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Esty Picks Up Voters In Farmington; Donovan Fares Better In New Britain

by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 14, 2012 3:02pm
(9) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Congress, Election 2012, Town News, Farmington, New Britain

Elizabeth Bowling photo

Elizabeth Esty talks to voters in New Britain

(Updated 6:35 p.m.) The federal investigation involving Chris Donovan’s congressional campaign was on the minds of some Democrats heading to the polls in Farmington Tuesday. Several former supporters said they casted votes for his primary opponent Elizabeth Esty due to their uneasiness.

Donovan is the party endorsed candidate for the 5th district and had been considered the favorite in the race. But the charges brought against his former finance director and former campaign manager for hiding the source of $27,500 in campaign donations in exchange for defeating legislation, hasn’t helped his image with voters. His former staffers have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Donovan has not been charged with any wrongdoing by federal authorities and has maintained he had no knowledge of the alleged scheme to kill a bill that would have imposed fees on some tobacco shop owners.

For the most part, voters in Farmington say they believe the state House speaker. Nonetheless voters willing to cast ballots for him were in short supply.

Fran and Bill Fitts said that, based on his voting record, they had intended to support Donovan in the election but they cast their ballots for Esty Tuesday afternoon instead. The federal investigation was “absolutely” a factor, they said.

“His associates that we didn’t know, the tobacco shop guys, it just didn’t seem like a class act,” Bill Fitts said.

Lorraine Neff, a former registrar of voters in Farmington, found herself in the same position.

“I would have voted for Donovan,” she said. “I’m just not quite sure what will happen by November, whether he will be cleared.”

Christine Stuart photo

Chris Donovan stands at Vance School in New Britain

The U.S. District Attorney’s Office has not commented on the ongoing investigation aside from press releases accompanying a series of indictments supporting the arrests of eight people. Even some hinting two weeks ago by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was not enough to get prosecutors to say whether Donovan will at some point be a target of the investigation.

“That would be helpful and valuable information for the voters to make their decision on the 14. Without telling anyone how to do their job, that might be a useful piece of information,” Malloy said.

Without that information, Neff said she felt more comfortable choosing between Esty and primary challenger Dan Roberti of Kent. Neff said she didn’t know all that much about Esty but Roberti, at 30 years old, seemed a little young for the job.

“I just hope Esty won’t be too much of a swing voter,” she said.

Sandy Gervais, a Farmington real estate broker, said she is a registered Democrat but votes for who she thinks is best suited for the job. For instance, she’s considering voting for Republican Linda McMahon in the general election in November. Gervais had planned on voting for Donovan in the 5th district race but as a result of the investigation opted not to cast a primary vote at all.

“I abstained because I didn’t like any of them,” she explained. “I thought very highly of [Donovan] before. Unfortunately, reading the papers, it did kind of taint my opinion of him.”

Gervais said she still believes that Donovan is a good guy, and doesn’t think he is guilty of anything. But his campaign staff “needed parenting.”

Ruth Meiselman agreed with the sentiment.

“Donovan—there’s too much going on. Too much uneasiness,” she said.

But things were different in the cities where Donovan has a stronger base. In New Britain several voters said they were still supporting Donovan.

Vivian Williams, who cast her ballot at New Britain High School, said the investigation had no impact on her vote because that “shouldn’t stop him from doing a good job in the position that he’s going for.”

At Pulaski Middle School, Sondra Garcia said the federal investigation did not impact her vote because he wasn’t actually involved.

“I think he’s the right person, the right man.” Garcia said.

A voter named Howard told Donovan as he was exiting Vance School in New Britain that he voted for him.

“After a lot of soul searching I decided we need to send good Democrats to Congress,” Howard said.

Donovan didn’t mind being called a “good Democrat” but was concerned that Howard had to do some “soul searching” in order to vote for him.

Donovan said he was feeling good as the daylight dwindled and the number of voters coming to the polls started to pick up. He scoffed at the notion his support was coming strictly from the big cities in the district.

“It’s kind of a mixture,” he said. 

The investigation wasn’t coloring the votes of everyone who came out in Farmington Tuesday. Mike Scricco, for instance, said he was aware of it but it wasn’t the reason he voted for Esty. Scricco, who works in marketing, said Esty seemed like an honest person.

“It was more of a positive vote for Esty,” he said.

Durwin Taylor and Vivian Jackson said former President Bill Clinton had a lot to do with their votes. The two got a robocall from Clinton Monday night asking them to support Roberti. Taylor said he wanted to send someone new to politics down to Washington.

“He’s a new face on the scene. Might as well give him a try,” he said.

