Friday, December 30, 2005

Happy New Year!

Great predictions. Keep 'em coming.

I'm liking that drinks idea, Aldon...

I'll be off until after the New Year. Have a good one! This is an open forum.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

2006 Predictions?

Let's have some fun. 2006 is almost here: what are your predictions for the coming year?

Here are mine:

  • The governor's race will be decided by less than ten percentage points--probably more like five. The race is going to be a very nasty one, decided in the last few weeks of the campaign.

  • One of the three Republicans in Connecticut's congressional delegation will lose his/her seat: the other two will win.

  • Democrats will pick up seats, nationally, but not take back the House. The Senate might be in play.

  • The Democratic majority in both houses of the General Assembly will shrink, but only slightly.

  • Kevin Sullivan will be on the statewide Democratic ticket in some capacity: maybe even as Lt. Governor.

  • Joe Lieberman will easily win another term.

  • There won't be a Democratic gubernatorial primary. The nominee will be clear by May.

Remember, these are just predictions! You can throw them in my face in November. What do you all think is going to happen in the new year?

Greens Still Out in the Cold

The Connecticut Green Party has voted to sue over provisions in the new campaign finance reform bill which set what they, in a Thursday press release, call “discriminatory signature petition drive requirements” for third parties to qualify for public financing. Who can blame them? What once seemed like a godsend for the Greens and other third parties is turning into a nightmare.

Here’s the mountain the Greens are staring up: To place a publicly-financed candidate for governor on the ballot in 2010, Greens would have to collect 200,000 signatures above and beyond the initial requirement. There’s an old fairy tale about a young hero who is commanded to pick up the spilled contents of a big sack of grain before the sun rises, or suffer the ax. He is lucky enough to be helped by an army of ants, whose hill he was nice enough not to ride his horse over earlier in the story. The Greens here are like the poor sot with the field full of spilled grain, but without the assistance of grateful insects. Their task actually is impossible.

They feel betrayed, and for good reason. The Greens were way out in front of campaign finance reform, advocating public financing of elections and other reforms long before the Rowland scandal forced the rest of us to take a long look at how campaigns are funded. In 2002 I worked on the campaign of a Green state rep. candidate whose signature idea was campaign finance reform. I stood out in the cold November night, calling to passing voters, “Vote Green! Campaign finance reform!” Then, no one was interested. That was the night John Rowland was re-elected.

Now, when public financing has finally become a reality, the Greens want what they consider to be their fair share. They stood out in the cold for years, years, waiting for the rest of us to wise up. This is how we reward them for their foresight?

Public money would save them. This is a party that rarely raises more than a few thousand dollars per year. They won’t take corporate or PAC money, relying on individual donors. Unlike Governor Rell, who has similarly crippled her fundraising, they aren’t successful. Even party members rarely contribute.

Public money would vindicate them. They imagine a Green candidate on the same stage as two major party candidates, explaining patiently and passionately the core beliefs of the party. They see television commercials, radio advertisements, lawn signs. They can almost touch the power they secretly desire. Finally, they think, people would listen, and everyone else would realize how wrong they’d been all along.

Except they wouldn’t. Change wouldn’t come, after all, and the Greens would still be left out in the cold. The fantasy, for such it is, ends at 10%. In a perfect election year, with weak major party candidates, the Greens could expect at most that lonely tenth of the vote. Even 10% is stretching it. The only difference would be that the state had just spent a ton of money financing a candidate who never had a chance.

The Greens are considering running activist Cliff Thornton for governor next year. He won’t be elected. He knows this. So why run? According to a Green Party press release, Thornton says he wants to push issues other candidates won’t talk about, like reforming drug laws. Should taxpayers spend a million dollars on issue ads for a candidate who will poll, at most, 5%?

The new law says that if he can convince 200,000 more people to sign their names to a petition, then we should. Greens say that’s impossible. What’s left unsaid is that no way are there that many people who care enough about the Greens to sign. There aren’t 200,000 people in Connecticut who want to spend taxpayer money financing a tilt at a windmill. That’s why the threshold was put in there in the first place—not to silence third parties, but to save the state from an expensive plague of them. Right?

What are we funding, here? Democracy? Choice? Debate? A massive anti-corruption measure? The answer matters. Public financing wasn’t designed to boost or even include third parties, but to save the two major parties from some of their own worst instincts. That’s it. Any other notions are secondary.

