Janowski wins 4th term in 56th; Lewis wins 3rd in 8th
By Jason Rowe
Two Democratic legislators easily staved off challenges from Republicans Tuesday to win reelection to the General Assembly.
Democratic Rep. Claire L. Janowski soundly defeated her Republican rival, Vernon Town Councilman Bill F. Campbell, to win her fourth term in the 56th House District.
And Rep. Joan A. Lewis won a third term in the General Assembly as the representative from the 8th House District.
Janowski bested her rival by taking nearly 77 percent of the votes cast.
The 56th House District represents part of Vernon ; the 8th House District includes Coventry, Columbia, and part of Vernon.
After getting the results Tuesday at Democratic headquarters in Vernon, Janowski said she was excited to be heading back to Hartford.
"I think they know me and that I'm visible and that I'm there," Janowski said. "People know me pretty well."
In a community affected by drawn-out municipal budget battles and rising property taxes, it was not surprising to see the subject of taxes come up in the race between Janowski and Campbell.
Janowski, 59, a three-term incumbent, said during the campaign that she would like to explore the possibility of allowing towns to reduce their tax assessments through state reimbursements.
Campbell, 66, said the state needs to distribute educational aid more fairly.
Despite the results, Campbell said his experience running for General Assembly was a good one and he looked forward to continuing his service on the council.
Because Democrats have a heavy enrollment advantage in the district, Campbell said, he knew he faced an uphill battle going into the campaign.
"I enjoyed it, but I'm sorry it wasn't more successful," he said, adding, "She's a strong opponent. She's been there a long time. A Republican in this district would
have to be pretty well known to beat the Democratic incumbent."
Meanwhile, Lewis, 69, said Tuesday that she was happy with the results and thanked her supporters who gave their time distributing campaign literature and posting lawn signs.
"Obviously, I'm extremely happy and thankful to the people who worked so hard for me this time around," said Lewis, whose name also appeared on the ballot under the Working Families Party. "The issues I support are the issues the people of this district are concerned about."
In the Lewis-Ackert race, voters were asked to choose between two candidates who have a long history of serving in community organizations or on local government boards.
During the campaign, Lewis, a two-term incumbent, stressed her commitment to education and her experience in the General Assembly
Ackert pledged to do a better job advocating for the district to seek increased education aid and other considerations from the state.
As the results trickled in, Ackert said he was disappointed in the 8th District numbers, but was thankful for the opportunity to run and talk to local voters.
Ackert said he would consider another run for elected office in the future.
"We made the best effort we could," Ackert said. "We learned from the effort. We had a great group of people who really worked hard at this."
Both candidates are Coventry residents. Lewis is an estate planning paralegal. Ackert is a self-employed electrical contractor.
Lewis took Coventry by more than 400 votes Tuesday.
Despite the obstacles for Republicans to win in the 56th House district, Vernon Republican Town Chairman Harold Cummings said the party should always try to run a viable candidate. He credited Campbell for stepping up to the plate.
"There are a lot of issues out there that we have to address," said Cummings.
He said he is concerned about Democrats winning a "veto-proof majority in the General Assembly. "As long as we have the knee-jerk election of incumbents, we are going to have the same problems."
But Vernon Democratic Town Chairman Thomas DiDio said voters responded to Janowski's track record of responding to her constituents' concerns.
For her part, Janowski said she centered her campaign on her recent accomplishments.
Among those accomplishments are legislation aimed at strengthening micro-enterprises that employ 10 or fewer employees, she said.
Janowski said she also has worked hard to preserve the local Dial-A-Ride program and strengthen ConnPACE, the state's prescription drug program for senior citizens and disabled residents.
"We feel it's a win for the citizens of Vernon," DiDio said. "Having a state legislator like Claire will be a benefit to the town and to the entire state of Connecticut."