Now that the primary is over and the general election looms in about two months, the question in Branford is: who will be the next Lonnie and the next Ted?
It’s not just a question of who will succeed Democrat Lonnie Reed as state rep in the 102nd District; or who will succeed Democrat Ted Kennedy Jr. as state senator in the 12th District.
It’s a question of change.
Branford is the poster child for potential change in November’s election among the seven shoreline towns between the Quinnipiac River and the Connecticut River – East Haven, Branford, Guilford, Madison, Clinton, Westbrook and Old Saybrook.
Of those shoreline towns, Branford’s ballot will be the only one with open seats for state representative and state senator.
Branford will keep one of its two state reps – Sean Scanlon (D-98th) who is running unopposed for his third term in November’s general election.
Scanlon represents Guilford and two of the seven voting districts in Branford – Stony Creek and Pine Orchard. Reed represents Branford’s other five districts.
The number of Democrats and Republicans statewide ua currently evenly divided in the Senate, and the Democrats have a seven-member advantage in the 151-member House of Representatives. Changes to those numbers would be critical to both parties. In addition, the governor’s seat is open with Democrat Ned Lamont facing Republican Bob Stefanowski.
Kennedy announced in February he was not seeking re-election to a third term.
Kennedy, a disability rights attorney, plans to spend more time advocating for people with disabilities. He was elected chairman of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) last year.
Reed announced in April she will be retiring after a decade in office.
Reed plans to stay involved in some political issues, and also to return to her business as a documentary filmmaker. Prior to entering politics, she was an award-winning television journalist who won four Emmys for her documentaries.
The “Dream Team”
At the Capitol, Reed, Kennedy and Scanlon earned the nickname “The Dream Team” for their ability to pull coalitions together, get bills passed and implement policies. That moniker also relates to their success in getting funding for their districts.
The three legislators presented a proclamation to Sgt. Bill Brody, World War II veteran in Branford in 2017.
All three have advocated for numerous Branford projects, including a state grant for renovations and expansion at Walsh Intermediate School and the Blackstone Memorial Library; and grant money for Branford to develop a comprehensive master plan for the area surrounding the Shoreline East Train Station.
Kennedy said having two open seats in the November election is a unique situation for Branford because the candidates can talk about issues without focusing on an incumbent.
The New Candidates
The candidates for Branford’s state rep and state senate didn’t have challengers in the primaries, so the campaigning will become intense in the next couple months.
Vying for Reed’s state rep seat are Democrat Robin Comey and Republican Robert Imperato.
Comey, who lives in the Short Beach, is a member of the Representative Town Meeting. She is a partner in Starprompt, a teleprompting services company she has operated with her husband for 25 years.
Imperato has spent 40 years in the banking and financial business and is currently serving on the town’s Board of Finance. He was previously a member of the Representative Town Meeting.
The challengers for Kennedy’s senate seat are Democrat Christine Cohen of Guilford, and Republican Adam Greenberg of Branford.
Cohen, the owner of Cohen’s Bagel Company in Madison, serves on the Guilford Board of Education. For more information, see her website.
Greenberg, a former Major League Baseball player, is the founder and CEO of LuRong Living, a nationwide health and wellness company. For more information, see his website.
“Our Real Story”
After 10 years in Hartford, Reed says the most important issues for Branford residents are taxes; state funding for education; services for kids, seniors, families, and people with disabilities; and protecting Long Island Sound and environmental resources.
She said obtaining state funding for services is difficult because people in Hartford don’t realize that Branford has a very diverse population.
“Key players at the Capitol often view Branford as a problem-free, waterfront haven filled with high net-worth residents who don’t need state resources. I have worked hard – along with our delegation – to tell our real story,” Reed told the Eagle.
“Branford is home to many vulnerable seniors and plenty of hard-working folks struggling to pay their bills,” Reed said. “Our incredible diversity is a source of great pride. We have small business owners, and lots of up-and-coming families. She said people don’t realize that the school district has almost 30 percent of its students who qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch program.
“State budget deficits can pit Connecticut cities and towns against one another when it comes to allocating resources. That’s a fact,” Reed said. “Branford legislators are going to have to keep fighting that ongoing battle for our fair share.”
The state House of Representatives currently has 151 members, with 79 Democrats and 72 Republicans.
Reaching Across the Aisle
“The cities in Connecticut get a lot of political attention,” Kennedy said, but his district is made of up six small towns – Branford, Guilford, Madison, North Branford, Killingworth, and Durham. “The small towns need good advocates,” he said.
“I think the top three issues are jobs, jobs, and jobs. Fortunately now we’re seeing some increased economic activity, but it’s not enough. Economic growth is the number one issue for our state.”
He said there’s an enormous challenge about how the state, cities, and towns will pay for services, transportation and education.
Kennedy said the upcoming senatorial election will be critical because the state senate is currently divided with 18 Democrats and 18 Republicans. Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, a Democrat, votes if there is a tie. He said he wouldn’t have been so successful in getting bills passed without reaching across the aisle.
“The people who are running are going to have to really demonstrate the ability to be able to collaborate and work across the aisle,” Kennedy said.
“That’s going to be one of the key things that I think voters should really look for – will this person have the capability of collaborating, does this person have a record of working with other people to find solutions.”
Senate Seats on the Shoreline
In addition to Kennedy’s seat, there is another senatorial vacancy further down the shoreline.
The 33rd Senate District, which includes Clinton, Westbrook, and a portion of Old Saybrook, has an open seat since incumbent Sen. Art Linares (R) ran unsuccessfully for state treasurer in the primary.
Of the four senatorial districts representing the shoreline towns, the only contested primary was in the 34th District where two Democrats were vying to challenge incumbent Republican Len Fasano, who has served East Haven, North Haven, Wallingford and Durham since 2003. Aili McKeen of Wallingford bested Josh Balter of East Haven in that district’s Democratic primary. Fasano hasn’t had an opponent in the general election since 2012.