Next year, maybe the Greens will get closer to that seat at the table. Maybe the third party threshold will drop a little, although it won’t—and probably shouldn’t—disappear completely. A system that would grant them increasing amounts of money for reaching successive, more easily gained thresholds might be a workable compromise. 100,000 signatures gets you half what the major candidates do, for example. 50,000 gets you a quarter. It could work. We could move beyond just corralling corruption into funding democratic discourse. We may find that third parties have a lot to contribute to the discussion, once we can finally hear them.

For now, though, they’re still out in the cold, shouting prophecies at the wind.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

2005: Political Year in Review

2005 has been a very full year in the Nutmeg State. Let's take a quick look back at the major political events of the past year:


The year began on a somber note. Gov. Rell, who had been governor for less than six months, had been diagnosed with breast cancer in December of 2004, and underwent a mastectomy just before the New Year. Fears that Rell would suffer the same fate as her predecessor, Ella Grasso, were soon put to rest as the governor made a fast recovery.

Rell was well enough to deliver her first State of the State address, which focused on the smooth transfer of power following John Rowland's resignation. She would later propose what would be the signature piece of legislation for the year: a comprehensive campaign finance reform package.

Serial killer Michael Ross was slated to be executed in late January, but a stay of execution was granted as the death penalty was re-evaluated. The Ross saga would wear on for months before he was finally executed.

The federal investigation of Sen. Ernest Newton was made public.


Rell submitted her first state budget to the General Assembly. Among the highlights were an increase in train fare on Metro North to be spent on improvements to the New Haven Line, an increase in cigarette an alcohol taxes and an increase in the gas tax for other transportation improvements.

Democrats called (once again) for the "Millionaire's Tax" to be implemented. Kevin Sullivan criticized the governor's plans as stingy. Several other Democrats followed suit.


Democrat Christine Abercrombie won a special election to fill a vacant House seat in Meriden and Berlin.

Rell was criticized for missing a meeting of the Governor's Association, which included the possibility of meeting President Bush. This would be a theme for Rell in days to come: she has often shunned meetings with national figures and other Republicans.

John Orman of Trumbull, a professor at Fairfield University, announced that he would primary Joe Lieberman. He dropped out of the race later in 2005.

John Rowland's sentencing hearing approached while Rowland blamed everybody else for his troubles.

The big news of the month was the legislature's decision to uphold the death penalty. The debate over the proposed repeal inevitably turned to the horrible deeds of Michael Ross, who was scheduled to be executed May 11th.


On April 5th, the AP reported that the state would be filing a lawsuit arguing that the No Child Left Behind act of 2002 was illegal.

Rep. Shays admonished Tom DeLay and urged him to step down on April 10th.

On April 11th, Paul Vance of Waterbury announced his candidacy for the 5th District congressional seat currently occupied by Nancy Johnson. Chris Murphy entered not long after that.

However, the most historic event of April took place on the 20th, when Gov. Rell signed civil unions into law. It was the first time that any state legislature had passed this kind of legislation without being compelled by the courts.


Municpial elections were held in several Connecticut towns.

The minimum wage was slightly increased.

The Newton investigation plowed onward towards its inevitable conclusion.

Dan Malloy renewed his candidacy for governor following a long, voluntary haitus, during which he was under investigation for corruption. He was exonerated of all charges.

Michael Ross was finally put to death on Friday, May 13th, but the news of the Groton Sub Base's presence on the base closure list overshadowed his execution. Work began immediately to convince the BRAC committee to reverse the DoD's decision.


Rell surprised people by proposing full public financing of state elections just days before the end of the legislative session. However, the House and Senate couldn't agree on a final bill, and campaign finance reform stalled.

Rell also signed into law a bill funding stem cell research in Connecticut.

A compromise was reached on the budget, which implemented, among other things, a version of the "millionaire's tax." Republicans were shut out of budget negotiations, much to their dismay.

The Supreme Court decided, in the landmark Kelo v. New London case, that New London could take private land for private development through eminent domain. Almost everyone was horrified by the decision.


The General Assembly passed a transportation bill in special session, but didn't address campaign finance reform.

John DeStefano handily outraised his rivals, Dan Malloy and Susan Bysiewicz, and released a campaign DVD that caused some controversy around here.

Diane Farrell announced that she would run against Shays again in 2006.


The AP reported that Ernest Newton was offered a bribe by the head of a job training agency.

Rell released an Annual Report that looked suspiciously like a campaign brochure, drawing fire from Democrats.

Connecticut cheered on August 24th, when BRAC decided to keep the sub base open.


Connecticut residents pulled together to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Susan Bysiewicz dropped out of the governor's race, citing lackluster fundraising numbers. In response, all of the candidates hoping to suceed her as Secretary of the State jumped out of that race.

