UPDATED—Ted Kennedy Jr. won his first campaign for public office tonight as he captured the State Senate seat in the 12th District with close to 60 percent of the vote.
Branford’s heir to the Kennedy family political dynasty, along with incumbent State Rep. Lonnie Reed and first time General Assembly winner Sean Scanlon kept the Shoreline seats blue.
Kennedy, 53, an attorney, and Bruce H. Wilson, a businessman, sparred often in recent weeks over campaign financing. In the end, the uproar over how Kennedy financed his campaign seemed to carry little weight with the voters. He is the son of the late U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who was the youngest brother of President John Kennedy.
Former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd introduced Kennedy to a roaring crowd at the Italian-American Club in Branford.
“The Kennedy family has given so much to this country,” Dodd declared. Dodd flew from California to Connecticut because he said, Branford was where he wanted to be tonight. Kennedy said he was delighted to see Dodd,his father’s closest friend again. How proud Ted’s father would be of this night, Dodd told the Eagle.
“I just want to say what a tremendous honor it is to be voted by the citizens of the 12th District to be your next representative,” Kennedy said to exuberant applause.
Kennedy thanked everyone who worked on his campaign.
“Mostly I am grateful to my incredible wife Kiki,” Kennedy said as he thanked all his family and campaign workers. “None of us can be successful in life without other people.” Here he is with son Teddy.
Kennedy said he ran a positive campaign, “an issues campaign.” Echoing his father, the late U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, he said both sides of the aisle have to work together. “We have to bring people together, Democrats, Republicans and independents. Together we can find common ground to work together. We can’t get ahead by attacking people we don’t agree with.”
He added that one thing he learned from his father has served him well: “My father raised me to respect people, whether I agree with them or not.”
“Now I’m going to need your help. Tell me your ideas, come to Hartford. We have our common journey—to rebuild Connecticut.”
The district, which includes Branford, Guilford, Madison, North Branford, Killingworth and Durham, has been served for a decade by retiring Democratic Sen. Ed Meyer.(Meyer is pictured here.) To win, Kennedy needed to take Branford and Guilford, the largest of the six towns in the district. He did.
Close Call For Reed
Rep. Lonnie Reed was re-elected to her fourth term in the 102nd District, which covers most of Branford. Reed won 3,998 votes over Paul Cianci, her 28-year-old Republican challenger, a political newcomer who received 3,567 votes.
“It feels great. This was a really tight and tough race,” Reed told the Eagle shortly after the numbers were announced.
Reed said she has been working hard to bring businesses to Branford and to help restore the economy. But, she said, “a lot of people aren’t feeling it yet.”
This was a close race for a popular incumbent. Reed said she feels she didn’t get her message out soon enough. She said her opponent went door-to-door and gained a lot of votes.
“A lot of people are mad at the world and they want their politicians to fight for them,” she said. “I feel people saw what I was doing and respected that.”
Democrat Sean Scanlon, a newcomer, won his first election to the 98th District, representing the Stony Creek and Pine Orchard areas of Branford. He also represents Guilford, his home town. He replaces retiring State Rep. Pat Widlitz, who has served the district for 20 years. She worked hard in Scanlon’s election campaign.
“We kept the seat blue,” said Scanlon, an aide to U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy. “It’s going to be exciting that the three of us are going to be able to work together.”
Republicans packed Bill Miller’s Castle to await election results. But it became apparent early on that Cartier lost the 98th Assembly District to Scanlon, and that Cianci lost the 102nd District to Reed.
This is the third time that Cindy Cartier, Scanlon’s opponent, has run for public office and lost. She said she thought it would be easier this time because she was not facing incumbent Pat Widlitz, a popular legislator who served for 20 years before announcing her retirement last spring.
In their concession speeches, both indicated that they intended to remain in public service.
“I’m disappointed because I believe I would have done a great job in Hartford, “ said Cartier. “I’ll never stop my commitment to public service.”
She added, “All of you who know me know that I don’t give up that easily. I’m tenacious… We’re going to support our state representatives in the 98th District.”
Cianci Thanks Bill Aniskovich
Cianci was accompanied by his wife, Angela, his secret political weapon, he said.
He extended thanks to “my friends, old and new,” as well as former state senator Bill Aniskovich, “who helped me be the campaigner and politician I am today.” Aniskovich was the guiding force behind the election last year of Republican First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove.
Cianci added, “Tonight we celebrate a well-run race. Tomorrow we work with our communities, work with our families, and work with the Cosgrove administration to make Branford a better place.” There seemed little doubt that he would run for public office again.
According to Ray Ingraham, the RTM majority leader and chair of the Republican Town Committee, Wilson was supposed to make an appearance, but as of about 9:15, he had not shown up and people started to leave. Wilson did not come to the Italian-American club to concede to Kennedy and it is not known at this time if he formally contacted Kennedy.