Connecticut’s next governor will be Democrat Ned Lamont. Republican Bob Stefanowski conceded the race to his opponent just before 9 a.m.
"A few moments ago, I called Ned Lamont to concede the race for governor and congratulate him on a hard-fought victory," Stefanowski said in an emailed statement. "I wish both Ned and the state of Connecticut success over these next four years."
Stefanowski first broke news of his concession on WPLR-FM. "When Bridgeport came in that was a surprise," he said. "Bridgeport was a much bigger number in his favor than we thought."
As of 9:07 a.m., the latest unofficial numbers from the Secretary of the State's office have Lamont up by more than 15,000 votes in Brideport, with all of that city's precincts reporting.
Statewide, Lamont leads by more than 25,000 votes with 94 percent of precincts reporting results.
Late Tuesday night, it appeared the eventual outcome would be complicated by contested ballots that the GOP sought to have ruled invalid.
Wednesday morning, Stefanowski said he was dropping that challenge.
"We'll let that go," Stefanowski said. "Ned's won this thing fair and square."
Same-day voter registration proved problematic in at least two Connecticut municipalities. In New Haven, hundreds of people, many of them Yale University students, waited hours in New Haven City Hall to register to vote.
Connecticut Election Day Registration law requires people to be registered and in the system before the polls closed at 8 p.m. in order to vote. With many people still not registered close to the deadline, attorneys from the secretary of the state's office stepped in, and swore in the new voters en masse, before the deadline, allowing them to cast a ballot.
That prompted the Stefanowski campaign to accuse the secretary of the state's office of circumventing state law in New Haven and in Mansfield, where there were also issues. The GOP sought an injunction in Hartford Superior court, requesting the registrar of voters separate Election Day registration votes in New Haven.
According to the Hartford Courant, Superior court judge Cesar Noble has ordered that several hundred of those ballots be set aside for possible review. The judge would have held a hearing Friday on the fate of those votes.
It was a contentious race from the beginning. Lamont had to distance himself from incumbent Dannel Malloy, who is by some measures the most unpopular governor in the nation. Malloy chose not to run again after two terms in charge. He’s been dogged by fiscal problems, as he seeks to solve Connecticut’s decades-long refusal to fund its public pension obligations.
The polls going into Tuesday’s vote showed a close race. Although Lamont had a statistical advantage in most estimates, he was within the margin of error. One poll from Sacred Heart University showed Stefanowski four points ahead just days before voting.
Some pundits had speculated early on that minority voters, essential to a Democratic win, may have been turned off by Lamont’s embrace of establishment Democrat Susan Bysiewicz as his running mate. Newcomer Eva Bermudez Zimmerman, who is of Puerto Rican heritage, had made a strong challenge for the lieutenant governor slot, but was defeated at the convention.
Stefanowski, who was a surprise win in a crowded Republican primary, appears to have made headway against the anticipated “blue wave” of opposition to GOP candidates. The former business executive has never held elected office, and had not voted in several previous elections. He also had not lived in Connecticut for most of the last decade. Stefanowski ran an unconventional campaign, mostly shunning press coverage. Instead he spent early and heavily on television advertising, seeking to tie his opponent to the unpopular Malloy.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said Tuesday night it’s possible there may be no definitive result in the governor’s race until Wednesday afternoon, recalling memories of the closely fought contest between Republican Tom Foley and Dannel Malloy in 2010.
This report includes information from the Associated Press.
This story originally ran on Connecticut Public Radio.