OP-ED | Groundhogging Connecticut’s Election
by Jason Paul | Nov 1, 2013 1:34pm
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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.
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.
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.