Connecticut Attorney General-Elect William Tong. Connecticut Attorney General-elect William Tong. Courtesy photo.

 

Connecticut Attorney General-elect William Tong, who took part in a hard-fought and often bitter campaign between his Republican challenger Sue Hatfield and Green Party candidate Peter Goselin, vows to work with all parties as he transitions into his new job.

In an exclusive interview with the Connecticut Law Tribune Wednesday morning, Tong said he received a “very gracious call” at 9 a.m. from Hatfield, with whom he butted heads on issues from immigration to President Donald Trump. But Tong, a 45-year-old Democrat, said he hopes to work closely with Hatfield as she returns to her job as a state prosecutor with the Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice.

“She and her family should be proud of what they accomplished,” said Tong, who becomes the state’s first and the country’s second Asian-American attorney general. “It was a competitive race, and Sue Hatfield ran a strong campaign. There was energy on both sides.”


Related story: Attorney General Candidate Susan Hatfield Talks Guns, Gingrich, Opioids


But now that the campaign is over, it’s time to look ahead, said Tong, who was the co-chairman of the state House Judiciary Committee.

Tong, who will take office succeeding Democrat George Jepsen on Jan. 9, said there are two immediate priorities. First: Defend the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare.

“There is a fight right now in federal court in Texas,” he said. “Thousands of Connecticut families depend on the ACA.” Texas is currently suing to end former President Barack Obama’s landmark health care law.

In addition, Tong said, he will immediately follow through with his pledge to try and create a civil rights division within the Attorney General’s Office, similar to ones in neighboring New York and Massachusetts. Tong, though, needs the state Legislature and Gov.-elect Ned Lamont to sign off on the plan.

“That [creating a civil rights division] will be the first bill I ask the Legislature to consider,” Tong said. “I will talk to Ned Lamont as soon as possible on it.”

Tong, who was perhaps more critical of the Trump policies than any other Democrat running for statewide office in Connecticut, said he believes he won because he tapped into what many in the Nutmeg State are feeling.

“People understand that our way of life is under attack here in Connecticut,” he said. “This was very personal for me. I will do everything I can to protect and defend Connecticut families. I look forward to continuing to work on critical issues, like the opioid crisis and prescription drug crisis, our crumbling foundations in eastern Connecticut and, of course, civil rights, including women’s rights and reproductive freedoms.”

Tong said he’s asked Timothy Birch, a partner at Finn, Dixon & Herling, to put together a transition team. Tong was of counsel at the firm.

Meanwhile, Hatfield, who was running in her first political campaign, could not be reached Wednesday.

And Goselin, who received 14,642 votes or slightly more than 1 percent of those tallied, told the Connecticut Law Tribune he was proud of the campaign he ran. The 58-year-old West Hartford resident and attorney said the results did not surprise him.


Related story: Attorney General Candidate Peter Goselin Talks Racial Profiling, Workers’ Rights in Interview


“We were shut out of almost all media coverage, and we had a tiny budget as compared to the $500,000 advertising budget each of the mainstream candidates had,” Goselin said. “I was not surprised by the outcome.”

Goselin said his campaign focused on the needs of working families, and addressed issues that neither Tong nor Hatfield discussed, including police brutality and racial profiling.

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