Treneé McGee, left, won the Democratic primary for the 116th House District, according to unofficial results. At right is Janice Flemming-Butler, owner of Voices of Women of Color. Jessica Bravo / CT Mirror

Rep. Treneé McGee, D-West Haven, defeated rival Joseph Miller in Tuesday’s primary for the Democratic nomination for the 116th House District, according to unofficial results reported by the campaigns in a race that was shaped by the issue of abortion access and reproductive rights.

McGee, the party-endorsed incumbent, first won the seat last December during a special election after the resignation of former Rep. Michael DiMassa. McGee, 27, became the first Black person to hold the 116th District, and she secured the West Haven Democratic Town Committee’s endorsement for the primary.

While McGee is an opponent of abortion, Miller, 24, ran as a supporter of those rights. He’s a West Haven resident who works as a supply chain and IT consultant. Miller jumped into the primary in April and said McGee’s opposition on the issue was “really one of several factors that got me over the hump and decide to run.”

He conceded the race in a call to McGee Tuesday night.

At McGee’s victory party, a crowd of about 50 supporters applauded her as she walked into The Village Bar & Grill. Janice Flemming-Butler from Voices of Women of Color hugged and kissed her cheek. During her speech, McGee thanked the organization for helping her when she was new to the state Capitol.

“I’d like to thank the voters of the 116th for putting their faith in me and propelling me forward toward the general election this fall,” McGee said Tuesday night. “Serving the community that I was born and raised in is one of the greatest moments of my life.”

As both parties become more polarized, Democrats are still debating whether their party can be a “big tent” when it comes to the issue of abortion rights. The primary came at a politically fraught time for those protections, just months after the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade that made abortion a constitutional right.

McGee, a former city councilwoman and motivational speaker, secured a spot in the General Assembly following the arrest and resignation of DiMassa. He faces criminal charges over allegations of misusing federal pandemic relief funds while working as a city employee.

She served on West Haven’s City Council until March, when she decided to resign to focus on her work in Hartford as a state representative.

During this year’s legislative session, McGee opposed legislation that made Connecticut a “safe harbor” state that provides legal protections to both providers who perform abortions and patients who travel here for the procedure. The bill ultimately passed the state legislature and was signed into law in May.

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When speaking about reproductive rights, McGee has focused on racial justice, saying that young Black girls are told to use abortion as birth control.

“I want to speak to the history of this industry and why I think it’s destructive to my community,” McGee said in April during debate of the bill expanding abortion access. “Black women make up 14% of child-bearing population yet obtained 36.2% of all reported abortions.”

McGee will face Republican Aaron Haley in the Nov. 8 general election. Haley ran uncontested in Tuesday’s primary.

Other legislative races

Aside from McGee, there were a number of other primaries for General Assembly including a few open-seat races created by retirements or incumbents seeking political promotions.

In the 98th District, Moira Rader, a school board member endorsed by the Democratic party, defeated Andrew Gottlieb, according to official results. The seat opened up because Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, is running for state comptroller. Rader will face Republican Gloria Nemczuk in November.

Another open-seat primary was in the 34th District where John Olin of East Haddam succeeded over Kurt Comisky of East Hampton. Democrats didn’t endorse either candidate. Olin will face Republican Irene Haines in the fall.

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Tuesday’s elections only featured two primaries for Republicans.

In one of them, Joe Hoxha, who was endorsed by the party, defeated Aileen Abrams for the 78th District seat. They competed for the open seat currently occupied by retiring Rep. Whit Betts, R-Bristol. No candidates ran in the Democratic primary.

Meanwhile, there was only one contested primary for state Senate.

In the 23rd District, Rev. Herron Gaston ousted Sen. Dennis Bradley, who faces trial for federal conspiracy and wire fraud charges. Although Bradley is an incumbent, the party declined to endorse him for reelection.

The Connecticut Mirror/Connecticut Public Radio federal policy reporter position is made possible, in part, by funding from the Robert and Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation and Engage CT.

Lisa Hagen is CT Mirror and CT Public's shared Federal Policy Reporter. Based in Washington, D.C., she focuses on the impact of federal policy in Connecticut and covers the state’s congressional delegation. Lisa previously covered national politics and campaigns for U.S. News & World Report, The Hill and National Journal’s Hotline. She is a New Jersey native and graduate of Boston University.

Jessica is CT Mirror's Emma Bowen Foundation general assignment reporter for the 2022 / 2023 academic year. She is currently a senior at Central Connecticut State University pursuing her bachelor’s degree in journalism. She also works at her school’s newspaper, The Recorder, and peer mentored first-year undergraduates at Central. Jessica is a Connecticut native through and through.