Since Tuesday’s election victory for Republican Ryan Fazio over two opponents – Democratic petition candidate John Blankley and Alexis Gevanter – there has been a bit of time for reflection.
The special election was called by Governor Ned Lamont after Democratic State Senator Alex Kasser resigned suddenly in June.
In his campaign, Fazio, 31, picked up where he left off in his run for the job just last fall, after having lost to Kasser.
Fazio had been challenged by Leora Levy to be selected by Republican party delegates.
Tom Michaud nominated Ms Levy, saying, “Let’s give her a platform in our state to magnify her voice and try to disrupt the status quo to bring more opportunity for all of our state’s residents.”
In a roll call vote, there were 20 votes for Fazio and 9 for Levy. A majority of 15 was required, and Fazio became the nominee.
“Most of the delegates were making their choice based on loyalties and personal relationships. This was extremely upsetting to me because I strongly believe in meritocracy – always selecting the best candidate possible for every position.”
“All hard data at this point indicates that the delegates are taking a big gamble here by not supporting the most electable candidate.”
Indeed the gamble succeeded.
Since Tuesday night all three candidates have debriefed on WGCH radio.
Blankley, 73, said he received fewer votes than he expected.
“On the other hand it was higher than one usually gets for a third party candidate. I was heartened by that. I think there’s a way forward for someone who may want to enter as a third party.”
Blankley said Fazio should do his best to represent everyone, including those who did not vote for him.
As for Gevanter, Blankley took a swipe at Gevanter.
His advice was that she should, “Do as candidates normally do.”
“Join the local party. Get to know people. Get people to know you. Gain their confidence. Participate in picnics, run for the school board or the PTA and eventually work your way toward elected office.”
Blankley said when he first decided to petition onto the ballot, there was a negative reaction from the highest in the state Democratic party, who asked him not to run, for the sake of party unity.
“My reaction was, ‘I’m sorry, I came here 40 years ago, and I believe in one man, one vote,'” he recalled. “The right to give the people a choice. I’m very proud that I did that.”
Blankley said a Republican friend had told him, ‘You never actually lose an election.’ I thought that was a profound statement. You get to do something important. Whatever the outcome it is a contribution to democracy.”
Gevanter, who was endorsed by Governor Ned Lamont, Lt Governor Susan Bysiewicz, US Senator Richard Blumenthal and US Senator Chris Murphy, as well as Congressman Jim Himes sand Attorney General William Tong, said she was proud of her campaign, which was her first.
“We were overwhelmed with energy, support and excitement from volunteers, from voters and from legislators,” she said.
“I have just been so lucky to have met incredible people throughout the community. Knocking doors every day and working with volunteers and debating on important issues was incredible. I feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity.”
She congratulated Fazio and acknowledged when asked that he had name recognition stemming back to his fall 2020 run for the office.
“Not having run before, absolutely, getting my name and message out there takes time,” she said.
During their campaigns, Gevanter and Fazio were most at odds over their approach to public safety. At an event with US Senator Blumenthal in Binney Park in late July, Blumenthal said, “We’re going to win on gun violence safety because history is on our side.”
Gevanter, who has worked for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense for four years, said she would focus in office on gun safety efforts, while Fazio, having received the endorsement of both Greenwich and Stamford police unions, talked about safety in terms of supporting law enforcement.
He spoke against the police accountability bill, citing the rise in car thefts and homicides.
At their last candidate debate, which was hosted by the Round Hill Association, Fazio said Connecticut already had strict gun control laws, and that that would not change.
“The police bill last summer took tools from police to keep guns out of the hands of criminals,” he said.
Gevanter, who noted car thefts had increased not just in CT, but across the country during the pandemic, pressed Fazio on whether he would support any future gun safety legislation. Ultimately he agreed, saying, “Fine.”
On Thursday morning Fazio debriefed on WGCH radio, saying he planned to work across the aisle. Host Tony Savino noted his opponents had portrayed him as extreme.
“I’m thankful to the voters of Greenwich, Stamford and New Canaan. I’m going to work very hard over the next two years in order to justify it, both for those who voted for me and those who didn’t,” he said.
“I think this was important race, that people across Connecticut were watching as to whether the Democrats in the state senate would win a veto proof super majority and push policies further to the left, or whether the voters would send a message that it’s time for a change.”
“We have to come together towards the middle, with more pragmatic and common sense policies, and that’s the verdict voters delivered,” he added. “I think that was the theme of the race.”
Fazio said his first priority as State Senator would be to lower the cost of living and lower taxes. Second, he said there needed be changes to criminal justice laws and support for police to keep people safe, citing the rise in homicides and car thefts.
Fazio acknowledged it would be a challenge to serve in the minority, but had grown up in Greenwich among people who didn’t agree with his politics. He said he’d try to find common ground and find solutions.
“On things from health care to labor regulations to crime and criminal justice, there are marginal but important changes to laws and statutes that can be made and be agreeable to both sides – that are important to the general public,” he said.
Fazio said it was likely that he would run for a second term.
“With positive change in our state government, the future for our district can be bright. At the same time, change will not occur in a year and a half (the remainder of Kasser’s term). It will take a couple years to make positive reforms in our state government.”
The Senator elect said a date had yet to be set by the Secretary of State, but he expected to take the oath of office next week.
“I’m ready to hit the ground running,” he said, adding that he anticipated finishing his term on RTM, but not running again. He planned to stay on the First Selectman’s Energy Efficiency committee for the remainder of the term, which is another year and a half.