Sen. Alex Kasser resigns, citing stress from divorce

Photo of Julia Bergman
State Sen. Alex Kasser, a Democrat who represents Stamford and Greenwich, announced Tuesday that she is resigning from office.

State Sen. Alex Kasser, a Democrat who represents Stamford and Greenwich, announced Tuesday that she is resigning from office.

Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

State Sen. Alex Kasser, D-Greenwich, announced Tuesday she was resigning a seat she won in a surprise victory in 2018.

“It is with a heavy heart that I have made the difficult decision to resign from office, effective immediately,” Kasser said in her resignation letter.

Kasser, who was in her second term as state senator representing all of Greenwich and parts of Stamford and New Canaan, said her decision to resign was “due to personal circumstances and ongoing divorce litigation.”

“I cannot continue to dedicate myself to this job in the way it deserves,” Kasser wrote in a statement she posted online.

For three years, Kasser has been engaged in a contentious divorce battle with Seth Bergstein, a senior Morgan Stanley executive. Kasser has said Bergstein engaged in coercive control, a type of non-physical violence that can involve manipulative conduct that traps victims in abusive relationships.

“I can no longer live or work in Greenwich as it is loaded with memories of the 20 years I spent raising my children here. It is too painful to be in Greenwich now that I’ve been erased from their lives, just as their father promised would happen if I ever left him,” Kasser wrote, adding that Bergstein “has tried to destroy” her partner, Nichola Samponaro.

In a statement released Tuesday, Janet Battey, a partner in the firm of Ferro and Battey, which is representing Bergstein, told Hearst Connecticut Media: “Ms. Kasser’s outrageous allegations and narrative couldn’t be further from the truth. Ms. Kasser sadly continues to wage a public battle in the press while simultaneously dragging out the court proceedings.”

The statement called Kasser’s comments on her divorce “blatantly false” and ended, “Mr. Bergstein trusts the legal system and family court and that the upcoming trial will reveal Ms. Kasser’s narrative for what it is.”

Kasser did not return calls seeking further comment.

During the 2021 regular legislative session, which ended June 9, Kasser pushed for legislation to expand the criminal definition of domestic violence to include coercive control. That bill, known as Jennifer’s Law, for Jennifer Dulos, or for Dulos and a woman named Jennifer Magnano, was adopted overwhelmingly.

Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said he received a call from Kasser Tuesday morning to alert him she was resigning, which he said came as a surprise.

“It’s disappointing because she is a valued member of our caucus,” Looney said Tuesday afternoon after an unrelated press event.

The Secretary of the State’s office, announcing Kasser’s resignation, said Gov. Ned Lamont has 10 days to call for a special election in a writ. The election must be held on the 46th day after that writ. That schedule means an election will be held in mid-August, when turnout is expected to be light.

Kasser, funding her own campaign, upset longtime Republican incumbent Scott Frantz in 2018, a year of backlash against the Trump-led GOP when women fared well at the ballot box.

“We expect to vigorously contest for that seat,” Looney said. “I think it will be a very competitive race.”

Kasser created some controversy early in her tenure by hiring an aide using her own personal money in addition to Senate Democrat staff, which led to some concerns about access to systems at the Capitol.

The Office of State Ethics issued an informal opinion that the aide’s employment by Kasser — who at the time used the name Bergstein - was not a violation of state ethics law. Kasser ended the arrangement, saying it was only intended to be temporary

Samponaro, Kasser’s romantic partner, was the aide and Kasser later revealed that the two were in a relationship together.

Kasser was a vociferous supporter of highway tolls, so strongly that she threatened to vote against Gov. Ned Lamont’s third toll proposal because, she said at the time, she didn’t believe it went far enough. That created friction with some Democrats at a time when support for tolls — which never came to a vote — was weak.

She said in her statement Tuesday that she will miss the camaraderie in the legislature and the “collective sense of duty.”

“I am forever grateful for having had this opportunity and will always cherish the experience,” she said.

Staff Writer Brianna Gurciullo contributed to this story.