Primaries were held across Connecticut. The big news of the night was Waterbury mayor Michael Jarjura's stunning loss to Karen Mulcahy. Jarjura pledged to run as a write-in candidate.

Sen. Ernest Newton resigned his seat on September 15th. He would later plead guilty to three felony charges.


New Haven Mayor John DeStefano's office caused a flap over immigration by releasing a plan that would give ID cards to illegal immigrants. The plan was later rescinded.

Both Jodi Rell and Richard Blumenthal did what everyone was expecting them to do: She got in while he stayed out.

A special session of the legislature convened in October, and quickly passed heating assistance and contracting reform. The contracting reform bill would later be vetoed by the governor.


Municipal elections were held in November. The biggest story of the night was again in Waterbury, where Michael Jarjura won re-election as a write-in candidate.

Upsets also happened in Torrington, Norwalk and Middletown.

Ed Gomes was elected to replace Ernest Newton in Bridgeport.


In another historic first, a comprehensive campaign finance reform package, which included public financing for all state elections starting in 2007, passed and was signed. This was the first time such a system had been enacted by a state legislature instead of a referendum.

Lowell Weicker was rumored to be interested in running against Lieberman, a rumor he later (sort of) confirmed. Lieberman, an outspoken supporter of the administration's war policies, was rumored to be headed for the Pentagon.

Lisa Moody, Rell's chief of staff, found herself in hot water following the revelation of possible violations of state ethics laws. The matter is currently under investigation, and Moody has been suspended for two weeks.


Whew. That's the 2005 political year in review for Connecticut! It has absolutely been an action-packed year. Feel free to add in important stories you think should be on this list.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Open Forum

For those of you who aren't interested in the 1994 election.

If you are interested, however, here are the links to each section:

Part One: Two Primaries, One Upset
Part Two: A Wild Race to November
Part Three: Conclusions and Implications for 2006 (includes sources)

2006 is almost here... what's happening around the state?

The 1994 Election: Conclusions and Implications for 2006

This is the third of three posts about the 1994 election.

Part One: Two Primaries, One Upset

Part Two: A Wild Race to November


Rowland had managed to capitalize just enough on the general discontentedness and Republican-leaning mood of the country to eke out a victory. His narrow win was good news for state Republicans, as they found themselves in possession of the Senate for the first time in almost a decade. It also gave Rowland something to work with, although he didn’t accomplish much with it. Curry, whose lack of a clear message was probably fatal, would never quite disappear, although his appeal was substantially diminished. He’d return to challenge Rowland again in 2002, only to lose by a much wider margin. Curry’s central idea of property tax reform was, unfortunately for him, ahead of its time.

Groark’s failure to capture at least 20% of the electorate meant that A Connecticut Party, which had consisted of essentially her and Lowell Weicker, lost its major-party status. It vanished from Connecticut afterwards, and with it any hopes of a viable third party in the state.

The Democrats soon found themselves back in possession of the entire General Assembly, but were never able to mount a serious challenge to the governor. Rowland’s incumbency over the next two elections gave him an overpowering fundraising advantage, which no candidate could touch. Granted, his opponents were the hapless Barbara Kennelly and Bill Curry (again), but his fundraising acumen probably scared away better competition like Blumenthal and others. The Democratic Party seemed to flourish, but wilted when exposed to competition and never found any clear mission or focus throughout the Rowland years.

This is the legacy of 1994: a bloated, unfocused Democratic party, a Republican lock on the executive branch and a return to strict two-party politics.

Implications for 2006

Democrats believed for years that their loss in 1994 stemmed from the division caused by Larson’s defeat in the primary. This was a mistake. Larson was an unfocused, aloof candidate opposed by a driven one with a vast grassroots network, and it’s unlikely that he would have done any better than Curry against Rowland. However, in 1998 and 2002, potential gubernatorial primary challengers were warned off by the Democratic establishment, and urged to withdraw for the sake of party unity. The candidates that emerged, Kennelly and Curry, were sub-par. The looming Democratic primary between Dan Malloy and John DeStefano, may divide the party but may also produce the candidate best equipped to take on Rell in the general election.

As for Rell herself, she may find herself running the kind of campaign Eunice Groark would have if she had had money and the backing of a major party. Groark could at times be incredibly patronizing and dismissive of her opposition, while also appearing to be entirely above the fray. She had a reputation for honesty, civility, and pragmatism, which Rell shares. Expect to see clever ads in the spirit of Groark’s ad portraying the major parties as kids hitting each other with Nerf hammers, that mock her opposition while portraying her as a “responsible adult.”