Hugh McQuaid photo

Andrew Roraback outside Farmington High School

Voters were also split on the other side of the aisle where Republicans are choosing in a four-way primary race. Their options are state Sen. Andrew Roraback of Goshen, who is the party-endorsed candidate, Lisa Wilson-Foley of Simsbury, Mark Greenberg, a developer from Litchfield, and Justin Bernier, a U.S. Navy veteran who worked for former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons and former Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

Jane McLaughlin, former chief of staff for Republicans in the state senate, said she voted for Roraback, whom she knew from her time at the Capitol.

“I trust Andrew,” she said. “I think he has a lot of integrity.”

Roraback made a campaign stop outside Farmington High School, while voters were casting ballots inside. He said he had a busy day planned before the polls close at 8 p.m.

“Certainly we’re getting positive feedback, but at this point the voters have the last word and we always respect the word of the voters,” he said. “We’re not going to stop working until the polls close.”

However, Janet Harrison said Roraback, who’s voted moderately on social issues, was easily disqualified for her for not being conservative enough. She said the same of Wilson-Foley. That left Bernier and Greenberg. In the end Harrison went with Bernier.

“I feel he is the most conservative of the candidates and I like his military background,” she said.

Doug and Jeanne Johnson had an entirely different objective in mind when they cast their ballots in the Republican primary.

“I registered Republican to vote for the Republican candidate who’s most likely to lose to a Democrat,” Doug Johnson explained, a tactic he called “reverse psychology.”

In this case, they chose the candidate they thought had the least name recognition. They didn’t know who he was in the voting booth and couldn’t recall his name afterwards.

Elizabeth Bowling and Christine Stuart contributed to this report from New Britain.

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(9) Comments

posted by: Tessa Marquis | August 14, 2012  4:19pm

Great ending. It proves once again that you can Never underestimate the stupidity of the voters.

And can you imagine how truly stupid the ones who didn’t vote must be?

posted by: perturbed | August 14, 2012  5:57pm

perturbed

As a state employee, I made damned sure I cast my vote against Chris Donovan.

Donovan was surely a ringleader in last spring’s state-employee-pension-cut-for-health-care-pooling-bill deal the legislature worked out with the Malloy/SEBAC team.

Then when we rejected that betrayal, Donovan was probably a central figure in the legislature’s theatrical threats to collective bargaining.

As a state employee, there’s absolutely no way in hell I’d ever vote for that back-stabbing Donovan. (I only wish I could find a way to cut his pension by 20%, like he helped to cut mine.)

—perturbed

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | August 14, 2012  9:36pm

DrHunterSThompson

Perturbed,

right on.

HST

posted by: gompers | August 15, 2012  1:33am

Perturbed,
Chris Donovan has stood as a firewall protecting public employees from attacks on their pay, pension and health care for years.  Your comments make all public employees look stupid.

posted by: MGKW | August 15, 2012  7:55am

For those who think they are political svengalis the voters appear to have been smarter then us all.

Roberti was a prisoner of his father’s money and power…the voters found that out.

Donovan, ran a mistake laden campaign, managing to antagonize many Democrats who would have had a very tough time voting for him in the general.

Esty, despite some of her flaws (talking too much, etc.), got better as the campaign went along. Her stump speech got tighter, her timing on not negatively campaigning and then turning it on once she was attacked was a smart strategy…and last she knows who the voter of the 5th are. Those outside the 5th really do not have any idea what the political landscape really is. We swing back and forth dependent on the quality of the candidate and his/her campaign (party does not matter as much)....Dems may have salvaged and retained the seat.

posted by: rankandfile | August 15, 2012  12:10pm

gompers. perturbed is right. Apparently you weren’t listening to Donovan last year.

posted by: Archie Bunker1 | August 16, 2012  12:55pm

Hey gompers….All state employees arent stupid…most of them are…not all of them.

posted by: perturbed | August 16, 2012  8:43pm

perturbed

gompers wrote:

“Perturbed,
Chris Donovan has stood as a firewall protecting public employees from attacks on their pay, pension and health care for years.  Your comments make all public employees look stupid.”

The irony of your comment, of course, is that it’s pretty stupid to judge 50,000 people based on the comments of one individual among them.

At any rate, you’ve offered nothing to counter the claims that last year Donovan helped broker the deal that busted open the pension promises made long ago to existing state employees—something I don’t believe was done in any other state—to help get his health care bill past Malloy, and then helped Malloy bully us into accepting it to preserve the deal.

—perturbed

posted by: oliviahuxtable | August 17, 2012  8:16am

Perturbed,
You are 100% correct. Donovan arrogantly held collective bargaining changes over state employees’ heads last year in the not-to-be-forgotten SEBAC debacle, and we did not forget on August 14th. I am thrilled he lost and with the utmost happiness voted against him. Dannel—if you run again, I will do the same for you….you will never, ever get my support. I have come to the conclusion, from experience, that if the dems control even one house of the legislature, elect a Republican Governor, never a Democratic one who will make deals and promises. The combination of Dannel and Democrats like Donovan and O’Brien proved disastrous to state workers.