In one of the closest races for Connecticut attorney general in recent memory, Democrat William Tong edged out Republican Sue Hatfield to become the state’s first-ever Asian-American attorney general. With 94 percent of votes counted, Tong was leading Hatfield 681,301 to 624,465 Wednesday morning. Green Party candidate Peter Goselin rounded out the three-way field with 14,521 votes.
The race between the candidates for attorney general, specifically Tong and Hatfield, grew bitter in the final weeks. Both candidates aired negative advertisements against each other, and came out swinging in the Oct. 30 University of Connecticut School of Law debate, the last one in which the three candidates faced off. That debate, in which the candidates also took questions from the Connecticut Law Tribune, touched on issues ranging from opioids to guns and President Donald Trump.
Hatfield, who was trying to become the first elected woman to the post, reiterated her claim during the debate that Tong would be hostile to working with the Trump administration on issues such as the environment and opioids. Those are areas, she said, where resources and support from the administration would be beneficial to Connecticut. She also continued to say that Tong, the 45-year-old co-chairman of the state House Judiciary Committee, would be an activist attorney general.
For his part, Tong said he’d be a strong opponent of the Trump administration and its policies. He did say that he’d work with the administration when necessary, but has continued to be critical of Hatfield’s close ties to the president. He has repeatedly said the 46-year-old Hatfield, who was a 2016 Trump delegate at the Republican convention. would be in lockstep with Trump’s policies.
Gun control also played a big role in the campaign. Tong continued to take swipes at the National Rifle Association and has said his entire political career has been to make the state safer for residents by implementing what he calls sensible gun-control measures.
Hatfield, who worked for the New York City law firm Hawkins, Delafield & Wood, is currently on an unpaid leave of absence as a prosecutor. She has throughout her campaign called herself a “strong Second Amendment person,” and believes that while law-abiding citizens should have guns, more needs to be done with regards to mental health and not allowing those who have serious mental health issues own weapons.
On other issues, Hatfield, who had never run for office before, said she’d work closely with the business community to keep businesses in the Nutmeg State. She repeatedly praised outgoing Democratic Attorney General George Jepsen for, in her words, not politicizing the office, something, Hatfield said, Tong would do. Tong had called many of Hatfield’s positions “extreme.”
Tong, currently of counsel at Finn, Dixon & Herling, called for the creation of a civil rights division within the Office of Attorney General.
Goselin, who portrayed himself as the outsider and the alternative to what he saw as politics as usual, said he was talking about issues Tong and Hatfield did not address. They included police brutality and police violence and education equity. Goselin has called Tong “[Gov. Dannel] Malloy light” and Hatfield “Trump light.” Goselin is a 58-year-old West Hartford resident who has practiced law for 23 years, including the last eight as a solo practitioner.
In news late Tuesday not likely to affect the outcome of the attorney general’s race, the Associated Press reported the campaign of Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bob Stefanowski filed a request for a court injunction looking to have the ballots of a group of new voters, waiting in line for same-day registration, in New Haven and Mansfield separated. Superior Court Judge Cesar Noble will hold a hearing Friday morning to determine whether the approximately 200 ballots need to be individually reviewed.
In a statement regarding Election Day voting issues in New Haven, the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut issued a statement late Tuesday, before the court injunction request. It said, “New Haven’s repeated failure to staff its polling places with enough workers to ensure people’s rights to vote is practically inviting a lawsuit. The long lines and discouraged voters we saw today were a completely avoidable situation.”