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OP-ED | Republicans Fight, to Malloy’s Delight

by Susan Bigelow | May 30, 2014 9:13am
(5) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Election 2014, Opinion

You’re excused if you have no idea what’s going on in the busy Republican race for lieutenant governor. You’re also excused if you’re wondering why there’s so much action in an essentially meaningless race.

Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, R-Stafford, handily won the endorsement of partied-out GOP convention delegates, despite a weird flap in which Bacchiochi accused an opponent, former U.S. Comptroller David Walker, of making racial insults about her husband. Bacchiochi apologized, and won. Former Groton mayor Heather Somers, the running mate of Mark Boughton, bailed out of the Danbury mayor’s sinking campaign to strike out on her own — taking her cash with her. She was quickly replaced by Shelton mayor Mark Lauretti, who had left the governor’s race after not picking up a lot of delegates at the convention. As for Walker, he got enough votes to primary, and likely will.

Now Boughton and Lauretti are paying workers $2 per signature collected to get Lauretti onto the primary ballot. In the primary, governor and lieutenant governor are voted on separately, which means the winners get paired up. If the results of the convention are any guide, we’ll see Foley/Bacchiochi signs dotting lawns in October. Boughton and Lauretti can combine their respective fundraising pots to qualify for $1.4 million in public financing, but Lauretti has to actually be on the ballot first.

Basically, there are an awful lot of little camps gearing up for an expensive and agonizing August primary.

This is a symptom of the bigger problem Republicans have had for a long time, now — they just can’t get it together. To be fair, neither can Democrats, but for Republicans this is a much more dire problem. There are so many factions and personalities competing for an increasingly small share of the electorate that the party seems utterly incoherent. What do Connecticut Republicans stand for? Business interests? Guns? Rich white guys? Mild economic conservatism? Libertarianism? Tax cuts? Anti-unionism? It’s a smorgasbord of all these and more, depending on who you are.

The smaller the party becomes, the worse this splintering is going to get.

That seems counterintuitive, but it happens to small, isolated groups a lot. I was, I have to admit, a member of the Connecticut Green Party for a few years after the 2000 election. Our district meetings were usually three people in a basement of a library somewhere, and our campaigns went equally badly. The state central committee meetings, though, were epic slugfests. I remember being at one where the issue was whether we ought to record speakers or not. That debate lasted hours, and was dominated by some of the party’s “big” personalities. In the end everyone went home to their dark and distant districts feeling bitter, resentful, and angry.

My sense of the Republican Party in Connecticut is like this now; as they become more insular and homogeneous they’re also becoming more fractious. As the thought of winning and governing becomes more remote, everyone focuses instead on minor shades of ideological difference, personality, power bases, and infighting. This is why the teeny Republican rump in the General Assembly would release a different budget from Republican governor M. Jodi Rell’s, for instance, and why Lisa Wilson-Foley was willing to illegally pay John Rowland to take a whack at Andrew Roraback. This is also why Republicans seem unwilling to nominate any of their actual office-holders for high-profile races; they’re too hated by certain groups within the party.

This sort of fragmentation doesn’t bode well for what ought to be a Republican romp to victory. Democrats, who are fractious and incoherent in other ways, are all but shoving the Republicans to victory at this point. Gov. Malloy is incredibly vulnerable, especially with Jonathan Pelto threatening to lead a faction of liberals out of the Democratic Party, and he should be beatable. All Republicans need to do is nominate the right candidate and campaign hard — together — until November.

Instead, Republicans will spend the next few months lining up behind an increasingly confusing collection of candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, eventually and grudgingly settle on bumbling rich guy Tom Foley as their standard-bearer. Until then, Malloy will have the whole summer to take whacks at Foley, and re-define him as a weird, thoughtless plutocrat for a public who largely doesn’t remember who he is.

Political parties, which are more about vaguely expressed ethnic, regional, and ideological loyalty these days than they are about issues, are prone to fragmentation and infighting. For a dwindling party in a small state, too much of that can, and will, prove fatal.

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

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(5) Comments

posted by: d9deeda8 | May 30, 2014  10:43am

This op-ed is confusing.  (Or is it?) On one hand you boost Foley by describing Boughton’s campaign as “sinking” and speak of the inevitability of a Foley/Bacchiacchi ticket.  Then on the other you clearly point to Foley as the wrong choice.  And you’re right! 

Foley is the wrong choice.  Boughton and McKinney are both better choices than him and certainly either one would be an improvement over Malloy. 

It just seems to this reader that you’re describing the situation rightly (Malloy’s weakness, Foley’s fundamentally beige character) while still hoping that Foley wins the primary and a GOP failure comes to pass.

posted by: DanofiveO | May 30, 2014  12:40pm

Hi Susan,
I disagree. I have worked in high level democratic and union politics left to run my business which has been on terminal life support under democratic policies since 2008.
I am a registered Republican now. I think the primary was planned by swapping some delegates around to get everyone on board. Why you ask? Because having the primary money to raise the the republican message benefits the party and they don’t have to pay for the publicity, win, win. The air time and media time will allow the Republican Party to focus its message to eager and disgruntled voters looking for 180 degree course change.
The political air is electric as things align and I foresee some big upsets in some previously thought blue strongholds, people are angry. What do think?
I see the Foley-Somers happening too, don’t you?

posted by: RogueWriteInPeltoReporterCT | May 30, 2014  2:28pm

RogueWriteInPeltoReporterCT

Boughton and McKinney are both better choices than him and certainly either one would be an improvement over Malloy.

Is it too boring just to second something? Because I could not agree more.

posted by: GBear423 | May 30, 2014  2:39pm

GBear423

Susan wrote:  “You’re also excused if you’re wondering why there’s so much action in an essentially meaningless race.”

I LOL’d at work, thanks for getting me in trouble Susan!  That was so tellin it like it is!  ;O)

I think Somers made a mistake joining Boughton and realized it.  Though I think she did herself harm in the short term by bailing, nobody likes “deal-breakers”.  Maybe she can shake it off?
Boughton is once again trying to pair up, and McKinney is following suit w/ Walker.
This appears to be a gimmick approach, it looks desperate and whoever is advising these guys must be a democrat.
Bottom line, it makes the whole GOP in CT look like a bunch of egos with no direction.

posted by: art vandelay | May 30, 2014  10:47pm

art vandelay

Every four years Republicans put all their eggs in one basket, and that being the Governor’s seat.  They have yet to learn a key lesson in that the true power resides in the House & Senate.  Governor Rell was virtually powerless when the Democrats had veto proof majorities in both legislative chambers.  It would be wise for Republicans to concentrate on winning back the House & Senate so that they turn this state around in a positive direction.  It can’t be done with a Republican Governor with a legislature controlled by Democrats.