- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut Republicans on Wednesday celebrated the historic gains they made in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, saying it proves voters are unhappy with how the state is being run and want change.

The GOP picked up enough seats to create a rare 18-to-18 partisan make-up in the Senate, controlled by Democrats since 1996. It marks the first time the Connecticut Senate has been tied since 1893.

“As of today, officially there is no longer a majority in the state Senate,” said Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven. “We are now a chamber of equals. The old way of doing things is gone. We need a brand new playbook. We need brand new rules. This is unchartered territory.”

Initial election results also show Republicans significantly pared the Democrats’ current 87-64 majority in the House of Representatives, possibly to a much slimmer 79-72 majority. An automatic recount was ordered in two close House races. It marks a stunning change for the chamber, which Democrats once controlled by a dominating plurality of 114-37 back in 2009.

State Republican Party Chairman JR Romano said the combination of voter dissatisfaction with the handling of the state’s economy and budget by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his fellow Democrats, coupled with strong enthusiasm for Donald Trump in some parts of the state, including eastern Connecticut and the Naugatuck Valley, helped propel many Republican legislative candidates to victory.

For example, he cited Ansonia newcomer George Logan’s defeat of veteran Democratic Sen. Joe Crisco of Woodbridge, who first was elected in 1993.

“It’s been a clear indication that Donald Trump was a positive impact in this state and in this building,” Romano said, referring to the state Capitol. “For us, it was a perfect storm. I think there’s so much dissatisfaction with how the Democrats have led this state. And they own it. They can’t run from it.”

Malloy dismissed the idea the Democrats’ legislative losses were a rejection of his policies, even though he was personally mentioned in many state campaigns.

“I think overwhelmingly these elections on the legislative side were individual elections and should not be assumed to be part of a collective,” said the governor. He said that people who “lost overwhelmingly were outworked by their opponent, regardless of party” and that he’s been a political target for a long time. Malloy is currently midway through his second term in office.

Malloy also downplayed the potential challenge of having to work with a much more Republican state legislature next year, when the new session begins in January. After the election, he called GOP leaders to congratulate them on their victories and said informal discussions on the budget and other issues will happen in the weeks ahead.

Malloy suggested that Connecticut can show the country how people from both parties can work together, predicting it might even become easier for him with more Republicans to accomplish his policy goals, such as budget reforms.

Meanwhile, senators and staff were researching how Connecticut will proceed practically with a tied Senate, including how legislative committees will operate and how leadership positions will be chosen. Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, issued a statement saying the state constitution makes it clear the lieutenant governor, currently Democratic Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, will break any tie votes in the Senate.

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