BERLIN - A recount will be done in the 30th House District race between Democratic incumbent Joe Aresimowicz, the House speaker, and his Republican challenger, Mike Gagliardi.
The recount is happening because Aresimowicz’s 5,892 votes were only 37 more than Gagliardi’s 5,855, which is within 0.5 percent of the total votes cast, triggering an automatic recount.
Gagliardi could have requested there be no recount, but said Thursday, “This was a historically close race and the voters deserve assurance that the final result is 100 percent accurate.”
Aresimowicz declared victory Tuesday night, knowing a recount could happen. He said a three- or four-vote swing may happen, but not 40 votes.
Berlin’s registrars of voters have tentatively set the recount for Tuesday, Nov. 13, before the Nov. 14 deadline. Southington’s officials were to discuss the matter today, since the announcement came after their regular office hours.
The 30th District includes most of Berlin and part of Southington.
Ballots from the polling locations will be recounted using the voting machines, officials from both towns said. The absentee and Election Day registration ballots may be counted by hand because those ballots were altered when Gagliardi became the GOP candidate three weeks before the election. Gagliardi replaced Steven Baleshiski, who withdrew his candidacy and lost his party’s endorsement over criticized Facebook posts.
Berlin Board of Finance Chairman Sam Lomaglio said Gagliardi should not ask for the recount, since it will require an approximately $4,000 transfer from the town’s savings account, which is supposed be tapped in case of emergencies. Southington officials said $4,000 is about how much it may cost for their town, too, but no additional appropriation will be needed.
The recount comes as Aresimowicz was expecting to file a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission on Thursday alleging illegal coordination and undocumented independent expenditures by Gagliardi’s campaign.
Aresimowicz did not return a request to see the complaint. Staff at the SEEC said they aren’t allowed to discuss the complaint until it comes up at a monthly meeting and if they deem it necessary to investigate. The next monthly meeting is Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the SEEC, 20 Trinity St., Hartford, and is open to the public, staff said.
The complaint stems from signs at polling places and ads in the Berlin Citizen, a weekly newspaper, from a “concerned taxpayer” allegedly having the same images as those used by the Berlin Republican Town Committee, which exceeded expenditure limits, Aresimowicz said Tuesday.
According to a 2018 declaratory ruling by the SEEC, actions made independent of a candidate or political committee are to be made with no coordination with the candidate or political party, aside from exceptions.
Independent expenditures less than $1,000, also aside from exceptions, do not need to be disclosed to the state, the ruling also states.
But, according to the Supreme Court, the ruling reads, independent expenditures are to be “totally independent,” “wholly independent,” “truly independent,” and made “without any candidate’s approval (or wink or nod) ...”
“There may not be a violation of the independent expenditures, depending on whether the $1,000 threshold was exceeded,” said Liz Connelly, a spokeswoman for Aresimowicz. “But there also is the fundamental question of whether this was an independent or coordinated expenditure, and if coordinated, that is a different and also serious violation of the law.”
“A private citizen has the right to share his or her political opinion through ads or signage,” said Sal Bordonaro, treasurer for the Berlin RTC and Gagliardi’s campaign, in an emailed statement. “Neither the Berlin Republican Town Committee nor the Mike Gagliardi House for Rep Committee requested or influenced the private citizen to put the “Two Peas in a Pod” ad in the Berlin Citizen. And if that person chose to get signs made up, that was his or her choice. “
According to state statute, an independent expenditure violation can result in having to pay up to $20,000 or $50,000, depending on the case.
Aresimowicz also called for Berlin Republican Town Committee Chairman Anne Reilly’s resignation Tuesday, alleging a dirty campaign that included lying on mailers. Reilly said “no comment” when asked if she’ll be resigning, and other members of the RTC said Aresimowicz had a dirty campagin by calling Baleshiski a racisit, radical and bigot. A spokesperson for Aresimowicz said those signs were put up by the Democratic Town Committe, not Aresimowicz.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.