West Hartford Deputy Mayor Beth Kerrigan said Friday that she has decided to pursue the State Senate seat being vacated by Beth Bye.
By Ronni Newton
Another prominent West Hartford Democrat has announced plans to pursue the 5th District State Senate seat that will be vacated by Beth Bye on Jan. 9.
Beth Kerrigan, who is currently West Hartford’s deputy mayor, said Friday evening that after a lot of self-reflection and discussion with her family, she plans to seek nomination for the special election for the position. She said her wife, Jody Mock, and their two sons know that being a state senator is a difficult task, but are supportive.
“Yes, I am pursuing it,” Kerrigan said Friday in a phone interview.
“I think the world of Beth Bye, and she’s a tough act to follow,” said Kerrigan. “She doesn’t just set the bar, she is the bar.”
Bye, who was re-elected to the 5th District State Senate seat in November, has been tapped by Gov.-elect Ned Lamont to head the Office of Early Childhood and will not take the oath of office when the new legislative session begins on Jan 9.
Kerrigan said she considered her values, who she is as a person and what she has done since she has been in public service – on the West Hartford Town Council where she is in her second term, and in her previous role on the West Hartford Democratic Town Committee.
“I am a strong voice for working people, a strong voice for West Hartford, and I’m not afraid to stand outside my party,” said Kerrigan. She said she’s willing to take the risk, to stand up for what she believes, even if it’s not popular.
Given the chance, she said, she would like to use her strong voice to support the residents of Bloomfield, Burlington, and Farmington, as she has for West Hartford.
“We are looking at tough times,” Kerrigan said of the state’s fiscal situation. Having worked through the West Hartford budget, she said, she will be able to bring that knowledge to the state level.
Kerrigan said that she believes she aligns well with Bye, that they have similar core values.
Being female is just one factor that Kerrigan thinks is important. “At a time when we are making great strides across the board – right now when the legislature is 25 percent female – to slide backward doesn’t bode well.”
She said she would like to see a greater number of minorities and the under-represented in the legislature, so it’s more representative of the population as a whole.
“I would rather have a Democratic woman with the core values of Beth Bye because we are trying to get equity in the number of representatives at the capitol,” she said, however, she added that she would prefer to see a male Democrat rather than a Republican woman.
The news about Bye’s appointment broke on Wednesday morning, and was immediately followed by a flurry of discussion about who would succeed the popular state senator. Derek Slap, who was re-elected in November to his second term as 19th District State Representative, was the first to publicly declare his candidacy.
Jillian Gilchrest, who defeated 12-term incumbent Andy Fleischmann in the 18th District Democratic primary in August and beat Republican Mary Fay in the November election to earn the House seat, initially expressed some interest in the State Senate seat, but on Friday she submitted a letter to the editor to We-Ha.com outlining the reasons why she has decided not to pursue Bye’s seat.
Janée Woods-Weber, a West Hartford attorney who is director of organizational culture with the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Foundation and a member of the state committee for the Working Families Party, has also expressed interest in pursuing the seat.
Kerrigan said Slap is a great guy and that they are good friends. She knows Woods-Weber as well. “I think the world of both,” she said.
“We are so lucky to have so many good, qualified candidates,” said Kerrigan. “There’s not a bad person in the mix.”
In addition to Slap and Woods-Weber, Kerrigan said she believes another West Hartford woman is considering a run, along with the Democratic Town Committee chair of one of the other 5th District towns. The news of the vacant seat is still relatively new, Kerrigan said.
The process of filling Bye’s seat will officially begin with the convening of delegates from the 5th District – the same group of delegates who nominated Bye last year. Republicans, or other party organizations, can also nominate a candidate. A special election – open to all voters in the district – will follow about 46 days later. The date will be set by the Secretary of State’s Office.
On the Republican side, West Hartford resident Mark Merritt, a financial service professional who challenged Bye for the 5th District seat in 2016, told We-Ha.com on Thursday that he is considering a run for the seat.
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