State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield is moving to the legislature\’s upper chamber.
The New Haven Democrat handily won election to the state Senate Tuesday, beating Republican Steven Mullins of West Haven in the 10th District.
\”I\’m very pleased with the results,\’\’ Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney said shortly after the votes were tallied. According to unofficial numbers, Holder-Winfield took 77 percent of the vote, Looney said.
\”Gary will be a strong and able voice for urban Connecticut,\’\’ added Looney, a fellow New Haven Democrat. \”He does have big shoes to fill.\”
Holder-Winfield will fill the vacancy created when then-state Sen. Toni Harp was elected New Haven mayor. Holder-Winfield was initially a candidate for mayor, but when Harp got into the race, he got out.
Nancy DiNardo, chairwoman of the Connecticut Democratic party, called Holder-Winfield a \”dedicated, smart public servant\” and noted his commitment to social justice issues.
First elected to the House of Representatives in 2008, Holder-Winfield was one of the General Assembly\’s most passionate champions of repealing Connecticut\’s death penalty. When the bill won approval in 2012, it was Holder-Winfield who led the charge.
He has long been a strong advocate for public education, a proponent of Connecticut first-in-the-nation paid sick leave law and helped win passage of a bill that extends civil rights protections to transgender people. His support of that measure, which cleared the legislature in 2011, became an issue in the state Senate race. Mullins accused Holder-Winfield of backing a law that allows \”sexual predators\” to use women\’s public restrooms.
Gun control also played a role in the campaign. Mullins won the support of some members of gun-rights groups after he told the New Haven Register\’s editorial board that he would not have voted for the sweeping gun-control laws approved by the legislature in 2013.
Peter Wolfgang, the executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut and a Mullins supporter, said Republicans knew all along they faced an uphill battle in a district dominated by Democrats. But he noted that the Mullins campaign was able to recruit more than 70 volunteers to knock on doors during a brutally cold winter in an special election and said that signifies grassroots support for his message.
Holder-Winfield\’s victory is a fleeting one. He was elected to fill the remainder of Harp\’s term, which ends in January. If he wants to serve a full term, he needs to run again in November. Meanwhile, a special election to fill his House seat will be held in April.