As Democrats picked up at least six new governor seats across the country on Tuesday, Republicans remained optimistic about prevailing in a tight Connecticut race, hoping to capitalize on an unpopular incumbent governor and a sluggish economy.
But, hours after polls closed, voters were left waiting for results: Wet ballots had delayed a final count.
Secretary of State Denise W. Merrill said early Wednesday that voters dripped water onto their ballots after standing in the rain waiting to vote, and poll workers were unable to scan potentially thousands of soggy cards into the tally machines.
Sounding as if she were only half-kidding, Ms. Merrill said she told registrars around the state to get out their hair dryers and try to rescan the ballots once they had dried a bit. But, she warned, election workers may have to count thousands of votes by hand.
Gabe Rosenberg, a spokesman for Ms. Merrill, said the office was unsure when a final tally would be ready.
As of early Wednesday, Bob Stefanowski, the Republican candidate and a former business executive, held a slight lead over Ned Lamont, the Democrat, with 73 percent of precincts reporting. But many of the state’s urban centers, where Democrats expected a strong showing, had not fully reported, according to The Associated Press.
Marc Bradley, Mr. Lamont’s campaign manager, sent supporters home from the campaign’s election night party, saying “things are going to have to wait a little bit longer” before the race will be called. Kendall Marr, a spokesman for Mr. Stefanowski, said the campaign also sent supporters home and did not expect results for many hours.
Throughout the campaign, Mr. Stefanowski, a first-time candidate, sought to tie Mr. Lamont to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat who decided not to run for a third term. Mr. Malloy’s approval ratings have ranked among the lowest in the country.
Mr. Lamont’s campaign looked to portray Mr. Stefanowski as an acolyte of President Trump, who remains out of favor in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans five to three. The state voted for Democratic candidates in the last seven presidential elections, including in 2016, when Mr. Trump received 40.9 percent of the vote compared with Hillary Clinton’s 54.6 percent.
If Mr. Stefanowski wins, it will be particularly important for Republicans, who lost governor seats in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico and Wisconsin. Connecticut would be the only state where Democrats lost a governor’s seat.
Connecticut’s congressional delegation, however, will remain entirely blue.
Senator Christopher S. Murphy, a 45-year-old Democrat, easily won re-election to his second term by defeating Matthew Corey, a Republican Navy veteran.
Mr. Murphy’s decisive victory — the race was called immediately after polls closed at 8 p.m. — came after he spent much of the election cycle campaigning for other Democrats, including Mr. Lamont and Jahana Hayes, a first-time congressional candidate.
Mr. Murphy, who became one of the nation’s leading advocates for gun control after the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, may turn his attention to what is expected to be a crowded presidential field. Though he is not considered a front-runner for the Democratic nomination, he has been among a small group of Democrats courting top New York donors.
In his victory speech, Mr. Murphy took direct aim at President Trump.
“We are not a nation that tolerates bullies or wannabe tyrants,” Mr. Murphy said. “We are a democracy, and maybe louder and clearer than anything we can say tonight, we’re saying, here in Connecticut, that if you come after our democracy, then we are coming for you.”
In the House, Democrats held onto all five of the state’s seats, with four incumbents winning re-election.
Ms. Hayes, a political neophyte and former “National Teacher of the Year” who won a long-shot primary race, will become the first black Democrat to represent Connecticut in Congress.
Ms. Hayes, 45, easily defeated her opponent, Manny Santos, a Republican and former mayor of Meriden. Elizabeth Esty, the incumbent Democratic representative, did not seek re-election after a sexual harassment case involving her former chief of staff.
During her campaign, Ms. Hayes often told her life story, one that she said differentiated her from most politicians. She experienced homelessness as a child, became pregnant as a teenager and faced economic struggles.
“The thing is while it may be atypical for a member of Congress, it’s not really that strange for people in our communities,” Ms. Hayes said in an interview after her victory. “If we are truly representing people, we have to have a true understanding of what people are experiencing and what they’re going through.”
Kevin Lembo, a Democrat, won a third term as the state comptroller, and Ms. Merrill, also a Democrat, was re-elected to a third term. Other statewide races, including for attorney general and treasurer, remained too close to call. Control of the State Legislature was also undecided.
Kristin Hussey contributed reporting from Hartford.
Follow Tyler Pager on Twitter: @tylerpager.
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