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OP-ED | Groundhogging Connecticut’s Election

by | Nov 1, 2013 1:34pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Election 2013, Town News, Danbury, East Haven, Middletown, New Britain, Norwalk, Norwich, Stamford, West Haven, Opinion

Tuesday is Election Day and voters in a majority of the state’s towns will be going to the polls to decide who will run their town government.

These elections always have much smaller turnouts than are seen in presidential or even gubernatorial year elections. Still, they can be interesting, particularly as harbingers. It is in that vein that I give you five storylines for Election Night 2013.

1. Wave or stand pat

In 2009, as Republicans raced toward their national rout the next year, they had a good night in Connecticut elections. Republicans held on to almost everything they already had and picked up a decent number of local councils along the way — 2009 was an excellent night for the GOP.

By 2011, things were different. Democrats did a relatively good job of knocking off a number of towns, such as Middletown and New Britain, which seemed too Democratic to have been Republican to begin with. (How the Republicans came to win in those places are pretty good stories.) Republicans also made some progress in more Republican towns.

It will be very interesting to see if this night tips one way, or if we have a more status quo election.

2. Malloy-won towns

Malloy won 41 towns in what was close to a tie in 2010. Republicans hold a high number of those towns. It will be interesting to see if Democrats are successful in rolling some of those back beyond what they did in 2011. Look particularly to Stamford, Norwalk, East Haven and, possibly, Norwich. Those would be the four I would judge to see whether Democrats are having a decent night. If Democrats win there, it might suggest the 2014 gubernatorial race won’t be as close as last time. If they stay in Republican hands, however, it might suggest some trouble for Democrats next year. You can make up for losses there in other places, but it is harder.

3. Turnout

The election also will provide a decent check on the health of the democracy. Turnout will be low — that much can be safely assumed. But will turnout be lower than in 2011 or 2009, or comparable to those years? Only people who vote are heard. If the turnout is really low, the general electorate doesn’t have much clout. Instead, people who care deeply, whether it’s about guns or health care, tend to get what they want. So the number of people involved in these elections will be an indicator of what future governance will be like.

4. Boughton

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton faces the voters for re-election at the same time he is toying with a gubernatorial run. Few think he will be defeated. But how well he does, and with what kind of turnout, will be helpful in seeing what Danbury thinks of their mayor getting a promotion. In a similar vein, national pundits are watching Chris Christie’s results in the New Jersey gubernatorial race with an eye on the 2016 presidential campaign. Malloy was in a similar situation in 2005, and had a surprisingly close call.

5. A surprise?

Local elections can offer a surprise. If I had to pick one, it would have to be West Haven. It is a incredibly Democratic town, but the ugly three-way race, which has been analyzed by the New Haven Register’s editorial board, gives an advantage to the candidate who hasn’t been trading ethics. I wouldn’t bet on the Republican Bart Chadderton, but I wouldn’t bet against him either.

With literally thousands of candidates and races, there will be lots of good stories on Election Day. I will be back to try to catch the good ones and read tea leaves for 2014. Make sure you get out and vote on Tuesday.

Jason Paul of West Hartford is a partner in a campaign consulting company called What’s Next. He is also a student at the University of Connecticut Law School.

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(3) Archived Comments

posted by: LongJohn47 | November 1, 2013  5:51pm

Norwalk Dems have their best shot in years with home town/former police chief/nice guy Harry Rilling. 

On the other hand, it sounds like Tim O’Brien in New Britain may have trouble holding on against a resurgent Stewart family.

If both towns have large margins in the same direction you might start thinking “wave”, but that’s highly unlikely.

posted by: Commuter | November 2, 2013  4:27pm

None of it is indicative of what will happen in 2014, except that there is an advantage to having a political ally in a Mayors office.

posted by: ... | November 2, 2013  11:50pm


One factor of turnout we have to all consider greatly for many towns that hold elections on the first Tuesday of November on odd years: Weather.

Two years ago, we had a freak snowstorm (The Halloween Nor’Easter). And for thousands of potential voters two-years ago, being able to shower, not knowing when you were getting electricity back, or damage to your house from downed trees were paramount to engaging in a routine civic duty like voting.

This year, partly cloudy and 50s for temperature. Perfect weather for more candidates to sign wave and do election day literature drops, no severe outages to prevent phone call reminders, and greater opportunity to vote.

Turnout will still be low, municipals don’t have the media marketing presidential/gubernatorial campaigns have. Nor does (sadly) local elections gain the focus of the broader general public who will vote in some years at 80-90% turnout because of complex, state/nationwide issues, and then 25-35% turnout for still somewhat complex but more tangible and readily accessible for anyone to request/ask about with their local officials. But we should all strive for better, and remind everyone we know the importance of being well-informed voters in this years elections.

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