HARTFORD, Conn. – Voters in the 2nd Congressional District will have to wait a while to find out who will represent them in Congress.
The tight race between three-term Republican incumbent Rob Simmons and Democratic challenger Joe Courtney is likely headed for a recount. About 200 votes separated them with 97 percent of precincts in early Wednesday.
Republican Rep. Nancy Johnson found out her fate much sooner.
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Johnson, the longest serving representative in Congress in Connecticut history, was swept out of office on Election Day by anti-war Democrat Chris Murphy. And Republican incumbent Chris Shays held off a fierce challenge and was re-elected to an 11th term.
"This election was a fight between experience and change and change won," Johnson told supporters in Plainville. "You see what's happening across the country. The president's not very popular. There's a lot of misunderstanding and concern about the war. It really wasn't about my record. It was really about change."
Johnson, 71, ran a tough-on-terror campaign and touted her co-authorship of the Medicare prescription drug legislation. She had accused Murphy of raising taxes and voting to lessen penalties for drug dealers.
Murphy, 33, has slammed Johnson for her support of the war and taking contributions from drug companies. He also blamed her for co-authoring Medicare prescription drug legislation that many senior citizens found confusing. He garnered about 30,000 more votes, drawing 56 percent to Johnson's 44 percent with 98 percent of precincts in early Wednesday.
"People don't want their lives governed by fear," Murphy said. "They want their lives governed by hope. The voters in the 5th District cast an unmistakable vote for hope."
Shays garnered 51 percent of the vote to 48 percent for Democratic challenger Diane Farrell in the 4th Congressional District, a margin of just under 6,000 votes with 93 percent of the precincts in early Wednesday.
"It was an amazing political race. We ran against a tidal wave against Republicans. I believe that the people of this district have re-elected me because of what I have done in 19 years," said Shays, best known for his support of the Iraq war and support of homeland security.
Shays has been a longtime supporter of the war, but recently became one of the few Republicans to call for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation and suggest a timeline for troop withdrawals from Iraq.
A similar debate played out in the 2nd Congressional District, where Courtney called Simmons Bush's biggest cheerleader. Simmons said he has an independent voting record that includes support of abortion rights, raising the minimum wage and expanding stem cell research. He accused Courtney of only offering criticism and vague talk of a need for change.
A recount could take several days to decide the winner. State law requires a recount when the difference between the two candidates is less than one-half of 1 percent of the total votes cast and the difference is no more than 2,000 votes.
The last time there was a recount in the 2nd District was 1994, when then-U.S. Rep. Sam Gejdenson, D-Conn., narrowly defeated Republican Ed Munster by a mere 21 votes. That race eventually dragged on for five months, becoming the longest contested election in Connecticut history. Munster contested the results and took the case to the state Supreme Court and eventually asked Congress to order a new election, before dropping his challenge.
Connecticut's two Democratic members of Congress, Rosa DeLauro and John Larson, easily won re-election.