June 25, 2017

Essex First Selectman Needleman Declares as State Senate Democratic Candidate

Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman makes a point during his speech announcing his run for the State Senate.

Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman makes a point during his speech announcing his run for the State Senate.

AREAWIDE — Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman Tuesday announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the 33rd Senate District, setting up a high profile contest with two-term Republican State Senator Art Linares of Westbrook in the sprawling 10-town district.

Needleman, 65, told a crowd of about 60 friends and supporters gathered at the Gelston House in East Haddam that  he is ready to offer “common sense, sound business judgment, problem-solving skills, and an awareness of how decisions made in Hartford affect our small towns.” Needleman said he would work to build consensus at the Capitol, suggesting the 28-year-old Linares has been “just another partisan voice,” who “retreats to his ideological corners.”

A large crowd of supporters attended the event at the Gelston House in East Haddam.

Middletown Mayor Dan Drew, Deputy Secretary of the State and former state representative James Spallone and Democratic State Central Committeeman Justin Kronholm applaud Needleman’s announcement

A Brooklyn, N.Y. native who moved to Connecticut in the 1980s, Needleman is the founder and owner of Tower Laboratories, a manufacturer of effervescent products with 200 employees and plants in Essex and Clinton. He was elected to the Essex Board of Selectmen in 2003 as the running mate to former Democratic First Selectman Phill Miller, moving up to the town’s top job after Miller was elected state representative in the 36th House District in 2011. Needleman was unopposed for a second term in 2013, and last fall was re-elected to a third term, defeating Republican Selectman Bruce Glowac by an 80-vote margin.

Needleman said he made a final decision to run for the legislative seat on March 29, the day Linares cast one of only a handful of opposing votes against an interim deficit reduction package that was backed by both Democratic and Republican leaders. Needleman said he is planning an active campaign, and hopes to participate in several public debates with Linares.

Needleman_shaking_hands

Deputy Secretary of the State and former state representative James Spallone congratulates Needleman on the announcement of his candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the 33rd Senate District

Several area  Democratic leaders turned out for Needleman’s announcement, including Middletown Mayor Dan Drew, who described Needleman as a “true humanitarian,” who is widely respected by all of the other mayors and first selectmen in the state.”

Also on hand were the current roster of Democratic chief elected officials in the 10-town district, including  seven-term Portland First Selectwoman Susan Bransfield, who described Needleman as “a man who understands the needs of Middlesex County,” Chester First Selectwoman Lauren Gister, elected last fall, and Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald Jr. who was appointed as interim first selectman earlier his month after the unexpected death of long-time first selectman Richard Smith.

There was also one apparent Republican supporter in attendance, longtime Lyme First Selectman Ralph Eno.

The district includes the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Lyme, Westbrook, and portions of Old Saybrook.

Linares, a co-founder of the Greenskies solar energy company, was elected in 2012 to a seat that had been held for two decades by the late former Senator Eileen Daily of Westbrook. Linares won a second term in 2014, defeating Democrat Emily Bjornberg of Lyme on a 22,672-17,326 vote in a race where Bjornberg also had the Working Families Party ballot line and Linares had a Connecticut Independent Party ballot line.

Needleman is the only candidate for the Democratic nomination that will be formally awarded at a May 23 convention. Republicans are expected to nominate Linares for a third term at a May 11 convention in East Haddam.  There may also be a Green Party candidate in the race. Colin Bennett of Westbrook, running on the Green Party line, garnered 527 votes in 2014.
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