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OP-ED | Night of the Living Primaries—2015 Edition!

by | Sep 11, 2015 10:00am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Analysis, Election 2015, Election Policy, Local Politics, Opinion, Bethel, Bridgeport, Hartford, Killingworth, New Britain, New London

Alban Murtishi / ctnewsjunkie
Primary night is finally upon us! Here’s a quick rundown of possible outcomes, questions that will hopefully be answered, and what’s at stake.

All eyes will be on Hartford, which has weathered both a miserable, bloody summer and a nasty primary race between Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s former general counsel Luke Bronin and incumbent mayor Pedro Segarra.

The attacks have been nonstop. Bronin has gone after Segarra’s record hard, to the point of exaggerating or lying (depending on who you ask) about teachers being laid off because of budget cutbacks. Segarra, meanwhile, has whacked Bronin with everything he could think of: Bronin’s inexperience, his background as a wealthy white political staffer, his relative newness to the city, and even the West Hartford Montessori school where Bronin sends his kids.

The good thing about Wednesday is that we’ll get to see whose attacks actually made a difference, if any. Or maybe we’ll just see who has a better get out the vote operation, or whose supporters remembered that the primary isn’t on a Tuesday this year. That’s the great thing about having a primary on a weird day in the middle of September — turnout will be so low that it’s nearly impossible to predict what will happen.

There’s a lot at stake in violence-torn Hartford, which once again feels like a city in crisis. Segarra says that murders are up because of national trends, and that’s partly true. But there’s also something unique to Hartford happening, because there have been more murders here than in much larger cities like Boston. Segarra, who never seems on top of things at the best of times, has been slow to recognize the crisis and slow to react, and a lot of people have lost faith in his leadership.

Would Bronin do better? I think we’re going to have a chance to find out. My prediction: the need for change wins out over inexperience. Bronin wins by a whisker.

Of course, Hartford isn’t the only major city having a primary — we can’t forget the weird slugfest happening in Bridgeport. Somnolent incumbent Mayor Bill Finch is facing a challenge from Joe Ganim, the felon who went to jail for corruption during his own time as mayor of Bridgeport back in the 2000s.

This race has seemed surreal from the start, almost as if John Rowland were running for governor again. Ganim is backed by the police union and fellow ex-felon former state senator Ernie Newton, to name a few. He also came perilously close to winning the Democratic Town Committee’s endorsement over Finch. The strangest moment may have come when Ganim decided to open up his own unofficial police substations as a way of responding to crime.

Ganim has played up the fact that he apologized for his past misdeeds, and says he deserves a second chance. To me, that seems rather like letting the fox back in the henhouse. I believe Bridgeport voters will see it the same way, and Finch will come out on top.

In other races, New London is having a primary for mayor that, like Hartford and Bridgeport, will essentially decide who the next mayor will be thanks to Democratic dominance in these cities. The most interesting thing about this race is that the incumbent mayor, Daryl Finizio, sees himself as an outsider and a progressive crusader against the “old guard” who sit on the council. Michael Passero, his opponent, is supposedly a representative of the way things used to be. It remains to be seen whether people in New London will buy that idea.

There are nearly two dozen towns having a primary of one sort or another on Wednesday, many of them for such mundane offices as local board of education or town clerk. They’re still important, though, which is why it’s so frustrating that the election will be held on an unusual day of the week in mid-September.

Turnout is expected to be low, which means a committed minority of voters will have an oversized voice in the process. It’s not a great way for a democracy to function. Aside from who wins and who loses, maybe the bigger lessons from this coming primary ought to be about how we can make primary elections like this more accessible and ensure that more people actually come to vote. We could, for instance, do what enterprising Oregon has done and automatically register everyone to vote. We could extend voting days, or allow people to vote by mail or online.

For now, though, bring on the primary!

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

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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(5) Archived Comments

posted by: martyh | September 11, 2015  11:29am

I think it is also we know what we’ve got, we know the results of present policy, time to try something that may work better. I think this article covers too many important issues - voter apathy, new ways of registration etc. aside from the actual primary and potential outcomes.

posted by: BFlood | September 12, 2015  11:39am

“That’s the great thing about having a primary on a weird day in the middle of September — turnout will be so low that it’s nearly impossible to predict what will happen.”

Reading that sentenced really ticked me off, Susan. In no way is this ‘great’. It’s a tragedy.

Watching politics unfold can be dramatic and interesting and—for a certain disturbed subset to which I belong—even fun.  But it’s not ‘great’ when the will of the peopled is muted until it’s moot.

Then I read your last 2 graphs. “Frustrating” is much more apt. (And that’s what I expected, having read & listened to you with great appreciation for a while now.) 

Thanks for advocating for better elections with more participation. Just remember—not everybody reads to the end.

posted by: Greg | September 15, 2015  2:51pm

Regardless of what happens in the Hartford primary the citizens lose.  What’s their choice? An incumbent Pedro yet wholly ineffective leader given scandal after scandal of his own administration…

OR a carpetbagging, party golden child, rich white boy from Greenwich who has been anointed by the Democratic machine to use Hartford as a springboard into higher office.

The whole thing is disgusting…the city and state Democratic party would rather use Hartford as its test case for Bronin than actually find a local leader who can represent the entire community.  Yet the Democrats love spouting their “open tent” philosophy…the party of the poor and middle class…minorities and so forth…yet Bronin is the exact opposite.

I’ve yet to see ANY democratic operative on this site or anywhere else for that matter actually defend this reprehensible and hypocritical action. 

You’re right though, Susan, it should get very interesting.

posted by: martyh | September 15, 2015  11:55pm

Greg just a thought about your comment. If Bronin and/or the democrats are using Hartford as a test case it is much to his advantage to have good results, otherwise Hartford can be his death knell in politics.

posted by: Greg | September 16, 2015  9:01am

Martyh- You’re right. Considering he has the backing of the machine something tells me it will actually be hard to fail, or at least do worse than Pedro.

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