Ken Bernhard Seeks Return To Hartford — This Time, As A Democrat

Ken Bernhard spent 8 years representing Westport in Connecticut’s General Assembly. He rose to assistant minority leader.

Now Bernhard — who was was also 3rd selectman from 1987 to ’89, then served on the Zoning Board of Appeals — wants to return to Hartford.

He’s running for Will Haskell’s 26th District State Senate seat. The legislator is heading to law school, not running for a 3rd term.

And Bernhard — who spent his entire political life as a Republican — is doing it as a Democrat.

Ken Bernhard (Photo/Dave Matlow)

The longtime Westporter and civic volunteer — he’s been a board member of the Westport Library, Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, Norwalk Human Services Council, Earthplace, Westport Historical Society, Levitt Pavilion, Aspetuck Land Trust, Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, and Connecticut League of Conservation Voters — told “06880”:

I was disappointed to learn that Will Haskell is planning to vacate his senate seat, but I admire him for his decision to attend law school and to focus on his future.

Having received the news about Will’s decision, I felt a sense of responsibility to ensure that the 26th District will continue to be well represented, and that it will remain a part of the Democratic Party caucus. I would consider it a privilege to represent our community in Hartford once again, this time as a Democratic state senator.

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.

When I served as Westport’s 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, DC 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.

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, common sense and work hard to get things done. That’s why I am announcing my candidacy for State Senator from the 26th District.

I look forward to meeting with the voters and to have a dialogue about Connecticut’s future. In a couple of weeks, I will be registering my campaign with the State and will shortly create a web page where we can engage. Thank you in advance.

In addition to his Westport activities, Bernhard helped found the Syria Fund, which provides support and education to refugees in Jordan. He’s deeply involved with the Tree of Life Orphanage in Haiti, which educates and feeds over 200 children, while creating jobs for adults.

He organizes shoe collection drives for Soles4Souls, shipping thousands of shoes to children around the world. He and his wife Alice have also raised 7 guide dogs.

Other potential candidates in the 26th district — which has been newly redrawn, eliminating Bethel but adding a bit of Stamford — are considering runs too.

Through Westport’s 2 Rotary Clubs, Ken Bernhard — who once taught law in Ukraine — has been involved in efforts to reform legal education there. In 2018, he posed (left) with law students and a professor, and the Connecticut state flag.

28 responses to “Ken Bernhard Seeks Return To Hartford — This Time, As A Democrat

  1. Bravo. It will be an honor to vote for Ken.

  2. Michael Guthman

    The best person for the job.

  3. Carole Orland

    Ken is terrific and exquisitely qualified for this job. I had the pleasure of serving with him on the Westport Library board. Not only is he tremendously accomplished as a lawyer and a dedicated volunteer to so many causes, he is the consummate gentleman who will model civility in our legislature. Good luck Ken!

  4. Very best wishes, Ken.
    Is your rescue dog going to the Senate too??

  5. Perfect timing! On MLK day! Thank you Ken for throwing your hat in the ring. If only others of Ken’s caliber in the US and elsewhere were inspired to participate in government and uphold freedom and democracy. Here’s hoping. Thank you to 06880 – where Westport meets the world – for bringing us this good news today!

  6. Roseann Spengler

    Thank you Ken for your continued willingness to serve. Best wishes always.

  7. Nobody better than Ken!

  8. Ken is a terrific lawyer and will do Westport proud in the State Senate. As an old yellow dog Democrat, I’m happy to support Ken for State Senator. Ken Wirfel.

  9. Great news. 👍

  10. What exciting and exhilarating news! With his extraordinarily broad background, Ken is the perfect person to foster cooperation, amity and achievement in Hartford.

  11. I have known Ken for many years and his work and friendship have demonstrated how willing he is to go out of his way to help others with thought and care out of the goodness of his heart professionally and personally. I voted for him when he was a registered Republican and will vote for him as a Democrat because we can only rely on the person, the candidate, and the substance. The parties are much less the sum of their divisive parts than the individuals whom we call upon for to represent us for freedom, justice, fairness, and equality. Ken is this person as a friend and legislator. He will do honor to the CT State Senate as our excellent representative Will Haskell goes on to law school just as he has done as an attorney, board member, volunteer, and previous legislator. Thank you, Ken!

    • Larry+Weisman

      Ken’s credentials and record of civic engagement are so varied and impressive that even he sometimes has difficulty listing them all. Add to those cited his valued participation as a member of the Board of Directors of the Fairfield County House, a unique and welcoming place for end of life care in a home-like environment. Ken’s commitment to public service and his effectiveness is remarkable and all too rare and serves as an example to all of us.

  12. Thank Goodness, after the Haskell shocker, I’m relived. Thank you Ken!

  13. Way to go Ken!

  14. Jocelyn Barandiaran

    Republican, Democrat, doesn’t matter — Ken’s the right person for the job! Ken, THANK YOU for your willingness to serve. It will be an honor to have you represent Westport.

  15. Leslie Orofino

    I was introduced to Ken when we were members of the Sunrise Rotary Club about 20 years ago. I will never forget Ken’s concern for others and his reaching out to all in need. I voted for him as a Republican and will again vote happily for this gentleman who will do a marvelous job of preserving democracy and represent us with dignity and grace.

  16. Yes. Good News.

  17. Rindy Higgins

    What a wonderful surprise and a great write-up. I’ve known Ken for 40 years of so. He’s perfect for the job and will be a terrific, caring and responsible representative!

    • Cathy Talmadge

      It will be my pleasure to vote for Ken. I cannot imagine a better candidate to represent us!

  18. Michael Nayor

    As everyone who knows Ken would have expected, he is batting 1000 in positive reactions. He was an excellent legislator and will represent us again in the same manner and at the highest level. It is heartening to know that his interest in our community remains high.

  19. I couldn’t think of a better person for the job. I worked with Ken when I served on the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education and he was our State Rep. He was always available and interested in education and ready to support us. Thank you Ken, I wholeheartedly support your campaign.

  20. Always, watching and interacting with Ken, I have felt : “yeah, he’s a Republican, but he thinks like a Democrat.” What great news, Ken, that I can now vote for you with a clear conscience….thank you!

  21. Thank you, all of you, for your lovely, encouraging comments. Truly appreciated. Feel free to contact me at any time, Ken

  22. Luisa Francoeur

    Ken Bernhard would be an excellent candidate and I would vote for him in a second. He has integrity and cares about Westport. I am so pleased that he has switched his affiliation!

  23. This is fantastic news. Ken is the perfect person for the job!!!!!!!

  24. sBetty Lou Cummings

    Dear Ken…what great news…your leadership in our government will be a blessing to all…thank you & hugs, Betty Lou

  25. Priscilla Feral

    I am absolutely delighted! Friends of Animals has always considered Ken as the best friend of animals, and we’re thrilled to have him return to state government this time as a Democrat and State Senator. Ken’s experience and empathy benefit the district with intelligent, energetic influence and insight.