What a difference nine days made.
Robyn Porter served that number of days as the state representative from the 94th General Assembly District after winning a surprisingly convincing victory in a five-way special election in the waning days of the just-ended legislation session.
Now she has to run all over again to run for the seat. This time, instead of dividing into numerous factions, Democrats from both Hamden and New Haven united to nominate her, without opposition, to run a full term.
That nomination took place at a Democratic Party convention held Tuesday night at East Rock School. Porter, now the incumbent, not a largely unknown first-term office-seeker, won the nod for the 94th District. Since redistricting, the district covers both Hamden and parts of New Haven, including Newhallville, Prospect Hill, and parts of Yale downtown.
The convention was held to nominate candidates for districts that represent more than one city or town. The convention also nominated New Haven state Rep. Roland Lemar for another term in the 96th District (which now includes part of East Haven) and state Rep. Louis Esposito Jr. in 114th District, which mostly covers West Haven but includes a slice of New Haven’s Hill neighborhood. All three nomination were uncontested.
When a special election was called for last month to fill the 94th District seat (its occupant, Gary Holder-Winfield, had moved up to a state Senate seat), Democrats couldn’t even get it together to nominate anyone at a convention. (Read about that confusing night here.) Then Porter, with the help of a grassroots team she assembled plus volunteers from the communications workers union, where she’s employed, emerged victorious in a five-way race in the special election, and raced up to Hartford to serve in the final days of this year’s law-making session.
“It was an opportunity to get my feet wet and it was really crazy. I was thrown into the middle of everything, but other representatives were really supportive and helpful,” Porter, a single mom who lives in Newhallville, said Tuesday night about that short stint at the Capitol.
Holder-Winfield (at left in photo with Porter and city Democratic Town Chairman Vincent Mauro Jr.) showed up at Tuesday night’s convention and helped take photos of Porter with her supporters and family. He said he was “very happy” she won and will be supporting her in the fall.
“It’s not easy coming in after a special election, especially with just nine days left to go,” Holder-Winfield said. “But she really has been immersing herself in the legislation and following what’s been going on. … She’s handled it phenomenally, and I don’t give out praise all the time.”
Other representatives at Tuesday’s convention echoed Holder-Winfield’s sentiments.
Rep. Lemar, praised Porter’s willingness to work hard and learn how to navigate her job. He said she “really did her homework” getting to understand the processes and the legislation they were looking at, and that given her unique circumstances, she has done an “outstanding” job.
Rep. Esposito, (pictured) said that Porter adjusted well and that many other representatives are willing to serve as her mentors.
In the vote for Porter’s nomination, New Haven had 12 delegates and Hamden, eight. Although they all voted unanimously in the end to support Porter’s run for the seat, two of them first nominated a Hamden candidate, Berita Rowe-Lewis, to the seat.
Rowe-Lewis, a Hamden councilwoman, was one of the four other candidates to run for the seat earlier in April. She came in second and was in a position to run again for the state representative seat if she chose. She declined, though, when her name was put into play Tuesday night. She said that for personal reasons, she decided not to run.
Ron Osokow, the Hamden delegate who nominated Rowe-Lewis, said that he felt she deserved a nomination because of her hard work in April’s race and her work with constituents in Hamden. However, he said he thinks Porter will make a great representative, and that her involvement with labor will help her advocate for “hard-working people who need all the help they can get.”
New Haven Town Chair Mauro said that he was glad things worked out the way they did.
“[Porter] showed that she wasn’t just a candidate from one side but from all sides. She deserves a lot of credit for bridging gaps, and I think the unanimous vote today was a really good showing of that.”
And as for Porter’s plans for next term if she wins?
“Jobs, jobs, jobs,” Porter said. “I’m not really sure how it should happen, but I do know I’ve got a lot of homework to do.”