However, we shouldn’t expect the 2006 campaign to be dominated by a single issue as the 1994 campaign was dominated by the income tax. Bill Curry’s property tax reform will likely find its way into the debate, as will discussions about jobs, schools and roads. Missing will be the widespread voter discontent that characterized the period from 1990-1994, but a strong Democratic showing nationally may yet affect the race, as the Republican Revolution of 1994 helped to put Rowland in office.

Rowland himself still hovers over this race. His record as governor, and his downfall, have left an indelible mark on Connecticut. That, if for no other reason, is why 1994 is such a crucial moment in our history.

Part One: Two Primaries, One Upset

Part Two: A Wild Race to November


Daly, Matthew. “Scott Vows ‘Crusade’ for Governor.” Hartford Courant 8 September, 1994. p. A3.

Grant, Steve. “Curry’s Message Still Unclear.” Hartford Courant 28 October, 1994. p. A16.

Jacklin, Michelle. “Curry’s Troops Capitalized on Larson’s Miscalculations.” Hartford Courant 15 September, 1994. p. A1.

Jacklin, Michelle. “Skepticism Fuels a Volatile Season.” Hartford Courant 6 November, 1994. p. A1.

Judson, George. “Six Major-Party Candidates Compete in an Open Race to Succeed Weicker.” New York Times 1 July, 1994. Section 1, p. 24.

Rabinovitz, Jonathan. “Connecticut G.O.P. Nominee Defends His New Positions.” New York Times 18 October, 1994. Section A, p. 1.

Rabinovitz, Jonathan. “Senate Leader Loses Governor Race to Comptroller in an Upset.” New York Times 13 September, 1994. Section B, p. 6.

Williams, Larry. “Behind in Polls, Groark Campaign Shifts Gears.” Hartford Courant 18 October, 1994. p. A1.

The 1994 Election: A Wild Race to November

This is the second of three posts on the 1994 election.

Part One: Two Primaries, One Upset

Part Three: Conclusions and Implications for 2006 (includes sources)

A Wild Race to November

Republicans, gleeful at the liberal Curry’s victory, reached out to moderates and began to compose the Democratic Party’s eulogy. However, they found themselves under attack from the right by the entry into the race of conservative radio host Tom Scott, who advocated the complete repeal of the income tax.

Scott personified the discontent, disaffection and anger with taxes and government so many Americans felt. Scott had been a talk radio host, and had spent more than a year hammering away at the income tax on the air. Scott told supporters in his September announcement speech that his campaign was “…a crusade—not just another campaign… Connecticut…cannot sustain another four years of business as usual,” (Daly). The centerpiece of his campaign was the repeal of the “dreaded, devastating” income tax (Daly). To add credibility to his campaign, he picked a budget analyst, Glen O’Keefe, as his running mate. Most of his barbs were aimed at Rowland, whose tax plan he said “…could fit on the back of a matchbook,” (Daly).

Rowland responded by tacking to the right, reversing his earlier position on the income tax. He had promised earlier in the year to reduce the tax instead of eliminating it, but Scott’s entry into the race prompted him to also call for its repeal (Rabinovitz. “Connecticut”). The other candidates attacked Rowland for flip-flopping and political opportunism, but Rowland preferred to call it “growth” (Rabinovitz. “Connecticut”).

Ethical problems dogged Rowland’s campaign, as well. Curry and others criticized him for 108 overdrafts from the House Bank while he was a member of Congress, and questions surfaced about a domestic disturbance between Rowland and his soon-to-be-former wife, Deborah, in 1993 (Rowland would marry Patricia, his second wife, not long after he was elected).

Still, Rowland held a lead in the polls throughout the election. Curry found it difficult to find his footing against Rowland, who proved to be a much tougher foe than Larson. He had difficulty articulating his message, and, according to one Republican, was trying to “retain a base of liberal supporters while drawing conservative support with his call for tax cuts and a tougher stance on crime,” (Grant). Curry suddenly seemed uncomfortable in his own skin. His calls for property tax reform, a theme to which he would return in 2002, seemed complicated and less clear-cut next to Rowland and Scott’s pledge to repeal the hated income tax.

Groark remained the greatest threat to Curry. She pledged to continue the policies of the Weicker Administration, and portrayed herself as a mature realist in opposition to the three other candidates, all of whom she had at least a decade on. She likened Curry and Rowland to two children flinging accusations at one another, while making promises about taxes they couldn’t possibly keep (Williams). She was popular among women, a fact that Rowland, who far less popular with women, tried to mitigate by choosing a woman much in the model of Groark, Rep. Jodi Rell of Brookfield, as his running mate.

