WESTPORT — Democrat Jonathan Steinberg has claimed victory to the state House for a fifth term, after defeating Republican challenger Greg Kraut.
A seasoned state representative, Steinberg ascended to the state assembly’s 136th district seat, which includes most of Westport, in 2010. A lifelong Westporter, Steinberg, 62, told voters he understands Westport’s values better than Kraut, 42, a novice candidate who moved to Westport in 2016 and won a spot on the Representative Town Meeting for the first time last year.
“Any election is its own experience, and this one had its own unique challenges,” Steinberg said at Little Barn in Westport Tuesday night. “I can’t tell you how grateful I am to go back to a fifth term in Hartford and to all the people who made it possible.”
Unofficial numbers from the Democratic Town Committee had Steinberg winning with 6,727, or 61 percent, of the vote to Kraut’s 4,328.
“I want to thank all my supporters and everybody who voted for me. Hopefully I raised awareness of some very important state issues facing Westport and I will continue to fight for you on the RTM for the coming years,” Kraut said.
At its heart, the race was a battle of ideas about how to resuscitate the state’s crumbling economy. As chair of the state’s Pension Sustainability Commission, Steinberg, a self-proclaimed moderate, said he will solve the state’s unfunded pension liabilities through a plan to donate state real estate assets as an in-kind contribution to its pension plan, an idea executed in Europe but never before tried in the U.S.
Kraut, who changed his registration from unaffiliated to Republican in April to earn the Republican nomination, lobbied for the support of independent voters with his 21-point plan for economic recovery. The plan includeed proposal to sell state-owned properties and rent them back as the tenant, a strategy known as sale-leasebacks that Kraut said could generate $1 billion in new revenue.
The ideas were clouded, however, by a fray of personal attacks flying between the two candidates. Steinberg accused Kraut, a Manhattan real estate manager, of predatory development. Kraut claimed Steinberg is an incompetent representative with little to show of his eight years in office.
Despite the noise, voters made a clear choice to return Steinberg to Hartford.
“I had all the confidence in Jonathan because he has experience, leadership and Westport’s values,” said Lisa Newman, Steinberg’s campaign manager.
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