Wilton’s former Town Attorney, Ken Bernhard, has announced that he is planning to run for the State Senate seat in the 26th District. A former Republican, Bernhard has changed his affiliation and will be running as a Democrat.

The 26th district seat is currently held by State Sen. Will Haskell (D), who announced in GOOD Morning Wilton that he did not plan on seeking re-election to a third term in November because he’ll be attending law school in the fall.

A Westport resident and partner in the law firm of Cohen and Wolf, Bernhard was Wilton’s Town Attorney from 1992 until 2016, during the administrations of first selectmen Burt Jones, Bob Russell, Paul Hannah, and Bill Brennan, and for the first year under First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice.

[UPDATE, 3:30 P.M. — Former first selectman Bill Brennan emailed a comment after the article was published: “Ken Bernhard’s decision to seek election to the 26th District Senate seat is exciting news for Wilton! His 26 dedicated years as Wilton’s town counsel provided him with broad community insight and knowledge of Wilton’s most important concerns. During my four terms as Wilton’s first selectman, his advice and counsel were invaluable. Ken is a very experienced legislator, attorney and skillful negotiator. He will be a strong voice for Wilton in Hartford! Delighted he has stepped up to run for State Senator at this very critical period of time!”]

Bernhard served in the CT General Assembly as a state representative from 1997-2005, representing the 136th District, and served as Assistant Minority Leader. Prior to his time as a state representative, Bernhard was Third Selectman for the Town of Westport and was elected to the Westport Zoning Board of Appeals. He also has been the town attorney for Weston and Westport.

According to a press release from Bernhard, “he has an extensive record of public service on state commissions and with non-profit organizations and has been a frequent presenter at the Wilton Kiwanis Club on subjects ranging from the U.S. Constitution to charitable work he’s done in Jordan and Haiti.” Bernhard also has been very involved with the Wilton-based Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation.

He began his legal career as a JAG officer in the U.S. Army and later taught Constitutional and Criminal Law at West Point.

When Bernhard ran and was elected to office in the past, he did so as a Republican.

In a statement sent to GOOD Morning Wilton, Bernhard explained his decision, saying he “felt a sense of responsibility” to keep the 26th District a part of the Democratic Party caucus and “well represented.” He added that he would “consider it a privilege to represent our community in Hartford, this time as a Democratic State Senator.”

“When I served as a State Representative in the role of Assistant Minority Leader, I was recognized as a moderate-to-liberal legislator who advocated for a woman’s right to choose, promoted the protection of the environment, voted for sensible gun control legislation, and supported voting rights. My record in public and private life embodies those values and I am eager to take on a more active role in advancing them in Hartford and around the nation.

“Our republic is under assault. Every day we see this happening in Washington, D.C. and throughout the United States. We cannot allow it to happen here in Connecticut.

“There is much work to be done at the state capitol to address the ongoing threat and ravages of climate change, to ensure that the state’s fiscal house is in order, to improve our transportation infrastructure, to guard against racial injustice, and to enhance community ‘safety nets.’ I want to make certain that the interests of our Fairfield County communities are not overlooked in Hartford.”

Bernhard said that his approach will appeal to a wide array of voters.

“I believe my record will attract the support of moderate and conservative-leaning Democrats, like-minded Republicans, and unaffiliated voters, all of whom want and deserve a state senator who will exercise good judgment and common sense and will work hard to get things done,” he said, adding he looks forward to meeting with voters to “discuss the issues and Connecticut’s future.”

He said his past legislative experience will be what makes him effective.

“As an experienced legislator, I understand the political process and how it works in Hartford. If elected, I would be ready to represent the district effectively on day one. Additionally, I am available to devote my full time and attention to this important work.”

Bernhard is the second Democrat to enter the race. Wilton resident Ceci Maher confirmed to GOOD Morning Wilton on Jan. 7 that she will be running for the seat as well.

Correction:  The article originally stated that Bernhard was town counsel until 2017. Cohen and Wolf was replaced by Ira Bloom and the firm Berchem, Moses & Devlin on Dec. 6, 2016, during the administration of First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice. The article was also updated to reflect Bernhard worked with her as well.

2 replies on “Wilton’s Former Town Counsel Ken Bernhard Announces Run for State Senate as Democrat”

  1. Great news! Ken Bernhard, as our next State Senator from the 26th Senate District, would do an excellent job representing and fighting for the interests of his constituents both here in the 26th and from the Town of Wilton. I have known and worked with Ken for many years, and am convinced his knowledge, perspective and values are perfectly aligned with the issues important to Wilton voters as well as those across the entire District. I offer Ken my full support and encourage others to join me.

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