By SUSAN HAIGH
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy declared victory following a campaign for re-election against Republican Tom Foley, who was not ready to concede defeat formally but acknowledged he had probably lost their bruising rematch.
Malloy took to the stage at a Hartford function hall early Wednesday and announced to a cheering crowd, “We are in the position to declare victory.”
While Foley didn’t admit defeat, he acknowledged giving the speech he would have given if he were conceding.
“We actually are not sure we’ve lost the race in the same way he’s not sure he’s won the race,” Foley said. “Don’t get too excited because we probably have lost this race. But I’m not going to confirm that we’ve lost it until we’re sure we’ve lost it, and when we’ve done that, we’ll call Gov. Malloy and let him know.”
The two had been in a tight race for months, with Foley looking to avenge his narrow loss to Malloy in 2010.
With 81 percent of the precincts reporting Wednesday, Malloy had 50 percent of the vote, Foley had 49 percent and petitioning candidate Joe Visconti, who had thrown his support to Foley, had 1 percent.
Under Connecticut law, an automatic recount is triggered for statewide races when the vote difference is less than 2,000 votes.
Elsewhere in the state, Democrats retained control of all five congressional seats.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty fended off a challenge from Republican businessman Mark Greenberg, winning a second term representing the 5th Congressional District in northwestern Connecticut. The seat was considered to be one of the GOP’s best chances for victory this year.
“When you look at the situation across the country, this is not an easy year,” said Esty, who thanked a crowd of supporters, promising she couldn’t wait to “get back to work and roll up my sleeves.”
Greenberg blamed outside money from national Democrats and heavy spending by Esty for his loss.
“Mrs. Esty outspent us in media by a 4-to-1 margin,” he said. “It’s hard to make up that difference.”
In the 4th Congressional District, Democratic Rep. Jim Himes successfully fended off a challenge from former Republican state Sen. Dan Debicella, who was also a candidate in 2010. U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro from the 3rd District, Joe Courtney from the 2nd District and John Larson from the 1st District all easily won re-election.
Meanwhile, Democrat George Jepsen won his second term as attorney general, defeating Republican Kie Westby of Southbury and Green Party candidate Stephen Fournier of Hartford.
Connecticut’s General Assembly will soon have a Kennedy among its ranks. Democrat Ted Kennedy Jr., son of the late Massachusetts U.S. senator, won the 12th state senatorial district along the state’s shoreline. He defeated Republican businessman Bruce Wilson Jr. Additionally, House Republicans reported expanding their ranks by at least 10 seats, for a total of 64 _ the largest caucus in years. Democrats will still retain control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
President Barack Obama called in to WNPR-FM and pleaded with Hartford residents who couldn’t vote because of polling place problems Tuesday morning to return later and cast their ballots. Obama has praised Malloy for his support of a higher minimum wage and additional gun control measures in the wake of the Newtown school massacre.
Problems at the polls in Hartford led to a last-minute court battle Tuesday. A judge ultimately agreed to allow two precincts to stay open for an extra 30 minutes.
Despite the glitches, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said she expected voter turnout to exceed her prediction of 55 percent. She said it could be as high as 65 percent.
The results of a statewide ballot question about changing the state’s constitution to ease voting restrictions remained uncertain. If approved, state officials would be allowed to consider early voting options including expanded use of absentee ballots and voting by mail.