After losing House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz’s district after he retired in 2020, Berlin and Southington Democrats are looking to a well-known former town manager to get them back in power in November.
Republicans, however, are campaigning to hold the 30th House District seat by supporting Rep. Donna Veach’s reelection bid. Veach won a convincing victory in 2020 in what had been a Democratic stronghold.
Southington and Berlin Democrats initially put forward Lois Campanelli to run against Veach, but she withdrew her candidacy. The party then chose Denise McNair in late July as their new candidate.
McNair is a former nine-year town manager of Berlin, and before that was tax collector.
“My husband, Jim, and I raised our family in Berlin and have long been part of the community here,” McNair said in a statement after being nominated.
Berlin Democratic Town Chair Kristin Campanelli and Southington Democratic Town Chair Erin Morran-Cowles both said their committees will work for McNair.
McNair is an attorney who previously worked as an assistant clerk in the state Superior Court and in general practice at the Eisenberg, Anderson, Michalik & Lynch firm.
McNair was town manager from 2008 to 2017, leaving when the council’s Republican majority signaled that it wanted to replace her.
The council supported a separation agreement for her on a party line vote that year. At the time, Mayor Mark Kaczynski told reporters that she wasn’t being terminated and that she had done a good job, but nevertheless insisted the town needed the change.
The 30th District was solidly in Democratic control during most of Aresimowicz’s time in office. He was first elected in 2004, and frequently ran unopposed in his seven successful reelection campaigns.
Along the way, the former Berlin councilman became one of the most powerful leaders in the General Assembly. He was chosen as the House Majority Leader, and became Speaker of the House in 2017.
But Aresimowicz’s popularity was waning before he decided to leave after his final term ended in 2020.
He had defeated Republican Michael Gagliardi in 2018 by a mere 50 votes out of 11,746 ballots that were cast. Aresimowicz won narrowly in Berlin, and lost narrowly in Southington.
The key to the 2018 election was his endorsement by the Working Families Party, which added nearly 400 votes to the 5,499 that he took on the Democratic line. Without that, he would have lost.
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The Working Families support was also critical in 2016, when Aresimowicz beat Republican Christopher Morelli 6,886 to 6,389. Working Families ballots accounted for 671 of Aresimowicz’s votes, well more than his margin of victory.
Elections in the 30th District, which covers parts of Berlin and Southington, frequently drew heavy participation by organized labor during Aresimowicz’s terms.
Numerous construction and trades unions along with the state AFL-CIO and the state chapter of the Communications Workers of America typically endorsed Aresimowicz.
But union support and the Working Families’ endorsement weren’t enough for JoAnn Angelico-Stetson, who ran on the Democratic line after Aresimowicz left. Veach defeated her and Republicans are looking to her to repeat this November.
Veach continues to serve on Berlin’s town council, and in the General Assembly she is a member of the judiciary, education, and planning and development committees.
She is the development director for the New Britain Youth Museum and a former president of the Greater New Britain Arts Alliance.
Her campaign website focuses heavily on reducing taxes and regulation for Connecticut businesses and restricting early release for prisoners.