On Saturday morning the CT Republicans held a convention where delegates voted on the party’s nominee to run for the 36th district State Senate seat vacated by Democratic State Senator Alex Kasser who resigned in June after having won a second term in November, 2020. The theme for Kasser’s campaign was “Courage.” Kasser, who is going through a divorce, cited personal reasons for her decision to resign.
A special election is scheduled for August 17, 2021, just over a month away.
The contest boiled down to Mr. Fazio and Leora Levy, after State Rep (R-151) Harry Arora withdrew his name from consideration on the eve of the convention, saying his conversations with the 31 delegates had been “difficult.”
“Most of the delegates were making their choice based on loyalties and personal relationships,” Arora said in a statement Friday night. “This was extremely upsetting to me because I strongly believe in meritocracy – always selecting the best candidate possible for every position.”
Fazio was nominated by Icy Frantz, whose husband Scott served as the State Senator for the 36th district from 2009-2019. Mr. Frantz lost to Ms Kasser in the 2018 election.
Prior to Kasser, the last Democrat to hold the office was Horace Allen Barton, who held the position from 1931-1932 during the Great Depression. Most of the issues at the time were economic.
“I sense a huge comeback for the Republican party in the sate of Connecticut,” Mrs. Frantz said. “Over the past few years, Scott and I have gotten to know Ryan well.”
She said she and her husband had volunteered for Fazio’s campaign last fall and were disappointed he lost.
She noted Mr. Fazio grew up in Greenwich and attended Greenwich Public Schools.
Fazio graduated GHS in 2008 before going on to receive a degree in Economics from Northwestern University. His career experience includes working in investment and renewable energy.
Frantz said Fazio has tutored and mentored students in an inner city school, delivered meals to the elderly, and is a member of the First Selectman’s Energy Efficiency Committee, in addition to being an elected member of the 230-member Representative Town Meeting (RTM).
“Ryan is smart, hard working and humble. He is not afraid to stand up for his beliefs. He is a stellar debater, able to articulate his position on policy with plenty of facts to back them up,” she said. “After Ryan lost last fall, he didn’t just walk away. He reassembled his team and gave us a full analysis. He tore apart every neighborhood district in town. This is where we find the votes.”
Frantz’s nomination was seconded by Whitney Williams of New Canaan, who described Fazio as caring, conservative, collegial and committed. She said Fazio was representative of a new generation of Republicans.
“Just eight months ago Ryan ran an outstanding campaign versus a popular and incumbent candidate fully supported by the Democratic National Committee. That was an example of true courage,” she said, possibly a nod to Kasser’s campaign theme of courage.
Tom Michaud of Greenwich nominated Leora Levy.
“In the short 18 days since Alex Kasser resigned we can all agree that Leora has showed up with another side of herself as a trailblazing, principled and compelling campaigner. Her supporters include national leaders, state leaders, concerned business owners, homeowners and parents throughout our district and in our communities.”
“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.”Tom Michaud
Michaud said the 2020 election cycle highlighted the importance of state legislatures.
“Fighting to protect individual rights and pushing back on government overreach starts at the state level,” he said. “We must send our strongest Republican voices to Hartford.”
He described Levy as the definition of the American dream. “Her family fled communist Cuba in 1960 to come to the US in search of a better life. Her family settled during the Jim Crow era in North Carolina, where she focused on learning English as a second language and practiced her faith.”
He noted Levy then graduated from Brown University and served as a commodities trader on Wall Street where there weren’t many women.
“For the past 33 years Leora has made Greenwich her home,” he continued. “Somehow Leora has also found time to become a pillar in our community, a go-to leader when something needs to get done – chairing events and boards, including the Bruce Museum and a local animal shelter.”
“She was elected as the Republican National Committee woman where she represents our state on the national stage. Ultimately, Leora was tapped by the president of the US (Donald Trump) to serve as our abassador to the Country of Chile. Those are incredible accomplishments and do represent what the American dream is.”
Jan Schaefer from New Canaan seconded Michaud’s nomination of Ms Levy.
“We have an opportunity to elect a vibrant, self made women who has overcome barriers of every aspect of her life,” Schaefer said. “We have an opportunity to elect a Latina from the 36th district as our state senator, who was in fact nominated by the US president to be our country’s ambassador to Chile.”
“In this brief campaign, some folks have accused Leora of being haranguing,” Schaefer said. “Her proven track record shows she always gets the job done.”
There was a roll call vote:
Fazio: Nisha Arora (by proxy), Carmella Budkins, Fred Camillo, Paul Cappiali, Fred DeCaro, Irene Dietrich, Rich DiPreta, Marc Ducret, Debra Hess, Icy Frantz, Joe Kelly, Pam Pagnini, Dan Quigley, Lauren Rabin, Jackie Budkins, Andrew Brooks, Whitney Williams, Patrick Donovan, Daniel Labutata, Ralph Laguiole.
Levy: Karen Fassuliotis, Tom Michaud, Jane Sprung, Peter Tesei, Ed Dadakis, Jan Schaefer, Tom Lombardo, Dennis Mahoney, Barry Weston.
The vote were 20 votes for Fazio and 9 for Levy. A majority of 15 was required, so Ryan Fazio became the nominee.
“In Connecticut…our people have experienced the worst economic growth of any state in the country, the second highest taxes, and among the highest cost of living,” Fazio said. “Our most vulnerable families are facing a horrendous surge of crime and violence, with homicides up 35% on our state’s largest cities. Our politics are becoming more divisive and for the last 12 years one party has had complete control of our state government, but I know we can do better.”
“We simply need a change in leadership to thrive like never before,” he added. “I still believe the best days are ahead of us in Connecticut, if only we can create a positive change first. That change starts right here on Aug 17 in this special election.”
Last week the Democrats voted unanimously on Alexis Gevanter to represent their party in the Aug 17 special election.
Ed Dadakis said Ms Gevanter was “a far worse candidate than Alex Kasser,” describing her as “a left winger” and a “San Francisco progressive.”