Republican Bob Stefanowski (left) and Democrat Ned Lamont were running for governor of Connecticut. (AP)
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Republican Bob Stefanowski conceded the hotly contested race for Connecticut's open governor's seat Wednesday morning to Democrat Ned Lamont.
Stefanowski said he called Lamont to "congratulate him on a hard-fought victory," adding that he won "fair and square." The Associated Press has not yet called the race.
"It was a really close race," the former business executive said. "We got more votes than any Republican in the history of the state of Connecticut, but the Democrats did a good job of getting the vote out."
Lamont, a 64-year-old wealthy Greenwich businessman, confirmed the call from Stefanowski, saying "he could not have been more gracious, and I could not be more appreciative."
Unofficial tallies by the Secretary of the State's Office showed Lamont and lieutenant governor candidate Susan Bysiewicz up by about 18,000 votes.
That margin was too large to continue contesting ballots by some newly registered voters in New Haven and at the University of Connecticut, Stefanowski said. Some voters were still waiting in long lines when the polls closed at 8 p.m. and others swore as a group they had never registered to vote before in the state. The new voters took advantage of the state's Election Day voter registration law.
Republicans had said it was illegal for anyone who was not registered to vote by 8 p.m. to cast a ballot. A court hearing had been scheduled for Friday.
Lamont would succeed Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who did not seek a third term. It would be his first electoral win, having previously run for U.S. Senate in 2006 and governor in 2010.
This is not Lamont's first foray into politics - he defeated U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Democratic primary, embodying voters' concerns with the war in Iraq. He ultimately lost in the general election to Lieberman when he ran as an independent.
Lamont embodied many voters' concerns with President Donald Trump, vowing to be a "firewall" between the Republican's policies and "Connecticut values."