How Much Do State Politics Matter In Local Elections?
Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is not on the ballot this year, but Republicans are hoping to win enough seats Tuesday to build momentum going into the 2014 gubernatorial election.
Malloy, who hasn’t yet declared whether he’s seeking re-election, said Tuesday that local elections are about local issues and local candidates.
“Elections are referendums on the people who are on the ballot,” Malloy said after a meeting with community leaders in Hartford’s North End. “And I’m not on the ballot.”
Currently, there are about 97 Republican mayors and first selectmen and 70 Democratic mayors and first selectmen, but there are only elections for the town’s top spot in more than 120 cities and towns. That’s because Democrats have decided not to challenge incumbents in about 24 races, and Republicans are sitting out about 19 races, according to officials in both parties.
“Some of them are going to win and some of them aren’t,” Malloy said flatly.
He said voter turnout is going to be low according to predictions by local election officials, so, “if anything, it’s a referendum on turnout.”
The Democratic Party holds a majority of the seats in the General Assembly and they control all six constitutional offices and all seven of Connecticut’s seats in the U.S. House and Senate.
This year, Malloy played an active role in fundraising for the party, which spent nearly $40,000 in supporting a slate of Bridgeport Board of Education candidates who lost the September primary to a challenge slate.
Malloy also endorsed New Haven mayoral candidate Sen. Toni Harp and Stamford mayoral candidate David Martin. Malloy had initially thrown his support behind state Rep. William Tong in the Stamford race, but Tong lost the primary to Martin. Last week, Malloy attended a fundraiser at Salute in Hartford on behalf of Martin.
Because of Malloy’s involvement with local elections, Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. believes today is a referendum on Malloy’s agenda.
“In Stamford, the Malloy-endorsed candidate for mayor lost the Democrat primary and, in Bridgeport, the Democratic Party-endorsed candidates for Board of Education lost their primary challenges despite their state party backing them to the tune of $40,000. It looks like governor Malloy’s support has been toxic to candidates even in Democratic primaries,” Labriola said Tuesday.
“Voters have seen what Malloy’s agenda has done for our state and they know they can’t afford record tax increases and out-of-control spending on the local level too,” he added. “We’re proud that nearly 60 percent of municipal leaders in the state are Republicans and we look forward to seeing that number grow tonight.”
When asked last month about the party’s decision to transfer $20,000 to the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee while spending another $20,000 on the Bridgeport Board of Education candidates individually, a Democratic Party spokeswoman declined to elaborate.
“We don’t comment on the strategy of how we raise money or how we spend money,” Elizabeth Larkin said.
The election for control of the Bridgeport Board of Education could determine the fate of its beleaguered superintendent. An education reformer, Superintendent Paul Vallas is supported by the Republican candidates running for the board, but the challenge slate of Democratic candidates and Working Families Party candidates could win a majority of the nine seats.
“The Democratic Party put a lot of resources into the mayor’s slate in the primary, and a lot of money,” Working Families Party Executive Director Lindsay Farrell told Salon magazine. “We haven’t really seen them doing anything to help the challengers who won in the primary in the general election.”