Martel takes District 18 seat in tight race

Litchfield’s incumbent state senator, Republican Andre Martel, held on to his District 18 seat Tuesday, defeating Democratic challenger David Gelinas by the slimmest of margins.

With all precincts reporting at about 11 p.m., Martel had received 11,066 votes to 10,904 for Gelinas. Reached at his home, Gelinas said he would ask for a recount.

The contest was a rematch from two years ago, when Martel beat Gelinas by about 850 votes. Both Manchester residents are seasoned politicians. The district covers Litchfield and Wards 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 in Manchester.

“I worked very hard for this, and that’s why I’m thanking all the people who stood out in the rain and cool temperatures,” Martel said late Tuesday night.

For most of the night, the candidates were deadlocked. The tally swung to Martel after the votes in Ward 6 in Manchester were counted. Martel won that ward by about 175 votes and declared victory. Gelinas said he wouldn’t concede the election even if he lost that ward, where he was defeated by about 130 votes two years ago.

“This is going to go a recount,” he said.

During the campaign, Martel, 57, characterized himself as one of the most conservative people in the state. Gelinas said if Martel wanted that label, “he can have it.”

“I’m no ideologue who has blinders on,’’ he said. “We have a lot of problems in this state and have to take a pragmatic approach.”

Martel said he hates all taxes and would never support a sales or income tax to help balance a projected $300 million state budget deficit over the next two years.

“Any broad-based tax system is not the answer to resolving any deficits in the state’s future,” he said. “It is proven that taking funds from individuals hurts those who are neediest.”

Gelinas also opposed any broad-based tax, saying there are other funding options that need to be explored by the Legislature.

Both candidates said they would work with local officials to use state programs to preserve open space in Litchfield, which was once predominantly rural.