- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 9, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Most of the 10 incumbent Connecticut legislators survived their intra-party challenges Tuesday night, with at least one exception.

Veteran Democratic New London Rep. Ernest Hewett, first elected to the House of Representatives in 2005, was defeated by Chris Soto, a U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduate and founder of a nonprofit organization that helps guide low-income and first-generation college students. According to preliminary primary results, Soto won 66 percent of the 1,507 votes cast.

“This whole campaign has always been about the future. It’s never been about the past,” Soto told an enthusiastic crowd of supporters, speaking in both English and Spanish in a speech posted on www.theday.com. “It’s about passing the torch. That’s what we said. It’s time for something new.”

Meanwhile, in West Haven, early results showed longtime Rep. Louis Esposito trailing his Democratic challenger Michael DiMassa by 30 out of 1,076 votes cast. DiMassa is a revenue clerk in West Haven’s tax department, while Esposito has served in the House of Representatives since 1993. He is currently an assistant deputy speaker of the House.

With no statewide primary on the ballot this year and only a dozen legislative intra-party contests, voter turnout for Tuesday’s primary elections in Connecticut was light. New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, a Republican, tweeted that turnout in her city was only 16 percent as of 6 p.m., two hours before the polls closed.

“So low,” she wrote.

Of the dozen General Assembly primary races on Tuesday, 10 involved incumbents from both parties - eight Democrats and two Republicans. The two GOP incumbents, Jason Perillo of Shelton and Jay Case of Winsted, each successfully fended off fellow Republicans. In New Britain, well-known state Sen. Terry Gerratana, the co-chairman of the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee, easily defeated Sharon Beloin-Saavedra, president of the city’s Board of Education.

All four of the Democratic incumbents representing Bridgeport, the state’s most populous city, survived their intra-party challenges on Tuesday. They included state Sens. Ed Gomes and Marilyn Moore and Reps. Andre Baker Jr. and Charlie Stallworth.

In Stamford, first-term Democratic Rep. Terry Adams fended off fellow Democrat Dan Dauplaise to advance to the general election. Newcomer Laura Bartok, a social worker and former legislative staffer, has defeated fellow Democrat Christy Matthews in Bristol in the 77th Assembly District primary. Meanwhile, in Hamden, Joshua Elliott, won the 88th Assembly District primary, a seat currently held by House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, who is retiring. Elliot is a local businessman and active supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential candidacy.

In Connecticut’s most recent election seasons, primary ballots statewide featured high-profile battles for governor or U.S. Senate.

In 2014, for example, there was a two-way Republican primary for governor and a three-way GOP primary for lieutenant governor. In 2012, there were both Democratic and Republican primaries for U.S. Senate. The statewide average that year for turnout was 22.4 percent. There were also statewide primaries in 2010.

According to the Secretary of the State’s office, the unofficial voter turnout this year was around 19 percent for Democrats and 16.7 percent for Republicans.

This year, former Olympian August Wolf attempted to petition his way onto the Republican primary ballot for U.S. Senate and challenge state Rep. Dan Carter, who had won the party’s endorsement at the state convention. However, Wolf failed to collect enough signatures.

Carter now faces Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal in November.

Only registered Democrats and Republicans were able to vote Tuesday. There were also four primaries for registrars of voters and judges of probate.

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