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Rep. Treneé McGee, anti-abortion candidate, wins Democratic primary

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Jessica Bravo / CT Mirror
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Treneé McGee (left) won the Democratic primary for the 116th state House District, according to unofficial results. At right is Janice Flemming-Butler, owner of Voices of Women of Color.

Rep. Treneé McGee, D-West Haven, defeated rival Joseph Miller in Tuesday’s primary for the Democratic nomination for the 116th House District, according to unofficial results reported by the campaigns in a race that was shaped by the issue of abortion access and reproductive rights.

McGee, the party-endorsed incumbent, first won the seat last December during a special election after the resignation of former Rep. Michael DiMassa. McGee, 27, became the first Black person to hold the 116th District, and she secured the West Haven Democratic Town Committee’s endorsement for the primary.

While McGee opposes abortion, Miller, 24, ran as a supporter of those rights. He’s a West Haven resident who works as a supply chain and IT consultant. Miller jumped into the primary in April and said McGee’s opposition on the issue was “really one of several factors that got me over the hump and decide to run.”

He called McGee to concede Tuesday night.

At McGee’s victory party, a crowd of about 50 supporters applauded her as she walked into The Village Bar & Grill. Janice Flemming-Butler from Voices of Women of Color hugged and kissed her cheek. During her speech, McGee thanked the organization for helping her when she was new to the state Capitol.

“I’d like to thank the voters of the 116th for putting their faith in me and propelling me forward toward the general election this fall,” McGee said Tuesday night. “Serving the community that I was born and raised in is one of the greatest moments of my life.”

As both parties become more polarized about abortion rights, the Democratic Party is still debating whether it can be a “big tent” when it comes to the issue. But the primary came at a politically fraught time surrounding those protections, especially after the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade that made abortion a constitutional right.

McGee, a former city councilwoman and motivational speaker, secured a spot in the General Assembly after the arrest and resignation of DiMassa. He faces criminal charges over allegations of misusing federal pandemic relief funds while working as a city employee.

McGee served on West Haven’s City Council until March, when she decided to resign to focus on her work in Hartford as a state representative.

During this year’s legislative session, McGee opposed legislation that made Connecticut a “safe harbor” state that provides legal protections to patients who travel to the state for an abortion as well as to the providers. The bill ultimately passed the state legislature and was signed into law in May.

When speaking about reproductive rights, McGee has focused on racial justice, saying that young Black girls are told to use abortion as birth control.

“I want to speak to the history of this industry and why I think it’s destructive to my community,” McGee said in April during debate of the bill expanding abortion access. “Black women make up 14% of child-bearing population yet obtained 36.2% of all reported abortions.”

McGee now goes on to face Republican Aaron Haley in the Nov. 8 general election. Haley ran uncontested in Tuesday’s primary.

Aside from McGee, there were a number of other primaries for General Assembly including a few open-seat races created by retirements or incumbents seeking political promotions.

In the 98th District, Moira Rader, a school board member endorsed by the party, defeated Andrew Gottlieb, according to official results. The seat opened up because Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, ran for comptroller during Tuesday’s primaries. Rader will face Republican Gloria Nemczuk in November.

Lisa Hagen is the federal policy reporter in a collaboration between Connecticut Public and The Connecticut Mirror. Hagen is based in Washington, D.C., and produces stories that examine the impact of federal policy on Connecticut.