Unofficial vote totals Friday gave Berlin Town Councilor Donna Veach the victory over Southington pastor the Rev. Jim Townsley in the Republican primary for the 30th House District.
Once absentee ballots were counted, Veach had 928 votes to Townsley’s 627.
Veach, the party’s endorsed candidate, will face Democrat and fellow Berlin councilor JoAnn Angelico-Stetson for the seat that will be vacated by House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz. The district includes Berlin and a portion of Southington.
Absentee ballots were accepted until Thursday as long as they were postmarked by Tuesday. Registrars in Berlin said that complicated tallying a vote.
Veach won Berlin by nearly 450 votes. Townsley won Southington by about 150 votes.
Republican delegates from Berlin and Southington mostly backed their respective candidates during the convention. Townsley declared he was running before Veach.
Steve Kalkowski, Southington Republican town chairman, said the party would back Veach following her primary victory although he reiterated that Townsley was a respected pastor and conservative Republican.
He credited Berlin’s larger turnout with Townsley’s loss along with his opponent’s criticism of the pastor’s handling of a sex abuse case in his church 20 years ago.
“It’s unfortunate what was done to Jim as far as the smear campaigns,” Kalkowski said. “That was disappointing to see, but that’s unfortunately the dirty side of politics.”
Sandra Coppola, Berlin Republican town chair, said during the most-recent council election Veach received about 1,000 more votes than Angelico-Stetson.
“That’s shows that she can beat JoAnn in a general election,” Coppola said. “I think that was foremost in people’s minds.”
For voters in Berlin, the larger portion of the district, Veach was also a familiar name while Townsley wasn’t.
“In Berlin, they know Donna. They were more comfortable voting for someone they do know,” Coppola said.
Veach said she was grateful for the support from voters in both towns.
She disagreed with Kalkowski that there had been a smear campaign against Townsley.
“We didn’t run any smear campaign. Anything that was put out there was put out by the press,” Veach said. “We had nothing to do with any of that.”
Republicans held the 30th district seat before Aresimowicz won it 14 years ago.
“Now it’s onward to getting the seat back from the Democrats and putting a Republican in Hartford,” Coppola said.