The campaign was a dirty and negative one, highlighted by negative television ads from all sides. Disenchantment with all the candidates stemming from the constant negative ads kept the race close despite Rowland raising nearly twice what Curry had (Jacklin. “Skepticism”). Rowland watched his lead in the polls shrink during the final weeks of the campaign. Both Groark and Curry picked up ground against him during the home stretch; one October poll even showed Curry ahead by three points—the only time that would happen in the campaign.

But in the end, it was Rowland who finally came out on top. Groark and Curry split the anti-Rowland vote, while the effect of Scott was somewhat negated by Rowland’s rightward shift. The final tally: Rowland 36%, Curry 33%, Groark 19% and Scott 11% (a fifth candidate drew 1%).

Part One: Two Primaries, One Upset

Part Three: Conclusions and Implications for 2006 (includes sources)

The 1994 Election: Two Primaries, One Upset

This post is the first of three dealing with the 1994 election. I have separated this long post into three for easier consumption.

Part Two: A Wild Race to November

Part Three: Conclusions and Implications for 2006 (includes sources)


1994 was a turning point for America. That was the year that the work Nixon had begun in the dark days of the 1970s finally bore fruit, and the Republican Party rode waves of discontent into control of the House and Senate. They have yet to lose that majority at the polls (Jim Jeffords was elected a Republican, but his 2001 defection threw the Senate, briefly, to the Democrats).

1994 was also a turning point for Connecticut. The discontent with taxes and government that gripped the nation in that year produced one of the most fiercely fought and competitive gubernatorial races in our history, and narrowly elected Republican John Rowland governor.

The 1994 gubernatorial election is worth examining because we have not seen a truly competitive race since, and because it was the last race in which either party held a primary. Following Bill Curry’s defeat, Democrats put immense pressure on potential challengers to drop out in the interests of party unity. Republicans, of course, would not challenge their party’s powerful and popular incumbent.

1994, most importantly, was the start of the Rowland era, which persists to this day.

Two Primaries, One Upset

1994 began with the knowledge that independent Gov. Lowell Weicker, reviled for pushing the state income tax through the legislature, would not be a candidate. His Lt. Governor, Eunice Groark, would carry the A Connecticut Party banner in what was almost certain to be a losing effort. A scramble ensued in both of the major parties to determine who the nominees would be.

On the Republican side, former congressman John G. Rowland, who had narrowly lost to Weicker in 1990, found himself opposed by Secretary of the State Pauline Kezer. Kezer painted herself as the only one who could win a statewide race, citing the fact that “In 1990, I won my race… John Rowland did not,” (Judson). However, despite the fact that she was able to force a primary, Kezer couldn’t overcome the huge money advantage—she was outraised 8-1—Rowland had built (Judson). Rowland easily defeated her 68-32.

The Democratic situation was a lot more muddled. Front-runner John Larson, the leader of the State Senate, was opposed by three other Democrats: Comptroller Bill Curry, House Speaker Richard Balducci of Newington and Mayor Joseph Ganim of Bridgeport. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, considered a favorite, bowed out of the race early—defining his own pattern for the next eleven years (Judson). Balducci and Ganim dropped out of the race before the convention, setting up a primary between Larson and Curry.

Larson, who controlled far more delegates at the convention than Curry, expected to win just as easily as Rowland. Curry fought tenaciously, however, despite having only two-thirds the money of Larson. Curry’s campaign portrayed Larson as an empty suit, and accused him of “sloganeering” when Larson promised to cut the income tax (Rabinovitz. “Senate”). Larson found that the support of the party establishment meant little more than photo ops, while Curry’s campaign somehow tapped into the general discontent of 1994 to oust the party favorite (Jacklin. “Curry’s”). Curry won by ten percentage points, almost 16,000 votes. His victory was a stunning blow to the once-powerful Democratic machine, and illustrated just how far it had fallen since the days of John Bailey and Ella Grasso. Larson, to be fair, was not an impressive candidate, even compared to Bill Curry, and his strategy of a media blitz while Curry’s campaign worked at the grassroots level was probably the wrong way to go. Larson would return in 1998 to win the 1st District congressional seat, vacated by Barbara Kennelly for her own doomed gubernatorial run.

Part Two: A Wild Race to November

Part Three: Conclusions and Implications for 2006 (includes sources)

Monday, December 26, 2005

Running Mate Speculation: Rell's Pick Could be Future of State GOP

Note: Posting will be reduced this week

I've been meaning to post about this topic for a while, now, and this week is a good a time as any.

