Local Democrats narrowly endorsed Aili McKeen to challenge Republican Senate leader Len Fasano in November’s race for the 34th Senate District.
McKeen, of Wallingford, got the nomination by a margin of two delegates, 22-20, over East Haven resident Josh Balter, who intends to primary for the nomination.
“Obviously, we need to take this to the voters,” Balter said Thursday about his decision to primary. Balter received 48 percent of delegates, more than the 15 percent needed to qualify for a primary.
McKeen works as an inventory specialist for a public insurance adjuster and is running for office for the first time.
Balter is a 20-year U.S. Navy veteran who is now a Branford-based lawyer specializing in family law. This is also Balter’s first campaign at public office.
The 34th Senate District covers parts of Wallingford, North Haven, East Haven and Durham.
The district’s four towns split their support for McKeen, of Wallingford, and Balter, from East Haven. Nearly all of McKeen’s support came from her hometown of Wallingford. McKeen received all 20 of Wallingford’s delegates, in addition to two delegates from North Haven. Balter received all 12 delegates from East Haven, seven delegates from North Haven and one from Durham.
“I feel good,” McKeen said about the endorsement. “It was a close vote, but Wallingford supports me.”
Balter’s decision to primary, he said, was based on the amount of support he’s gained during his campaign.
“I started this race in January and I was a complete unknown, even in my hometown of East Haven...We've just continuously gained momentum since day one,” Balter said. He added “the voters will continue to come around and support me.”
Balter also said he has tried to “run a campaign that includes all towns in the 34th district.”
McKeen said she wasn’t surprised or disappointed by Balter’s decision to primary. She believes she’s the best candidate to challenge Fasano because she is a “typical resident” of the district that understands the district’s needs.
“I was born here and grew up in Wallingford, so I feel like I've got a handle on what people in this area really need because we're all looking at the same things,” McKeen said.
Fasano, a North Haven resident, has not been challenged for the seat since 2012, when he defeated Democrat Steve Fontana with 58 percent of the votes. Fasano was first elected in 2003 and is the Senate Republican president pro tempore under an agreement with Democrats on how to operate the tied Senate.
Fasano was first named leader of the Republican Senate caucus in 2015. He couldn’t be reached for comment.