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Inside Politics

Simmons set to keep House seat

Incumbent projected to win in Connecticut's 2nd District

Incumbent Rep. Rob Simmons, above, held onto a slim lead over Jim Sullivan going into the election.
House: CT 02 Updated: 5:32 p.m. ET
Simmons 54%
Sullivan 46%
100% precincts reporting
Election Results Main Page

(CNN) -- Incumbent Republican Rep. Rob Simmons will defeat Democratic challenger Jim Sullivan for the seat in the Connecticut's 2nd Congressional District, CNN projects.

Simmons had clung to a slim lead against Sullivan as their race headed into the final week.

In this race, Simmons, 61, a two-term incumbent, was a sitting Republican in Democratic territory. In 2000, Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore captured the district with 58 percent of the vote.

Sullivan, 38, the youngest of eight children, worked in the financial services industry for 12 years, rising to become the branch manager at the UBS Financial Services office in New London. He got his first taste of politics in college, working with then-State Senate President John Larson, now a representative in the 1st District. In 1989, Sullivan won his first of two terms on the Norwich City Council.

Simmons, meanwhile, put together a voting record as a moderate, and attempts by Sullivan ads to tie him to President Bush and the Republican leadership during the campaign appeared to backfire and actually give Simmons a bump.

Simmons fought the attack ads with spots that criticized Sullivan for breaking promises to not increase taxes while a member of the Norwich Council and for missing meetings. Simmons' ads had greater impact, more than doubling Sullivan's negative rating from 14 percent to 30, while Simmons went from 18 to 27 percent.

Both sides realized the race was not going to be decided until very late in the campaign. A telephone survey commissioned in October by The Day of New London, Journal Inquirer of Manchester and Waterbury Republican-American suggested Simmons had a narrow lead of 48 percent to 46 percent for Sullivan, with 6 percent undecided. The 2 percentage-point lead fell within the survey's margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

"What's clearcut is this: Simmons is very vulnerable, and that district could well be a Democratic pickup," Del Ali, president of Research 2000, the Rockville, Maryland-based polling organization, told Newsday.

"If Simmons was a true ideologue, the race would be over," he added. "Sullivan would win it going away by 10 or 12 percent. The biggest asset for Simmons is that he's seen as a moderate Republican."

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