Eileen Daily’s announcement last Tuesday that she would not seek re-election to the 33rd Senate District seat left the Democratic Party without a candidate less than a week before its convention.
That all changed over the weekend.
Dean Markham of East Hampton, Mary Ellen Klinck of East Haddam and Jim Crawford of Westbrook all announced their candidacy.
The Democratic Convention for the 33rd Senate District is Monday night in Essex.
Having served as State Senator since 1993, Daily’s caught many by surprise, including the candidates.
“I was on my way to the convention as a delegate to support Eileen Daily and last week she dropped a bombshell she wasn’t going to seek re-election,” Markham said.
After thinking it over a couple of days and discussing it with friends, Markham, State Representative for the 34th District from 1979 to 1992, decided to give it a go.
“I decided I could certainly handle it,” he said. “I know the ropes up there. I’ve got a good business background. I’ve got a good community background. So I’ll give it a shot.”
Markham started in politics a year or so out of college when he joined the East Hampton Democratic Town Committee, was elected treasurer because of his accounting background and became town chair a year later.
When Bill O’Neill, the 34th District State Representative at the time, decided to run for Lt. Governor in 1978, Markham chose to run for the future Governor's old seat, winning by more than 1,200 votes.
After 14 years representing the District, including as Deputy Speaker in 1991-92, he decided not to seek re-election.
“I had pretty much decided I needed a respite from it,” Markham said. “I needed to do some work, put my kids through school, be with my family, build my business, things like that.”
With the children grown and now a realtor, Markham found himself with a little more time and flexibility, so, with his wife’s blessing, the decision was made and he spent the weekend contacting delegates hoping to make a favorable impression.
“Normally, I would have liked a month or six weeks so I could personally visit with every delegate long before the convention so I could gain their support,” he said. “This is one of those situations where they’re coming in cold. They don’t necessarily know me and I don’t know them.”
Which is the case with the other candidates, too. The 33rd District consists of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook. That’s a lot of territory and delegates to get to know in a few days.
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So, the party held what amounted to a meet and greet Sunday night. The event allowed the delegates an opportunity to ask questions and otherwise get acquainted with the candidates.
It’s not normally part of the process, but given the timing of Daily’s announcement, a necessary one.
“These delegates have a very important task to choose a new senator to represent the party since 1992 and they wanted an opportunity to get together to at least meet some of the people,” said Lon Seidman of the 33rd District State Central Committee. “This is an opportunity for the delegates to hear from the candidates. Normally it’s incumbent on the candidates to make that effort.”
Neil Nichols of Essex, the Republican candidate in 2010, has already received the Republican nomination at its convention, but by a thin margin over Art Linares. It is expected the two will face a primary.
Is a primary a possibility on the Democrats’ side?
“I think a primary could very well occur,” Markham said. “I’m in it for the long haul. I’ve waged primaries since I was a legislator in the state house and I’m willing to do it again. I don’t like to do it but I will.”
Klinck, a realtor and former state commissioner on the Department on Aging, wouldn’t say.
“I’m not sure I would do it,” she said, adding that she would make a decision after the convention. “If I get close, then you think about it differently.”
Klinck described herself as in good health, with lots of energy and more than ready to work hard to keep a Democratic seat in the 33rd Senate District.
“I am anxious to serve and be a true advocate for the elderly, women and children,” she said. “As a small business owner and a member of the executive committee of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, I am anxious to be a State Senator to support a bill with bipartisan support to extend aid to small businesses and provide incentives for hiring.”
Crawford, State Representative of the 35th District, retired teacher and former small businessman, had in March he would seek re-election to that seat.
He still might, but his focus over the weekend turned to the 33rd Senate seat. After discussing the race with his wife, he made the decision to run on Sunday afternoon, saying, “This opportunity doesn’t present itself very often.”
“With the retirement of two Senate icons, Edith Prague and Eileen Daily, this election is especially critical for the Democratic Party,” Crawford said in an email to Patch. “The strongest candidate needs to take the field and advocate for the initiatives that are beginning to pay dividends with job creation and economic revitalization in our state. I believe I have the experience, resolve and energy to address the long-term agenda for Connecticut that will return us to the forefront of innovation and productivity.”
A member of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, including his current role as Chair of the East Hampton-Portland Division, jobs are one of the key issues Markham sees facing the state.
“I would like to frame a lot of the issues around two things: Enhancement of jobs and how we structure our educational system to fill the jobs,” he said. “One of the big areas that is overlooked is that we have a lot of skilled people that are on the verge of retiring and there is going to be an enormous void to fill those.”