While two Democratic candidates contend for their party's gubernatorial nomination, Gov. Rell faces no such challenge. The question about the Republican ticket is who will fill the rest of it. So far, the GOP has not fielded candidates for any of the major state offices (with the exception of Richard Abbate of Cheshire for Secretary of the State). Who can blame them? The only major offices where Republicans have a good chance of victory are the governor's and lieutenant governor's, since the two are elected together.

So who will Rell pick? It isn't a light choice. Whoever she picks will have more visiblity than any Connecticut Republican save those serving in Congress, and will very likely be looked at as the future of the state GOP.

Here are some names I've heard so far:

John McKinney: A state senator from Fairfield and son of former Congressman Stewart McKinney, he has some name recognition--something most Republicans in this state lack. However, he has disagreed with the governor on campaign finance reform, and he is from the same general area of the state (parties still put some stock in the idea of geographic balance).

Kevin O'Connor: He's the U.S. district attorney for Connecticut, and has gained a reputation as a corruption-buster. Politically, though, he's something of an unknown.

John Kissel: State senator from Enfield. He shares Rell's moderate views, and he represents a large, Democratic-leaning town. He'd add geographic balance, but he's unknown outside his district.

Timothy Stewart: Mayor of New Britain. He's won two terms in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a wide margin, and would counter the argument that the GOP is ignorning cities. He is unknown outside New Britain.

There are plenty of other possibilities, and we'll hear more about this as we get closer to the convention.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Holidays!

Specifically, Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.

A few things worth mentioning before the weekend hiatus:

Ted Stevens: Grinch

Northeastern senators like Lieberman, Dodd and others, who led the fight against oil drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge, found themselves and their states punished today by the Republican leadership. Article here. Apparently, Ted Stevens of Alaska threw a fit, so we lost half of our heating assistance for the needy. The good news is that the heating money was apparently thrown into the mix to cajole reluctant Northeasterners into voting for drilling, so we probably won't miss it. Still. I'd wish Stevens a lump of coal for Christmas, but we're probably going to need it here.

Kudos to Lieberman and Dodd for holding the line against sneaky legislation and blackmail.

More on Moody

Two things. First, Moody wrote a memo in May forbidding employees from doing, well, what she did.

Secondly, Gov. Rell is now unwilling to publicly disclose the names of contributors to the fundraiser in question, which is a reversal from her earlier position. Apparently, since the money wasn't deposited, they aren't required to include it in the Jan. 7th filing... so they won't. Rell initially had indicated that the names would be made public then.

Enjoy the holidays! Posting will resume Monday. This is an open forum.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Malloy: Same Day Registration in 2006

Following a decision by a federal district court that enacting same-day voter registration is the province of the legislature, not the courts, gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy has called for the General Assembly to enact such legislation in the upcoming session.

"Connecticut is not trying to set a precedent," added Malloy. "There are six states that allow it -- Maine, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Idaho and New Hampshire. And in each of those states, voter turnout is about 10 to 12 percentage points higher than the national average. If we're going to make government work for all the people, we need to make it easier for people to participate in our democracy -- and that begins at the voting booth." (Malloy press release, 12/22/05)

The General Assembly passed same-day registration in 2003, but the measure was vetoed by Gov. Rowland. Malloy says that the possibility of voter fraud that prompted Rowland to veto the bill have been largely resolved by the state's computerized voter registration database.

Same-day registration is a good idea and will hopefully help boost voter participation, which was a dismal 37% for the latest round of municipal elections. However, we're still treating the symptom, not the disease. I hate to say it, but we're not going to see a major turnaround in voter turnout until something in our culture shifts and people feel the power of the franchise again.

Right now, a significant portion of people don't believe that voting makes any sort of difference whatsoever. Same-day registration may help some of these people who decide, at the last minute, that they'd like to vote after all. But what about the people who never even think of going to the polls? How do we reach them?

I often hear a lot of talk about empowering people and reaching out to nonvoters. These initiatives may be slightly successful, but the bare fact of the matter is that people won't vote unless they think there's a good reason to. If people believe they have something to vote for, then vote they will. Last year, national turnout was around 60%, the highest it's been since 1968.

Malloy is right, we should have same-day registration. This will help those nonvoters who show up at the polls next year. But can he provide the vision and leadership necessary to draw them out in the first place?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Quick Commentary on Wednesday's Events

There's a lot that was brought up in the open forum that is worth talking about. I'll be brief:

DeStefano Filing Mishap

This isn't even in the same league as Lisa Moody actions, for the simple reason that Moody knew what she was doing while Gaylord Bourne pretty obviously just screwed up. There was nothing to hide, and the DeStefano campaign was pretty forthcoming about it when the Journal-Inquirer caught the error.

