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Party Officials Scramble to Find Candidates for 61st District Special Election

Parties have to caucus and nominate their candidates before March 6.

Party Officials Scramble to Find Candidates for 61st District Special Election
Suffield, East Granby and Windsor party officials still grieving the loss of Rep. Elaine O’Brien (D-61), who passed away Feb. 21, have a narrow window to nominate candidates for the April 11 special election to fill the 61st Assembly District seat.

By state statute, the local parties have 10 days from when the special election is called to file paperwork for their candidates with the Secretary of the State (SOTS), giving them a March 6 deadline.

Local Democrats are currently searching for potential candidates before their convention Wednesday night, while Republicans at least have a go-to nominee who has already filed for November.

“It is very sad that we lost Elaine,” Windsor Republican Town Committee Chairman Ron Eleveld said, adding that she did a good job as a representative, even if he would prefer a more conservative politician in office. “It’s also unfortunate that they made the [special election] announcement so quickly. This is going to be a very, very short campaign period.”

Republican Tami Zawistowski — who lost to O’Brien in 2012 by less than 500 votes, 5,754-5,263 — filed last week to be a candidate for the 61st in November and is a likely nominee at the convention.

Zawistowski confirmed Wednesday that she intends to run but declined to comment further at that time out of respect for O’Brien’s family and loved ones.

“The real question is who the Democrats are going to run,” Eleveld said.

East Granby Democratic Party Chairman Mike Malloy said Tuesday the party is talking with prospective candidates but none had stepped forward yet.

Democratic delegates from all three towns are meeting at Fire Station 2, 9 Ratley Road, West Suffield Center, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday to choose their nominee.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to find someone with the same respect and diligence Elaine brought to the office,” Malloy said. “She was an impressive woman. It’s going to be difficult to find someone with the understanding of the issues she had.”

Malloy also noted that the winner will serve a shortened term and have to defend the seat in November if they wish to remain in the General Assembly.

“We’ve been calling around to the communities to see if anyone is interested on such short notice,” Windsor Democratic Town Committee Chairman Tim Curtis said. “The timetable is short but we have to abide by it. I’m sure we will come out with a candidate next Thursday.”

Once they have a candidate, Curtis said it will be especially important for Windsor Democrats to notify the public and drive voter turnout.

“The padding that O’Brien got in the last election came from Windsor votes,” he said. “We have to get out the vote.”

O’Brien was serving her first term as a representative in the General Assembly. Fellow Democrat Matthew Conway, Jr., preceded her, serving a single term from 2009-11.

Before O’Brien and Conway, Republican Ruth Fahrbach held the seat from when the district was established in 1981 through 2009, when she declined to run for reelection.

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