Kelly prevails in the 21st

STRATFORD — Voters returned Republican Kevin Kelly to a fifth term in the state Senate on Tuesday.

Kelly narrowly lost in Stratford to his Democratic opponent, Monica Tujak Brill. But his victories in the other municipalities included in the 21st Senate district easily put him over the top. These included Monroe, Seymour and Shelton.

“I would like to congratulate Monica for running a civil and gracious campaign,” Kelly said after unofficial numbers were announced. “I will continue to focus on families, affordable health care and seniors, and I’d like to thank the voters in the 21st for placing their trust in me again.”

The unofficial results had Kelly ahead 22,892 to 17,004. Kelly lost in the Stratford section of the 21st, however, 7,851 to 7,953.

Brill, although falling short, said that she was encouraged by her results in Stratford.

“I think we did very well,” Brill said, noting this was her first run at public office. “My win in Stratford should send a message — the young people came out to support us and they are our next generation.”

Brill had a tall mountain to climb. Kelly always seemed to have an easy time of it on Election Day, and Tuesday’s contest was no exception.

In the 2016 race, Kelly cruised past Stratford Democrat Prez Palmer. The tally was 28,761 for Kelly and 15,342 for Palmer.

Kelly, a former town attorney, also faced Palmer in 2014. In that race, Kelly trounced him by a 2 to 1 ratio, or 21,675 to 10,317. Political insiders never considered Palmer as a serious contender.

In 2012 Kelly ran unopposed for the 21st. He was first elected to the seat in 2010; at that time the incumbent was Dan Debicella, also a Republican. Kelly’s opponent in that 2010 race was former Stratford mayor James Miron, whose term as mayor ended in December 2009. The tally in 2010 was Kelly, 22,455; Miron, 10,864.

The 21st includes parts of Monroe, Seymour and Stratford and all of Shelton. Both Brill and Kelly live in Stratford.

The seat has been locked up by Republicans for decades. Debicella, who lives in Shelton, represented the 21st from 2006 to 2010. Before that the seat was occupied by the late George “Doc” Gunther from 1966 to 2006. Gunther, who lived on Judson Street in Stratford, was the longest-serving state legislator in Connecticut history.

Kelly, 58, is the Senate Republican co-chairman of the Aging Committee and the Insurance and Real Estate Committee and he also serves as the Senate Republican vice-chairman of the Housing Committee and the Human Services Committee. He received his bachelor’s degree at Assumption College in 1982, his master’s degree at Fairfield University in 1985, and his law degree from the University of Connecticut School Of Law in 1997.

Brill, 52, served as senior finance director at Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, and is currently controller at New Opportunities, Inc., an agency that provides social service programs to the needy in 27 municipalities including Waterbury. She previously managed large accounts such as the Guggenheim Museum for the international accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand and was controller at the The Frick Collection.

Kelly heads his Stratford law office, Kevin Kelly & Associates. With his wife, Cindy, he has four children and five grandchildren.