On a difficult election night for Connecticut Republicans in 2014, Aundré Bumgardner was one of the bright spots, a 20-year-old black candidate whose election to the state House gave the GOP a jolt of youth and racial diversity. He was hailed by the Republican state chairman as “part of the next generation of leaders in our party.” Three years later, Bumgardner no longer is a member of the House or the Republican Party, unwilling to tolerate what he sees as President Trump’s intolerance.
The last time Republicans won a majority in the Connecticut House, they had the assistance of a Ronald Reagan landslide and a party lever that encouraged straight ticket voting. But the GOP sees opportunity for gains this year in open Democratic seats and polls showing an electorate deeply dissatisfied with a Democratic governor and General Assembly.
It goes without saying that this year’s municipal elections were a resounding victory for Connecticut Republicans, maintaining control of the majority of towns and cities across the state. But perhaps the bigger victory is the party’s strides in embracing new and diverse members that ordinarily don’t gravitate towards the Republican Party.
The General Assembly opened its 2015 session Wednesday on an emotional note as the Senate welcomed the surprise return of Sen. Andrew M. Maynard, D-Stonington, who was re-elected without campaigning after sustaining a traumatic brain injury last summer.
The winners of Tuesday’s legislative races met Thursday in closed caucuses to elect new leaders in three of the General Assembly’s four caucuses, including Rep. Themis Klarides as the first woman to serve as House Republican leader.
Connecticut Democrats maintained their majority in the state Senate in Tuesday’s elections, winning 21 of 36 seats. The Democrats also retained control of the House, but Republicans gained 10 seats.