th District over the nine-term incumbent, Rep. Jack Hennessy.

In the 98th District, Democrats endorsed Moira Rader, a school board member, over Andy Gottlieb, both of Guilford, for the seat opened by Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, running for comptroller. 

In the 16th District, Democrats endorsed Selectman Eric Wellman over Melissa E. Osbourne, both of Simsbury, for the seat opened by the retirement of Rep. John Hampton, D-Simsbury.

The remaining primary is a fight for what may be a dubious prize: the right to face Rep. Irene Haines, R-East Haddam, in the 34th District, which generally is seen as a safe Republican seat.

The combatants for the Democratic nomination are Kurt Comisky of East Hampton and John Olin of East Haddam. Neither is endorsed by the party.

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.