AREAWIDE—Essex Democrat Terrance Lomme and Clinton Republican Anselmo Delia square off Tuesday for the new nine-town regional probate court judgeship that becomes effective in January.
Both men are lawyers, Lomme for the past 30 years, Delia for the past 28 years. Lomme also served for three years as judge of probate in East Haddam before moving to Essex in 1994.
The formation of the new regional probate court, which will have an office in Old Saybrook, marks the culmination of a decade of debate over the future of the state’s probate court system. Rising costs for local probate courts in each town led the General Assembly to mandate a regionalization of probate courts in 2008. The new district includes the towns of Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Haddam, Killingworth, Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook.
Delia, 55, had an easy and uncontested path to the GOP nomination. Lomme, 62, captured the party endorsement from a field of six candidates at a hotly contested nominating convention in May, and then secured the Democratic nomination by defeating Raymond Rigat, the Clinton judge of probate, on a 2,239-1,683 vote in an Aug. 10 primary.
The candidates have waged a quiet campaign, using roadside billboards and mailings to boost name recognition. Lomme has raised and spent more campaign dollars than Delia, including donating or loaning about $20,000 in personal funds for the campaign. Lomme had raised a total of $23,553 according to the Oct. 10 campaign finance filing. Delia has raised about $13,000, including about $6,500 in personal funds. The probate court races are not covered under the state Citizens Election Fund program that provides public funding for statewide and legislative candidates.
Both candidates pledge to work for a smooth transition toward the opening of the new regional probate court in January. Each plans to have one full-time chief clerk for the court, while retaining any or all of the current local probate clerks on a part-time basis for cases out of their towns.
Delia has pledged to implement a “roving court as the need arises,” hearing certain cases in the towns where the cases originate. Lomme said the state’s Probate Court Administration has not authorized satellite courts, though judges are allowed to bring a hearing to the client if the individual is unable to get to the main court office.
Delia, who ran unsuccessfully in a Republican primary for the 33rd district state senate nomination in 1990, contends he has a broader record of community and volunteer service than Lomme, including elected positions such as Clinton board of education and planning and zoning commission, and volunteer service for the Cub Scouts and Clinton Youth and Family Services. “That is a significant difference,” he said.
Lomme maintains he has “more experience and more specific experience” in probate law. Lomme said his legal practice has always been in the Middlesex County towns that comprise the district, while noting that Delia’s practice is based in Branford. “I have practiced in all of the local courts that make up the district,” he said.
There have been no formal debates during the campaign, though Lomme said he attempted to arrange a public debate in Clinton earlier this month. The two rivals made a single joint appearance before an audience of senior citizens in Killingworth. The new regional judge of probate elected Tuesday takes office in January for a four year term ending in 2014.
Charles Stannard is a lifelong resident of Essex, and has covered various Middlesex County towns for two daily newspapers over the past 30 years. He worked for the Middletown Press from 1979 to 1995 and the Hartford Courant from 1997 through last summer, and covered Chester, Deep River, Essex and Killingworth for the past decade. Charlie lives in the Ivoryton section of Essex.