OP-ED | 6 Things To Watch For On Primary Night
Chances are that you’re probably not going to be among the hardy souls voting in Tuesday’s primaries. It’s still going to be an interesting election night. Here are six things to keep tabs on:
How Big Is Tom Foley’s Win?
Let’s be honest, everyone expects Tom Foley to crush John McKinney in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Anyone who is familiar with the GOP base’s dislike of McKinney, who struggled to get the 15 percent of delegates required to make it onto the ballot at the Republican convention in May, came to that conclusion a long time ago.
But late summer primaries are strange critters, and you just never know who will actually show up for them. No one’s done any polling, so without access to the campaigns’ internal polls no one has much of an idea what this race really looks like. It might be a huge blowout — but it might not be, either.
A closer-than-expected race isn’t impossible. McKinney’s helped himself out lately by running a strong closing campaign and picking up plenty of newspaper endorsements, while Foley’s campaign seemed to be taking on water. For instance, Foley recently made headlines with a cringe-inducing run-in with workers and the First Selectwoman of Sprague outside a closing factory there. McKinney made that encounter into a devastating ad.
Despite this, McKinney will almost surely still lose. He’s just too unpopular with the sorts of people who vote in Republican primaries. But what if it’s only by about 10 percent instead of 30 percent? What if the result is in doubt, even for a moment? The margins, not the win, would be the story then. That could be a very worrisome sign of weakness for the Foley campaign as they prepare to face Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in the fall.
Which Lt. Gov Candidate Wins in the West?
The other major statewide primary happening Tuesday is the three-way Republican race for lieutenant governor between state Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, former U.S. Comptroller David Walker, and former Groton Mayor Heather Bond Somers. That race, like any statewide Republican primary, will be decided in Fairfield County, as well as pieces of New Haven and Litchfield Counties. That’s where Republican voters tend to live, either on the southwestern coast or, increasingly, in the interior western third of the state. Watch towns like Greenwich, Brookfield, Waterbury, New Milford, and Darien to get a sense of where the night might go.
This contest, unlike Foley vs. McKinney, is entirely up in the air. It’s been close-fought and nasty, and there’s no clear favorite. Bacchiochi had a strong win at the convention, but since primary voters and convention delegates often live in different worlds, that may not mean anything. My guess? Walker.
How Does Ernie Newton Do In Bridgeport?
The most compelling stories of the night may unfold in Bridgeport. Ernie Newton was an outspoken, flamboyant state senator from Bridgeport before going to prison on bribery charges. But now he’s back, and running for a seat in the House of Representatives. He tried this in 2012 and came up short, but this is definitely a race to watch. Bridgeport has a couple of other races where incumbents may lose their seats, as well.
Can Sen. Eric Coleman Survive a Tough Challenge?
The state senate primary in Hartford, Windsor, and Bloomfield between incumbent Sen. Eric Coleman and challengers Shawn Wooden and Lenworth Walker is interesting not only because a longtime incumbent has a strong opponent in Wooden, who is Hartford’s city council president, but because Coleman has put his opposition to the Rock Cats stadium proposal front and center. The stadium issue may be less important here, though, than the potential handoff of power from one generation to the next. The Hartford Courant made just that point when it endorsed Wooden.
Where is Dan Malloy?
Gov. Malloy has been busy on previous primary nights. Will he show up to anyone’s victory party? Will he be seen at all, or will he let whoever wins the GOP primaries have the night to themselves? I kind of doubt the latter.
Can Turnout Break 20 Percent?
This is the big wild card. Turnout for the 2006 U.S. Senate election between Ned Lamont and Sen. Joe Lieberman reached a whopping 43 percent, which is amazing for a late summer primary. This isn’t going to get that high. It’s often the case that the smaller the crowd, the weirder the results of the election are likely to be. Dragging voters off the beach and to the polls is going to be critical for each and every campaign.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.