State Rep. Linda Gentile announced Monday she will not seek re-election in November, putting a traditionally Democratic seat in the state House of Representatives up for grabs.
When Gentile steps down in November, she will have served 14 years representing Ansonia and most of Derby. That’s seven, two-year terms.
A Republican hasn’t held the seat since CT Capitol Report’s Tom Dudchik 34 years ago.
Valley Democrats questioned through email said they can hold the seat. They don’t have an official candidate at this point — Election Day is Nov. 6 — but they’re confident in the “blue wave” that has been bandied about in the national media.
The expectation is that the midterm national elections in November will see Democrats come out in huge numbers, motivated by things like President Trump’s caustic Twitter feed.
But local Republicans point out things are changing in Ansonia and Derby.
A Republican just unseated a two-term Democratic incumbent in Derby by 500 votes, after losing by about 100 votes two years ago. That same election saw the local GOP takeover the school board and the Board of Aldermen, in addition to keeping a majority on the city’s tax board.
In Ansonia, Mayor David Cassetti was re-elected in another landslide, and the GOP holds every seat on the Board of Aldermen.
The Valley Indy emailed 12 local and state officials Monday afternoon about Gentile’s retirement — and what they think is next for the 104th District.
It should be noted that contrary to the fighting played out on cable news every day regarding the national political scene, people in both parties on the local level had nice things to say about Rep. Gentile.
Here are the reactions from those who responded:
Stephan Behuniak Democratic member of the Seymour Board of Selectmen, vice president of Naugatuck Valley Young Democrats:
“It is true that the GOP has done extremely well in the LNV and it doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.
However, Linda has held that seat for seven terms.
She held on in 2016 when even longtime Senator Joe Crisco could not.
I think that seat is and will remain blue.
There is a possibility of the GOP running a very strong candidate and making a good attempt at it, but I think that they will come up short, especially since 2018 is pointing toward a blue wave.
I think it is a foregone conclusion that Democrats will overperform across the country and will be able to drive turnout much easier than the Republicans will.
The one real concern that I have is with the Governor’s race and how that might affect the under-ticket. If the Democrats can’t put an inspiring candidate out, we might lose (the governor’s office) which could hurt our chances of holding the legislature some.
I think to keep the seat, Democrats are well positioned and will rely on a good ground game and turning out the reliable Democratic voters.
In her district we are not at the disadvantage we seem to be at in other local districts.
I think an active candidate with strong principles and a little name recognition will have no problem keeping the seat blue.
In terms of who will run for the seat, I know of one or two potential candidates who have not publicly come forward yet, so I won’t do it for them. I will say that the (Naugatuck Valley Young Democrats) have been preparing for this race for a while now and will be very vocal/involved.”
David Cassetti Republican Mayor, City of Ansonia:
“I would say first that Ansonia has been well represented by Rep. Gentile.
We are extremely grateful and proud of all she has accomplished for Ansonia, and those are going to be big shoes to fill.
I believe it’s too early to give a projection on the GOP nominee. I want the chance to talk this over with my team.”
Joseph Jaumann Ansonia Republican Alderman, ran for Gentile’s seat in 2016::
“Linda has been an asset to the City of Ansonia and her district for many years.
Because of her hard work and dedication to her district, millions of dollars in grants and other monies have benefited the taxpayers of the 104th district.
She has always worked very hard for her constituents over the past seven terms, and she deserves the thanks of all of her constituents for her years of public service to Ansonia, to the 104th district, and to the State of Connecticut.
I personally want to thank her for her graciousness and generosity of time, and I wish her all the best in her retirement.”
(The Valley Indy asked Jaumann whether he would run for the seat being vacated:)
“As far as any decisions, none have been made.”
State Sen. George Logan Republican from Ansonia, also represents Woodbridge:
“Linda is a well-respected, hard-working and fair-minded legislator.
She is someone I admire, and we have worked well together on a host of issues to try to improve the lives of Ansonia and Derby residents.
Linda has represented the 104th District with class, and I know I speak for many when I thank her for her 14 years of state service.
I wish her all the best in the future.”
(Sen. Logan’s statement was sent via press release)
Dannel Malloy Governor, State of Connecticut. Democrat:
“During her time in elected office, Linda has been a diligent advocate at the State Capitol for the residents of Ansonia and Derby.
She has been a voice of steadiness, reason, and compassion.
I thank her for her sincerity and honorable service to our state, and wish her, her husband John, her children, and her grandchildren the very best.”
John Marini Ansonia Corporation Counsel, former Republican Alderman/Ansonia GOP Chairman:
“Linda did a great job for Ansonia and we are sad to see her go.
We have no shortage of strong Republican candidates in Ansonia and Derby dedicated to serving the valley and supporting the economic revitalization of CT.
(We are) Very confident that a Republican will be the next to hold that seat.”
Kurt Miller First Selectman of Seymour, Republican, currently exploring a run for unspecified statewide office:
“It was a pleasure working with Linda the last six years.
She was hard working, and dedicated, and always had the best interests of the whole Valley in mind.
She will be missed.
Based on what we have seen the last two years in Ansonia and Derby, I think the GOP has a great chance of picking up this seat.
Valley residents are tired of the tax and spend mentality of Gov. Malloy and have shown that they are looking for strong, fiscally sound leadership not only locally, but in Hartford.
The results of Mayor Cassetti’s last two elections and the recent wins by Mayor Dziekan and state Sen. Logan (over long-time Democratic incumbent Joe Crisco) show that the residents of Ansonia and Derby are looking for new direction.
There are several very strong, well-qualified Republican candidates that I expect to show interest in this race.”
Kara Rochelle President of the Naugatuck Valley Young Democrats, Derby resident:
“Linda has been a lioness for the people of Ansonia and Derby and has shown us all what a sharp, caring representative can do.
Her heart, down to earth nature, and dedication are very genuinely inspiring. She’s a good one, I’m happy she intends to stay involved.”
(The Valley Indy asked whether Rochelle would run for Rep. Gentile’s seat:)
It’s certainly something to consider, I love this community and was raised to be dedicated to public service.”
Jimmy Tickey Shelton Democrat, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s campaign manager:
“Linda Gentile is a hardworking State Representative for her constituents and she has made a difference for families in the Lower Naugatuck Valley.
2018 is a critical election. I have no doubt there will be a strong Democratic candidate, and that candidate ought to look at Linda’s successful record of delivering for families in Ansonia and Derby.
The candidate should spend their time listening to residents, and develop a platform that is about lifting up middle-class families in the Naugatuck Valley.”
Nancy Wyman Connecticut Lieutenant Governor, Democrat
“Public service is a calling that requires bold thinking, collaboration, and patience.
Linda has been a remarkable example of what dedication and commitment can accomplish in Hartford.
I congratulate her on her retirement, and thank her for serving seven terms advocating for her district and the people of the State of Connecticut.”