Jim Crawford withstood the challenge of two other opponents and prevailed on the third ballot to secure the Democratic nomination for the 33rd Senate District on Monday night.
The convention at Essex Town Hall ended a crazy week that began with Eileen Daily’s that she would not seek re-election for the seat she has held for 20 years.
Over the past several days, it was Crawford, Mary Ellen Klinck and Dean Markham who stepped up to for the District that serves Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook.
The decision did not come easily for Crawford, who had already announced he would seek re-election as State Representative to the 35th Assembly District.
“I don’t know if you’ve had a decision to make and once you made it, the burden was lifted and you just felt that was the right thing,” he said. “I decided in the middle of the week I wasn’t going to [run] but it never felt like [the burden] went away. I’m fairly confident if I worked hard I had a pretty solid chance of being re-elected to the House and did I want to give that up for this big risk.”
So Crawford, a lifelong resident of Westbrook, discussed it more with his wife, Elaine, and by Sunday afternoon he had the decision he could feel good about.
“In the end, this opportunity doesn’t come along very often,” he said. “I’m going to be 63 in December and if I was going to do it, now is the time to do it.”
Crawford, bouyed by strong support from the southern towns in the District, won the first ballot with 24 votes to Klinck’s 19 and Markham’s 15, but fell short of the simple majority needed. On the second ballot, he pulled in 29 votes, one short of the nomination. Klinck had 17 and Markham 12.
“It was so close you can almost feel it,” Crawford said. “I thought, well maybe it would be better on the third one. Then when the third one started it looked like the momentum had shifted and it was pretty nerve racking till the very end.”
With Markham, a former 14-year State Representative from East Hampton, off the third ballot by rule, many of his votes swung to Klinck, but Crawford found enough to win, 31-27.
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“I have the utmost respect for those two folks who were candidates,” Crawford said. “They have very impressive backgrounds and to be chosen over them, I am very humbled by it.”
Klinck, who is from East Haddam, felt the key was her not getting votes from the Haddam delegation.
“Haddam disappointed me,” she said. “I just wish I could have gotten Haddam.”
Klinck was uncertain if she would seek a primary.
“I’m going to take a few days and think about it,” she said. “I did very well. I have to think about what it does to the District."
Markham seemed to back off earlier comments saying he would primary, instead wanting to think it over. As for the nomination, he saw no surprises with how the voting went.
“I saw clearly what I suspected would happen,” he said. “The shoreline towns were a solid block. They had the blessings of the State Senator from their area for 20 years and they decided amongst themselves that that’s what they wanted to keep.”
For Markham, it was his first taste of running for office since 1990.
“I found once I got back into it that campaigning is a lot of fun,” he said. “I spent a lot of time trying to touch base in a very short period of time with delegates, town chairs and others and had other good conversations. It’s a good feeling. I’m a pretty upbeat guy, I’m not a real negative guy, so whatever happens here, they’re my friends.
The convention began with a standing ovation for Daily, who was in attendance, followed by many kind words for the State Senator by the nominating speakers and the candidates.
Said Markham: “You’ve done a marvelous job. You’ve been a rock for us for 20 years. And we are going to miss you. We will look to you for counsel in the future because it’s so important the mind that you have and what you’ve done for us.”
As a retired teacher, Crawford spoke passionately about education during his speech to the delegates, but it was his current experience as a legislator that he stressed in closing.
“I feel I have the best experience for this position,” he said. “I am currently able to tell you where the battle lines are. I am currently able to tell you who the true commanders are, and I also know what the field of battle looks like in Hartford. We need to go there and we need to make change by being innovative, being collaborative and find ways to consolidate and focus our attention on problems, working to bring our state back to the prominence it had.”
With the convention nomination in hand, Crawford will now pull out of the 35th Assembly District race.
“I am fully committed to this race and will give up the House seat,” he said.
As for the possibility of a primary, Crawford appreciated his opponents would take the time to consider the pros and cons of one, but added, “If we need to primary, I am ready to do that.”