AREAWIDE— State Rep. Jim Crawford of Westbrook won the Democratic Party endorsement for the 33rd Senate District at the district nominating convention held Monday at Essex Town Hall.
Crawford won the endorsement on a third ballot of the 58 delegates from the 12-town district, out-polling Mary Ellen Klinck of East Haddam and former state Rep. Dean Markham of East Hampton. The final vote was 31 for Crawford to 27 for Klinck, with Markham eliminated from the roll call after the third ballot.
A long-time social studies teacher at Westbrook High School, Crawford was elected in 2010 in the 35th House District covering Clinton, Killingworth, and most of Westbrook. He had served previously on the Westbrook Board of Selectmen.
Crawford is hoping to succeed ten-term State Senator Eileen Daily, who attended the convention Monday and received a warm standing ovation from the delegates. Until last week, Crawford had been set to accept renomination this week for a second term in the 35th House District. But Daily’s May 15 announcement that she would not seek a new term this year led him shift to a run for the senate seat.
Crawford, Klinck, and Markham confirmed their plans to run over the weekend, and met informally with many delegates in an informal gathering Sunday at Deep River Town Hall. The 33rd District includes the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook, and portions of Old Saybrook.
Crawford was nominated by former state Rep. Brian O’Connor of Clinton, who held the 35th House District seat from 20000 to 2010. O’Connor said Crawford has “proven himself an effective and pragmatic legislator after only one term.” In his own remarks to the convention, Crawford said he has the best experience for the position, adding “I am currently able to tell you where the battle lines are.”
Klinck, a realtor, former restauranteur and party activist who served as the first commissioner of the state Department on Aging during the 1980s, was described in a seconding speech from former East Haddam First Selectman Brad Parker as “the ultimate Democrat for our region.” Klinck told the crowd she had wanted to run for the seat in 1992, but deferred to Daily.
Markham, a realtor and certified public accountant who represented the East Hampton-based 34th House District from 1979-1993, was nominated by East Hampton Councilwoman Barbara Moore. Markham told the delegates he “has a great insight in to the process and will be able to hit the ground running,” with a focus on boosting the area economy.
The vote on the first ballot was 24 for Crawford, 19 for Klinck, and 15 for Markham. Crawford had all or most of the delegates from Clinton, Essex, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook, while Klinck’s support was centered around East Haddam and Colchester. The vote on the second ballot was 29 for Crawford, one vote short of the 30 delegates required for a majority endorsement, with 17 for Klinck and 12 for Markham. Most of Markham’s support, which was centered around East Hampton, shifted to Klinck on the third ballot.
Crawford said after the vote he believes district Democrats would “stay united” moving toward the Nov. 6 election, though Klinck and Markham each said they would consider contesting Crawford for the nomination in an Aug 14 primary. District Republicans are expected to have a primary for the senate nomination after Neil Nichols of Essex edged Art Linares of Westbrook for the endorsement at the May 14 GOP nominating session. Klinck and Markham have until June 4 to formally file for a primary with Crawford, who as the convention-endorsed candidate would have the top line on the ballot.