Still, it diverts any attention that was still on Moody DeStefano's way, and makes the DeStefano campaign look like they aren't completely together. I'm a bit surprised that this story has as much traction as it does, especially for a violation that was uncovered months ago. The J-I had it on the front page today! It took them until two days after the Moody story broke to run something about that. Huh.

Wounded Knee

I'm impressed with Senator Dodd, who just had knee surgery, for making it down to Washington to vote on crucial bills, and to get made fun of by Ted Kennedy for using a walker.

I'm also pleased that the Senate stopped the amendment-laden defense appropriations bill from passing, and that a Patriot Act more attentive to civil liberties will eventually be worked out. It's good to know that the federal government has some sanity left in it.

Murphy Endorsements

National Democrats got behind Murphy early. Vance may have a shot if he can hang on until the primary, but he's got a steep hill to climb. 2008?

Things are starting to wind down for the holiday. Posting may drop off a bit over the weekend, and return next week. I'd like to do a couple of more posts about past gubernatorial elections, including the last really competitive race 1994. Any requests?

Open Forum

A quick scan of the headlines makes me glad I don't work in New York. A recent poll shows that a slight majority of people are on the side of the union, however.

In local news, it looks like it will take legislative action to implement same-day voter registration. Don't hold your breath.

What else is happening today?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Democratic Challengers: Incumbents Broke Faith with Constituents

Courtney, Vance attack opponents over ANWR, student loans

Democratic congressional candidates Paul Vance and Joe Courtney today attacked incumbents Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons for voting against the interests of their constituents. Vance pointed to Johnson's vote for slashing federal student loans, while Courtney accused Simmons of violating campaign promises by voting for a defense appropriations bill that included an amendment allowing oil drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve.

Student Loan Program Slashed

The House of Representatives agreed yesterday to slash the federal student loan program, and Paul Vance is not happy about it:

Said Vance, “When seven moderate and conservative Republicans voted to protect the student loan program, our supposed “independent” Congresswoman forgot about our concerns and voted with the majority to cut nearly $13 billion from the student loan program – and thousands of families from across the Fifth District want to know why.” (Paul Vance Press Release: 12/20/05)

Vance is referring to this, which is part of a defecit-cutting measure that will take more than $12 billion out of the student loan program. While it seems that banks will actually suffer the most, students will see higher interest rates and potentially fewer dollars. Republicans claim that students have been protected and that the money freed up from government payments to banks will lead to more grants and lower fees. We'll see if that is actually the case. I suspect that, in their suddenly remembered zeal to cut the budget, Republicans have taken off too big a bite for the program to remain as useful as it is today.

Promise Broken?

Rob Simmons is coming under fire for apparently breaking a promise to his constituents. Joe Courtney compares two recent campaign mailings to Simmons' vote to approve the defense appropriations bill, which included a provision to allow ANWR drilling:

In a November 4, 2005 bulk email to constituents, Simmons said “Since coming to Congress in 2001, I have voted six times against opening the Arctic Refuge to drilling. Rest assured, I will oppose any budget that permits drilling in ANWR.”

Simmons, in another bulk email on November 30, said the following on the GOP budget cuts: “I voted against this budget because I am opposed to cutting spending at the expense of Connecticut's most vulnerable citizens. Medicaid, student loans, and food stamps are programs that help people. I could not vote for a bill that targeted these programs. I am for a reduction in federal spending, but it must be done in a more equitable manner.”

Second District Democratic Congressional Candidate Joe Courtney said the votes are typical of Simmons’ performance in the Congress.

“Although ‘Connecticut Rob’ tells us how opposed he is to ANWR drilling and cutting important programs like student aid and Medicare, ‘Washington Rob’ backs his Republican leadership and the special interests funding his campaign,” Courtney said, “It’s time for leadership that will represent the people of this district when it counts – not when it’s politically convenient.” (Joe Courtney Press Release: 12/20/05)

To be fair to Simmons, he got screwed by his party (story here). Simmons was part of a group that tried to stop the ANWR drilling provision, it seems, but came up short. So what to do? Either vote for ANWR drilling and break a promise, or keep the promise and vote against the troops. It's an impossible situation, and Simmons, whose base of support is the Groton-New London area, apparently chose the option that would least harm his image among constituents. If I were Simmons, I'd be furious with Dennis Hastert for using the military as cover for unpopular oil exploration.

Both challengers are making efforts to tie their opponents to the Republican leadership, a tactic that has had mixed success in the past. However, as Northeastern Republicans become stretched by the often conflicting demands of their party's leadership and their own constituents, the charge that the incumbents are out of touch may start to resonate.

