February 24, 2020

Mary Ellen Klinck Files for Democratic Primary in 33rd Senate District

AREAWIDE-— Mary Ellen Klinck of East Haddam confirmed Friday that she will pursue a primary challenge to James Crawford of Westbrook, the Democratic convention endorsed candidate for the open seat in the 12-town 33rd Senate District.

Klinck, a former state commissioner on aging and a Democratic State Central Committee member, said she has established a candidate committee and filed for the Aug. 14 primary. It would be the first Democratic primary for the senate nomination in decades, though district Republicans had primaries in 1982 and 1990.

Crawford, a former social studies teacher at Westbrook Middle School who has represented the 35th House District for the past two years, won the Democratic endorsement over Klinck with a 31-27 delegate vote on the third ballot at the May 21 nominating convention. A third candidate, former state Rep. Dean Markham of East Hampton, also qualified for the primary but has decided not to remain in the race. The candidates are competing to succeed ten-term Democratic State Senator Eileen Daily of Westbrook, who announced on May 15 that she would not seek another term this year.

Klinck, who confirmed she is “a little older” than the 69-year-old Daily, said the incumbent senator’s late withdrawal had led to a “rushed” nominating process in the days before the convention. “We had very little notice, only a few days, and we never had a chance to meet with the Democratic town committees in the district,” Klinck said.

At the convention, Klinck received most of her delegate support from towns in the northern section of the district, particularly Colchester and East Haddam, while Crawford was supported by delegates from the southern towns, such as Clinton, Westbrook, and Essex. The district includes the towns of Clinton, Chester, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Old Saybrook and Westbrook.

Klinck said she does not believe a primary would divide district Democrats, but instead “would give us both exposure,” and a chance to become better known to voters in all sections of the district. Klinck said she stands ready to debate Crawford before the Aug. 14 vote, but intends to “run a clean campaign,” that begins with a pledge to actively support the winner of the nomination contest.

A primary for the Republican nomination in the district was averted last week when Neil Nichols of Essex, who won the endorsement at the May 14 GOP nominating convention, withdraw and endorsed his convention rival, Art Linares of Westbrook. Nichols, who had unsuccessfully challenged Daily in 2010, edged the 23 year-old Linares on a 24-22 delegate vote at the convention.

Crawford said Friday he accepts Klinck’s decision to wage a primary. “Mary Ellen Klinck has been an important part of the Democratic Party in our state for a long time and if she feels a primary is necessary I’m prepared to go that route,” he said.
 Crawford added that he does not believe the contest would be divisive for district Democrats, and could help each candidate become better known to district voters. Crawford said he is prepared to meet Klinck in a public debate if a group steps forward to organize one.
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