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Formica’s not running, creating a third open seat in Connecticut Senate

Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, has announced he will not run for reelection
Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, has announced he will not run for reelection

With Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, opting Tuesday against reelection, at least two of the Republican minority’s 13 seats in the 36-seat Senate now are expected to be in play this fall.

Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, who won reelection in 2020 with 51.4% of the vote, previously announced he would not run again after 20 years in the General Assembly — three terms in the House and seven in the Senate.

Formica, the deputy minority leader, won his fourth term in the Senate last year with 50.6% of the vote in a district where only 20% of the electorate are Republicans — and only “if you round up,” he said.

So far, only one of the 23 Senate Democrats has said he is not running: Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, who unseated a long-serving Republican in 2018 with 53.4% of the vote. He was comfortably reelected in 2020 with 58.3%.

Republicans won half of the Senate seats in 2016, but the election of Donald J. Trump energized the Democratic base in 2018 and 2020. Democrats now hold a 23-13 majority.

Formica said the struggles of President Joe Biden give Republicans some hope for at least holding their seats in the General Assembly.

“If what they say is right, Republicans have a little bit of wind at our back,” Formica said. “You know, the midterm presidential typically is better for national Republicans. We’ll see if it trickles down to the state.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Gov. Ned Lamont are leading the statewide Democratic ticket this year. Blumenthal is seeking his third term, Lamont his second.

Republicans have hopes of avoiding primaries for those races.

Bob Stefanowski, the GOP gubernatorial nominee in 2018, opened his second campaign last week and already has purchased $1 million in television time to begin airing commercials.

Themis Klarides, the former House minority leader, has registered as a gubernatorial candidate and has spent $400,000, but she has been urged to consider a challenge to Blumenthal instead.

On Monday, she told CT Mirror, “Right now, I’m continuing to talk to the voters across Connecticut as I consider my run for governor.”

Former House Minority Leader Themis Klarides is a registered gubernatorial candidate. Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, is not running for reelection.
Keith M. Phaneuf
Former House Minority Leader Themis Klarides is a registered gubernatorial candidate. Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, is not running for reelection.

Formica, 68, the widowed father of four, has held public office for 31 years, starting with stints on the Zoning Commission and Board of Finance before he was elected East Lyme’s first selectman in 2007.

“It’s just time to enjoy my life here at home. I have a new grand-baby,” he said.

His eight-town 20th District had been represented by a Democrat, Andrea Stillman, who did not seek reelection in 2014. Formica won the open seat.

One Democrat already has created a campaign committee: Daryl J. Finizio, the former mayor of New London.

In the 11-town 8th District represented by Witkos, Republican Lisa Seminara of Avon and Democrat Paul Honig of Harwinton are declared candidates. Seminara is a school board member, Honig a selectman.

In the seven-town 26th District represented by Haskell, Democrats Cecilia Maher of Wilton and former Selectman Ken Bernhard of Westport are running. No Republican has declared.

Five Republican and 11 Democratic incumbents already have created reelection committees.

They include the top two Democrats: Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney of New Haven and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff of Norwalk.

The other Democrats are Saud Anwar of South Windsor, Derek Slap of West Hartford, Gary Winfield of New Haven, Christine Cohen of Guilford, James Maroney of Milford, Jorge Cabrera of Hamden, Julie Kushner of Danbury, Patricia B. Miller of Stamford and Norm Needleman of Essex.

The five Republicans to file for reelection are John Kissel of Enfield, Rob Sampson of Wolcott, Tony Hwang of Fairfield, Henri Martin of Bristol and Eric Berthel of Watertown.

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