Led House Republicans for Twelve Years
As you know by now, House Minority Leader Robert Ward, who has led the House GOP caucus since 1994, and has been in the legislature since 1984, has announced he won't be seeking another term this November. He represents the 86th Assembly District, which is mostly in North Branford.
Ward has been at his post longer than any legislative leader in modern history. His tenure was entirely as Minority Leader: he never came close to being Speaker of the House. His party has been in the minority for all but two years of Ward's long service in the legislature: from 1985-87 the Republicans controlled the House following Ronald Reagan's landslide election victory.
Ward's departure raises questions about who will follow him, not only in his legislative district but as the leader of the House GOP, as well.
The 86th is a contested district, although just barely. Democrat Ashley Clow Joiner, a member of the North Branford Town Council, lost by 13% in 2004. Ward had no Democratic opponent in 2002.
North Branford also elected a Democratic mayor, Andrew Esposito, in the 2005 election. So this area is not a GOP lock--a Democrat can win here, although it would be an uphill climb. There is no word yet as to who might be running for Ward's open seat.
The other question is the House Minority Leadership. Who will replace Ward? Larry Cafero and Dolly Powers are deputy minority leaders, and can be expected to at least measure support for a leadership bid, but who else in the current leadership might be in the running? William Hamzy? Themis Klarides? Anyone have any other insight as to how this might shape up?
Ward's retirement is sort of the end of an era, seeing as he had been in the position for so long. The choice Republicans make for his successor will say a lot about where that party, lost in the political wilderness for so long, wants to go from here.