A Democratic landslide that swept aside Republicans across the country carried in a Democratic newcomer to an open state House seat in Bristol but it didn’t prove strong enough to knock out the city’s sole incumbent Republican lawmaker.
Chris Wright, the Democratic newcomer in the 77th District, said his win is “just starting to sink in” after a long, hard campaign against Republican Jill Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald called the race “a wonderful experience” that she might try again someday.
Re-elected to two-year terms were all of the city’s incumbents – state Sen. Tom Colapietro, state Rep. Betty Boukus and state Rep. Frank Nicastro, all Democrats, and Republican state Rep. Bill Hamzy.
Official results were not available late Tuesday, but unofficial tallies from both political parties left the outcomes clear.
Hamzy, a Plymouth Republican whose 78th district includes Bristol, won his eighth term by a comfortable margin over Democrat Jacqui Denksi.
"I'm ecstatic," said Hamzy, who admitted he had been "a little worried, especially the way the tide was going."
Hamzy said he didn't take the race for granted.
"You never know," said Hamzy. But he said, "I had a record to run on and people responded to it."
Nicastro easily won re-election to his second term in the 79th District.
"I plan to work very hard for all my constituents," said Nicastro.
Nicastro faced a symbolic challenge from David L. Norton, who stepped into the race late in October after the original Republican candidate, Derek Jerome, committed suicide.
Norton said he agreed to run in honor of Jerome, who strongly believed in giving voters a choice.
Nicastro said he and Norton spent Election Day together.
"We had some great discussions. It was a pleasure to stand alongside him," said Nicastro. "He was a perfect gentleman."
Colapietro, who has represented the 31st District since 1992, breezed into his ninth term Tuesday.
The race "was pretty easy for me," said Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat. "It's the only time I've ever run unopposed."
Colapietro said he'd been looking forward to talking about the issues, but without an opponent didn't have much chance. He said he likes people to know why he casts the votes he does.
Wright and Fitzgerald were battling for a seat left open by the retirement of one-term state Rep. Ron Burns, a Republican.
Burns said the winners of all the races are going to face “a tough two years. It is going to be quite difficult” dealing with budget cuts and the recession.
“It could be a whole different picture” by the next time state lawmakers face the voters, Burns said.
As polls closed, Bristol Democratic Town Chairman Elliott Nelson said Democrats were optimistic about all their races.
"The numbers are high," said Nelson.
As the polls closed, Colapietro was at the American Legion in Bristol where a glitch in the voting machines kept ballots from being read.
"For awhile they had to count them by hand," said Colapietro.
Nelson said the machines at the American Legion failed early Tuesday morning and weren't back in action until 6:30 p.m.
It was "a major meltdown," said Nelson.
But election officials got the machines going again, Colapietro said, so ballots could be fed into them.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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