By Dave Mullane
Ballotpedia says in order to be a probate judge in Connecticut you need be 18, live in the district and you have to retire at age 70. Guidance counselors should be recommending this to seniors unsure about going to college, “have you considered being probate judge you are 18 and it’s very lucrative plus no student loan debt.”
From 1962 until today Stratford has had 4 probate judges, they were Democrat Tom Coughlin, 4 terms 1962 to 1978. Coughlin first won in 1962 by defeating incumbent Joe Knott. Coughlin last run for the office was in 1974 was against Republican Marilyn Pearson (Pearson was a 3-term state Rep and the only Republican to ever win the 121st district) 1974 was a close race and in 1978 Coughlin didn’t run for reelection. The Probate position was wide open.
1978 saw Republican Paul Kurmay face off against Democrat Wilfred Rodie. Kurmay won and would continue to win for a total of 9 terms (36 years) holding the spot from 1978 until 2014.
Kurmay was the terminator of candidates taking out the Democrats. In 1982 he beat Wilfred Rodie again; in 1986 Bill Carroll; in 1990 both Republicans and Democrats nominated him, and it was the only time Kurmay was beaten was when he ran as a Democrat and the Republican Kurmay beat himself by over 3000 votes.
In 1994 he was unopposed, in 1998 and 2002 he beat Kent Miller; in 2006 he was unopposed. In 2010 on his final run, he beat Kent Miller one last time. After 36 years in office Kurmay actually aged out of position and had to retire at 70 years old.
In 2014 the Probate spot is open and Republican Kurt Ahlberg beat Democrat Kent Miller. In 2018 incumbent Ahlberg was beaten by current judge Democrat Max Rosenberg. This is the first time since 1962 that a sitting probate judge was defeated for reelection in Stratford. Had Ahlberg been reelected he would’ve aged out before completing a second term so that fact may have helped Max In his win.
This year incumbent judge Democrat Rosenberg is being challenged by Republican Lisa Knopf who only recently established residency and registered to vote in Stratford this May in order to run against Max this November.
Probate races do not get CEP funding, it is up to the candidates to raise and spend their own funds. In 2018 Max was outspent by Ahlberg 4 to 1, and he pulled off an amazing win. Max seems to have a lot of Republican support so it is surprising the SRTC put someone up. It will be interesting to see this race play out.
Probate is the highest paid elected position in Stratford at $146,000 a year for a 4-year term which comes to $584,000 for the winner who gets to be their own boss with a paid for staff and office.
Will 2022 be another case of one and done or will Max try to go for the Kurmay 9 term record?