By JEFFREY B. COHEN, STEVEN GOODE, And DAGNY SALAS | Courant Staff Writers
August 13, 2008
The last time Marie Lopez Kirkley-Bey faced Abraham L. Giles in a Democratic primary in Hartford, she won by just a handful of votes.
So when the numbers came in just after 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night showing the incumbent, Kirkley-Bey, well ahead of the party-endorsed Giles, she was both elated and relieved.
"It feels good," she said, adding that she hopes the city's delegation will work more as a team from now on.
"What we're hearing from the city itself is they want us to work together. In order to remedy some of the problems that are happening on the street, the city and the state have to work in tandem," she said.
The city's Democrats took to the polls Tuesday for three legislative primaries. Democrats and Republicans held votes for their registrars of voters.
In unofficial results, Kirkley-Bey defeated Giles in the 5th state House District by a vote of 661-332. Also victorious were incumbent state Sen. John Fonfara in the 1st state Senate District and newcomer Hector Robles in the 6th House District. Fonfara defeated Edwin Vargas Jr., 1,881 to 1,444, and Robles defeated Carmen Sierra, 832-730.
"The Democratic Party rules say if the Democratic Party put up the wrong person, then we have the right, within the party, to fight them tooth and nail," Giles told a small gathering at his North End warehouse. "We done that. We lost."
"If I had won, I would expect them to support me, and, yes, I'm going to support Marie," Giles said. "I'm going to try to keep her feet to the fire."
Vargas arrived at his tiny storefront campaign headquarters after a full day of campaigning at several schools and a senior center.
A retired teacher, Vargas said he felt good about his chances for the 1st Senate District seat held by longtime incumbent Fonfara "if people voted the issues," he said.
"Win, lose or draw, this campaign is a victory because it happened," Vargas said.
In the end, Fonfara, a 22-year veteran of the House and Senate, won easily, although he admitted he had been concerned.
"There were times tonight when I didn't know what was going to happen," Fonfara told a rowdy, cheering crowd of supporters that included Mayor Eddie A. Perez, former state Sen. William DiBella and numerous other Hartford politicians. "I want to tell you how grateful I am."
Fonfara, in his sixth term in the Senate, said his large margin of victory should dispel the notion that he was out of touch with the people of his district. He also said he was proud to have been supported by constituents from an array of ethnic and economic backgrounds.
"I stand for them," he said. "I hope this victory stands for that."
Fueled by support from several prominent city Democrats, Robles, a city police officer, defeated Sierra, head of a Latino advocacy group and a city teacher, in the 6th House District.
Robles made sure Tuesday to thank supporters individually, hugging people and calling them by name.
"It feels great having had the 6th House District put their trust in me," Robles said. "It's a total relief because of all the hard work we've done, all the long hours."
Sierra could not be reached for comment.
Robles credited his win, in part, to the importance of knocking on doors almost every day since last spring. He said his priorities going forward include meeting with the outgoing incumbent, Art Feltman, to discuss his platform of public safety, increased parental involvement in schools and revamping the property tax structure.
Perez, who had mentored Robles since his first run in 2004 against Feltman, said Robles' win was deserved. Perez stood outside a polling booth at the Batchelder School all day, greeting voters and handing out fliers for Robles.
"If you walk the district and you know the district, you should represent the district," Perez said.
In the race for Democratic registrar of voters, Registrar Shirley Surgeon lost narrowly to challenger Olga Iris Vasquez, a former registrar, 2,085 to 2,153. Vasquez, who has been endorsed by the party, lost to Surgeon in 2004.
On the Republican side, incumbent and party-endorsed Salvatore A. Bramante defeated challenger Kevin R. Brookman, 243-97.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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