U.S. Rep. Jim Himes kept Connecticut’s 4th District in Democratic hands Tuesday, as Republicans won a majority of seats in the U.S. Senate to take control of both houses of Congress.
The generations of Republican dominance in southwestern Connecticut appears officially over. Himes is the first Democrat to win a fourth term in the district in 170 years.
“If we are going to move this country forward we need to find ways to meet in the middle,” Himes said at his victory celebration, “so once again we can govern ourselves.”
He defeated Dan Debicella of Shelton. “We all need to come together now, and both sides need to work together for the good of the country,” Debicella said to reporters on election night at Vazzy’s in Shelton, where he and Shelton Republicans had gathered.
The 4th Congressional District includes much of Fairfield County, including most of Shelton.
Challenger awaits results
The night began with promise for the challenger, who arrived shortly after 9 p.m. with Himes holding 52% of the vote. However, the early returns did not include the cities of Stamford and Bridgeport, and the towns of Ridgefield, Fairfield, Wilton and part of Darien, where poll results were being tallied.
Debicella conceded to a group of reporters about an hour later based on margins and unofficial results that showed Himes building an advantage too steep for the Republican to overcome.
Debicella said he lost Norwalk by 5,000 votes, Bridgeport by 11,000 votes and Stamford by 7,000. He told reporters he knew his strong showing in the suburbs would be overwhelmed by the Democratic turnout in the cities.
The Himes campaign’s election night headquarters at the Bridgeport Holiday Inn was abuzz when the grinning congressman entered the lobby, soon swarmed by supporters, friends and family.
Himes is seeking ‘unity’
“My main hope is for a Congress that will discover some kind of unity since the last four years have brought a lot of indecisiveness and gridlock,” Himes said. “We have a lot of work to do and people are tired of the polarization.”
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch shared Himes’ feelings of frustration toward Congress. “We need a man like him,” Finch said. “We’re just currently frustrated by the deadlock in Washington.”
Himes called on the federal government to use its power and act. “The government can only move our country forward when it addresses the problems that affect our country,” he said.
Upgrading infrastructure is a priority
“For Connecticut,” Himes said, “I believe that we need to work on meaningful investments in our infrastructure. We’re seeing these structures fall apart all around us, and it’s up to us to place our efforts into not only fixing but improving in order to advance as a people and a district.”
For the first time since before Himes was elected in 2008, his party has lost control of both houses of Congress.
Debicella: ‘Proud of the race we ran’
“We are very proud of the race we ran,” said Debicella, a former two-term state senator who also lost to Himes in 2010.
Compared the race for governor in Connecticut — rated one of the nastiest in the nation — the race for southwestern Connecticut’s congressman focused mainly on the issues and differences of opinion between Himes and Debicella.
Voters wanted change?
Earlier in the evening, before the polls closed at 8 p.m., the Republican supporters in the restaurant had talked about how they sensed voters wanted change. “There’s a call for change,” said Republican state Rep. Ben McGorty of Shelton, who won his own race.
That was not to be in the 4th District, which elected a Democrat to a fourth term in Congress for the first time since 1874, according to a tweet from New Canaan Democrats.
“The thing I learned is that people in the suburbs and the cities are the same,” Debicella said. “We all want the American Dream.”