Leone ahead of Kolenberg in special election
Leone, who was elected to a fifth term as state representative for District 148 in November, said Tuesday he plans to use his new position as state senator for District 27 to push for a reduction in state spending and borrowing and to advocate for transportation initiatives.
"We have a lot of challenges ahead of us, but the state of Connecticut, every time we've met difficult challenges, we've risen above," Leone said to his supporters shortly before 9 p.m. Tuesday.
"We will come out stronger, we will come out better."
Results Tuesday night had Leone with 4,517 votes to Kolenberg's 3,725. Write-in candidate Rolf Maurer had 25 votes.
District 27 includes parts of Stamford and Darien. Kolenberg picked up 480 votes in Darien to Leone's 223. About 20 percent of the overall district's 41,794 registered voters went to the polls Tuesday.
Tuesday was Kolenberg's second defeat in his efforts to represent District 27 in the General Assembly. In November, he lost a race against the seat's longtime incumbent, former state Sen. Andrew McDonald, who then resigned in January to serve as general counsel for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Kolenberg, 48, ran a campaign focused on addressing the state's struggling economy and high unemployment. He had pledged to stand against Malloy's plan to raise taxes to meet Connecticut's $3.2 billion deficit.
Kolenberg said Tuesday he and his election team had "closed the gap" between Democratic and Republican votes compared to previous races.
"Last time we lost by about 3,500 votes," he said. "This time we lost by about 700 votes. We definitely picked up momentum. We closed the gap. Had it not been a holiday, I think we would have won."
Both Stamford and Darien Public School Districts are currently out of session for February break.
"There's always next time, I guess," Kolenberg said.
After conceding to Leone by phone from Republican headquarters at Shelly's on the River restaurant Tuesday night, Kolenberg said he plans to continue to advocate for fiscal responsibility from his position as vice-chairman of Stamford's Board of Finance. A former owner of the wholesale car remarketing business CorporateCars.com, he recently founded a new online car business, ClubAutoNetwork.com.
Kolenberg said Tuesday he expects to take the reigns as Stamford's Board of Finance when Chairman Joe Tarzia officially steps down Wednesday.
"My brother worked harder than anybody I know in recent times running for office," said Tom Kolenberg. "Certainly being in the spotlight so much recently, he has passed all the tests.
The negative publicity -- that was not true -- certainly didn't help, but he didn't let that distract him."
Leone, 48, celebrated his victory Tuesday night with about a hundred supporters, including his parents and sister, at Stamford's Democratic headquarters on High Ridge Road. Several prominent members of the local Democratic Party were in attendance, including McDonald, state Rep. William Tong, D-147, state Rep. Gerald Fox, D-146, and Democratic Town Committee chairwoman Ellen Camhi.
McDonald announced Leone's victory to cheers, a standing ovation, and chants of "Carlo, Carlo!"
"Today is yet another great night for Stamford and Darien," McDonald said. "We voted to send the most skilled, the most talented and the nicest damn guy you ever met to the state Senate. As the outgoing state senator of the 27th District I am most thrilled."
Leone's apparent victory forces a second special election to fill his now open seat in the state House of Representatives. Leone said that he would support whomever the Democratic Town Committee nominates as a candidate.
"There's a number of people interested," he said. "So I'll let the process work and of course we'll back whoever we need to get in to show a united front."
State Rep. Gerald Fox (D-146) said he was happy to see Leone move on to the state senate.
"Carlo has been a terrific legislator and he's been great for Stamford," Fox said. "He's worked extremely hard and he ran a good race."
Leone immigrated to the United States from Italy with his parents at 2 years old. A former member of the U.S. Air Force, he is a program manager for the Veterans Workforce Investment Program for the
Bridgeport-based non-profit The WorkPlace, Inc. As state representative, Leone served on three committees: Finance, Revenue and Bonding, Regulations Review and Transportation.
Maurer, 48, was the race's third contender and ran as a write-in candidate for the Green Party. He is a freelance writer and editor and former associate editor with Folio magazine. Maurer's election platform focused on promoting more alternative transportation options and establishing a state public bank modeled on the Bank of North Dakota, which he said would generate much-needed revenue while preserving social services.
Tuesday's election was the first federal or state special election Stamford has seen since the late 1980s, said Av Harris, spokesman for Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill. The last state special election the city saw was in January 1988, when a race was held to fill District 148 in the General Assembly. The year before, a special election was held to fill the fourth congressional district,which includes Stamford, following the death of Republican Congressman Stewart McKinney, Harris said.
Nine special elections were held throughout Connecticut Tuesday, the largest number scheduled for one day in at least 60 years, Harris said.
District 27 includes Waterside, downtown, the South End, Glenbrook, Springdale, the East Side, Belltown, Turn of River, the Cove and Shippan, and parts of North Stamford, the Ridges and the West Side, and Noroton and Tokeneke in Darien.