HARTFORD — Connecticut's battle for governor between Democrat Ned Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski remains close Wednesday morning, as Republicans challenged votes from newly registered voters.
All eyes are on the close race for governor in which the two major party candidates spent months arguing over who was better positioned to fix Connecticut's fiscal ills. As of 2 a.m. Wednesday, the race remains too close to call.
Stefanowski's campaign raised concerns Tuesday with a judge about some new voters in New Haven and at the University of Connecticut being allowed to cast ballots after swearing as a group they've never registered to vote before in the state. The potential voters were waiting in a long line to take advantage of the state's Election Day voter registration law.
"Those ballots that were cast by people who were not registered by 8 p.m. are going to be set aside and depending on the outcome of the election will determine if we need to go to court on Friday," said State Republican Party Chairman J.R. Romano.
A court hearing was planned tentatively for Friday on whether the ballots cast in New Haven and the University of Connecticut should not be included in the total tally. Gabe Rosenberg, a spokesman for the Secretary of the State's Office, said the registrars were advised to segregate the ballots but still count them toward the final tally pending the potential injunction.
Voter turnout was high for a midterm election in many communities as more than 42 percent of the state's record 2.16 million registered voters cast ballots by Tuesday evening, according to Secretary of the State Denise Merrill's office. Merrill said Election Day had gone smoothly despite some long lines and some ballots getting dampened by rainwater from voters' jackets.
Turnout is typically about 55 percent to 65 percent in midterm elections.
The vote for governor headlines midterm balloting in Connecticut that includes contests for a Senate seat, the state's five U.S. House seats and other statewide and local races. Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy easily won his bid for a second term , as well as Democratic U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes, John Larson and Joe Courtney. While the race was too close to call, former national teacher of the year Jahana Hayes declared victory in the 5th Congressional District.
Stefanowski, of Madison, and Lamont, of Greenwich, led a pack of five men vying to succeed Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat who narrowly won the state's top office in 2010 and 2014. Petitioning independent candidate Oz Griebel, a former Republican and Hartford business advocate, conceded the race by mid-evening.
"I obviously did a very poor job of convincing people that they should vote for the best ticket and not the lesser of two evils," he said.
Lamont and other Democratic candidates have made this election partly a referendum on President Donald Trump. Lamont has promised to be the state's firewall against the president's policies.
The state's continued economic challenges, including projected budget deficits, have also been a key issue.
Republican state Rep. Doug Dubitsky, who greeted voters in a drizzling rain outside a polling place in Norwich, said he wasn't sure how much influence the president will ultimately have on the state's election.
"It's hard to tell how the whole Trump situation is going to play out," he said. "Certainly there are angry people who hate Trump and will vote against anybody who is associated with Trump. And there are some who love Trump and will vote for anybody that's associated with him.
"Most of the people that I've spoken to are really concerned about Connecticut's economy," he said. "Because really, everything flows from that: education health care, municipal issues."
Stefanowski has painted Lamont as a clone of the unpopular Malloy who would preside over tax increases.
A rare Republican in heavily Democratic Hartford, Ken Lerman said high taxes — not Trump — were foremost on his mind as he filled out his ballot.
"Our taxes keep rising. We can't afford it," said Lerman, an attorney and chairman of the Hartford Republican Town Committee. "We need a change in government."
Lamont, in turn, has accused Stefanowski of proposing a reckless tax-cutting plan and being a threat to Connecticut's values, including the state's strong gun control laws and protections for women.
Libertarian Rod Hanscomb and Mark Stewart Greenstein, co-founder of Americans for Minimal Government Party, were also on the ballot.