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Endorsed party candidates take Conn primaries

By Everton Bailey Jr.
Associated Press Writer / August 10, 2010

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HARTFORD, Conn.—There were very few surprises in the results of Connecticut's underticket primary races Tuesday, as the party-endorsed candidates for attorney general, secretary of the state and comptroller skated to victory.

In the Democratic primary for comptroller, state healthcare advocate Kevin Lembo defeated Waterbury Mayor Mike Jarjura by more than a 2-to-1 margin. Lembo's victory put an end to one of the more hard-fought statewide primary races this season.

Last month, Jarjura filed a federal lawsuit in an unsuccessful attempt to stop Lembo from receiving $375,000 in public campaign funds. Jarjura also accused Lembo of misleading voters about his position in the state's comptroller's office.

Meanwhile, Lembo repeatedly attacked his opponent's hiring of former Gov. John Rowland as Waterbury's economic development coordinator and has accused the mayor of being anti-choice.

"Every step of the way, we've made a point of comparing my record with my opponent's and making sure voters know that they have a choice," Lembo said Tuesday. "I'm just very pleased and grateful that the people have been willing to support me and that they believe in my vision."

After conceding the race Tuesday, Jarjura said he believes the next comptroller has a tough rough ahead of them.

"I guess it wasn't meant to be," he said. "My hope is that whoever wins in November can deal with the tsunami of problems facing our state."

Lembo faces Republican fashion executive Jack Orchulli in November.

State House Majority Leader Denise Merrill handily defeated former New Haven Alderman Gerry Garcia to win the Democratic primary for secretary of the state.

She said she is confident about her matchup against Republican state consumer protection commissioner Jerry Ferrell Jr., in the general election.

"I like my chances in November," she said. "I plan to run a race of integrity and positivity, I think that's what the people want."

Merrill said she would like to focus on developing ways to get more voters to the polls in the future, citing the low turnout in Tuesday's primary, which was estimated by the secretary of the state's office to be between 25-30 percent.

Merrill faces Republican state consumer protection commissioner Jerry Ferrell Jr., in November's general election.

Also, Avon attorney Martha Dean defeated Glastonbury lawyer Ross Garber to win the GOP primary for attorney general.

Dean now becomes the party's latest hopeful to become the first Republican attorney general since John J. Bracken left office in 1959. Garber had entered the race late, announcing his intentions just three days before the party's convention in May.

"I think the voters of Connecticut today were looking for a candidate that was serious, subsistive and on message," Dean said Tuesday." And I believe they saw that in me."

Garber said he was proud of his campaign's effort.

"It was an honor to be part of the dialogue and my team worked really hard," he said Tuesday. "I am humbled by their dedication."

Dean, who unsuccessfully ran for attorney general in 2002 against Richard Blumenthal, faces Democrat and former Senate Majority George Jepsen in November.

In a statement Tuesday, Jepsen said he looked forward to his faceoff against Dean.

"I am working to win this fall, but for tonight, my message to Martha is: congratulations, enjoy the win and get some rest," he said.

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