NORWALK, Conn. – Incumbent South Norwalk lawmaker Bruce Morris pounded challenger Warren Peña in a two-hour Democratic caucus Tuesday night that had a feeling of excitement normally associated with a November Election Day.
The vote tally in the District 140 caucus, held at Columbus Magnet School, was 222-99. Peña, a former at-large Common Councilman, said he would do the work to force a primary, which would take place on Aug. 12.
“My plan is to go get 201 signatures and qualify for the matching grant, get the grant, and go all the way to Aug. 12 with more intensity, dedication, focus, all the way around,” Peña said.
Morris said he broke out in tears when the votes were counted.
“I said, ‘Thank God and I am honored the voters came out,’” he said.
“He did a great job. He was a better man tonight,” Peña said.
The line to vote had stretched all the way down the sidewalk, almost to the road, observers said.
“I think this turnout is amazing,” said Patrick Romano of New Haven, who said he had been a consultant on Mayor Harry Rilling’s campaign, about an hour before the polls closed. “I mean, I think there’s a lot more Bruce Morris supporters coming out, but I think that the support in the community – to me, it’s just great. A Democratic caucus for two hours on a Tuesday night to have this many people, you know, Warren has had his supporters out, I just think the turnout has been great on both sides. To me, that’s a good thing. People are at least taking it serious and voting. That’s what matters.”
“Now we just need all of these Democrats to come out in November and vote again,” Democratic Deputy Registrar Bob Sodaro said.
The voting appeared to be along racial lines.
Juana Ventura said she voted for Peña. “I think he is a good boy. He is Spanish. He’s helped a lot of people,” she said.
“I have been following him for the last couple of years. We believe that we need some change here,” Juan Ochoa said. His wife voted for Peña, too. Ochoa said Peña had helped him find a field for soccer games.
Bernice Robinson voted for Morris. “I’ve known him a long time. I’ve seen his work,” she said.
Morris said if the vote was racial, it didn’t come from him or his campaign. He referred to his campaign slogan, “Morris is for Us,” which he said was coined eight years ago by Mimi Burgess.
“For me, it’s ‘Morris is for Us,’” Morris said. “That means all of us. For todos (everybody). … To me, us is all of us.”
The voting turnout was heartwarming, he said.
“I am seriously gratified in the number of people that came out and that continue to demonstrate their support of what I have done,” said Morris. “My record, and that’s all I run on, my record, what I have done. Because that’s all people want to know – are you making a difference? In the eight years that I have been there I have made a difference on all the things I said I would when I started eight years ago. Mine have not been empty promises. I am honored tonight that a lot of people came and reminded me of things that I had totally forgotten about.”
Those things were things he had done to help constituents, including one woman who he helped with a thesis and the voter he is currently helping with a Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) complaint, he said.
“People come to me and that’s my job, to help assist them as much as possible,” Morris said. “That’s what they said to me. Despite what anybody else says, my constituents say, Bruce, you have been there for us. You’re working for us. I appreciate it.”
The vote reminded him of when he was first elected to the state legislature eight years ago, he said.
“Eight years later they are saying we still trust you,” he said. “It brings tears to my eyes. It makes the trip to Hartford worthwhile. It’s about public service, serving the people and doing it honorably. Tonight I am thankful and I say glory to God. From the first day I ran I told people this isn’t politics, this is ministry. … When people come out, it validates what I am doing.”