Is Connecticut a Liberal Bellwether?

A few weeks ago, I was asked whether I thought Connecticut had become the new liberal bellwether by a reporter (the article he was writing, excluding my incoherent answers, is here). My immediate answer was "No!", simply because we don't seem to fit the definition of liberal. Our government is, by most standards, fiscally moderate (see the 1960s and 1980s for fiscally liberal) and socially tolerant. We are permissive, to a degree, but not to the point of social engineering. Is that the new liberalism?

But the more I think about it, and the more I reflect on the historic 2005 legislative session, the more I start to think that perhaps Connecticut is, in some ways, a new and better standard for American progressivism. Indeed, progressives across the country would do well to follow our lead, as we have taken great steps forward with a minimum of outcry and anger. If this is liberalism, it's common sense liberalism.

The article cites civil unions, the lawsuit against No Child Left Behind, campaign finance reform and mounting irritation with Joe Lieberman as examples of liberal leanings. Yet the two major pieces of legislation this year, civil unions and campaign finance reform, were compromise pieces. Both have flaws, especially from a liberal point of view. Civil unions aren't quite marriage, although in Connecticut they carry all the legal rights, and the bill includes a hastily-added definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman only. Campaign finance reform has plenty of problems, most notably a too-high threshold for third parties and many, many loopholes through which money can sneak.

But these two bills, flawed though they may be, are unprecedented in our country. Civil unions have never been implemented by a legislature without pressure from the courts. Public financing of elections has historically only been accomplished through referenda. Other states have blazed the trail on gay marriage/civil unions and public financing, but Connecticut has showed that these advances can be done quietly and civilly, without court orders, mass demonstrations and a national outcry.

In short, we have taken the cutting edge and dulled it. Positions once advocated by fiery radicals are now thoughtfully debated on the floor of our House and Senate. What were in other states unthinkable social and political leaps ahead are here made commonplace and normal.

That in itself is historic and remarkable, especially considering the times in which we live. The first decade of the 21st century is the conservative mirror of the 1960s and 70s, in which the losers of that earlier culture war try to win back all the bloody ground they lost. This is a time of passion and partisan hatred, fueled by war, fear and uncertainty. It's astonishing that, in such a climate, Connecticut is able to quietly march to the beat of its own drummer.

So to answer the title question again, Connecticut is not quite the "liberal" leader, rather it is the standard-bearer for tolerance, moderation, civility and common sense. When it comes to those virtues, liberals and conservatives nationwide would serve their country well to follow our lead.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Weicker Trails Lieberman in Rasmussen Poll

In the first poll released on a possible Weicker/Lieberman rematch, Weicker badly trails Lieberman 32% to 54%. Rasmussen Poll here.

However, Weicker's strongest support comes from liberals and Democrats. 37% of Democrats would vote for Weicker. The group in which Weicker comes closest to Lieberman is among self-described liberals, where Weicker trails the senator 40-44. Lieberman's strongest support comes from self-described conservatives, 62% of whom would vote for him instead of Weicker.

This sets up the intriguing possibility, suggested by Chris MC, of a three way race in which Weicker as an independent (he's not running as a Democrat) takes the liberal vote and a Republican candidate could take the conservative vote. Where does that leave Lieberman?

Lieberman's last two Republican opponents were nobodies, but each got around 34% of the vote. Lieberman won with a combination of moderate unafilliated voters and Democrats. What if the liberals in that group split off? If Weicker's numbers held in the 30s, and the Republican candidate got as much as the Republican candidate often does (30%-35%), then the race suddenly becomes one of the closest in the nation.

Republicans have promised a candidate. If Weicker does decide to run (and he has kind of boxed himself in, here, by saying that he would stay in if a credible anti-war candidate didn't appear), then we have a very interesting race brewing.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Open Forum

Ask, and ye shall receive.

Just to get us all in the holiday spirit, here's the text of Patty Rowland's 'Night Before Christmas', as read to the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce two years ago Saturday. Read and cringe all over again! I wonder how sales of Marvelous Max the Mansion Mouse are doing...

Check out the new poll on the Moody scandal on the sidebar below the maps.

What's happening around the state?

Rell and the Republicans

Right up to the very end of his time in office, John Rowland had partisans. There was always a group of people who defended the governor no matter what revelations were made or what ugly truths were exposed. Rowland had friends all over the state, many in powerful positions in government or media, who could be counted on for at least the appearance of support.

Richard Nixon was the same. Even in the darkest days of Watergate, Nixon had a network of friends and supporters in positions of power. One only has to look at the current White House to find them.

Both men relied on the power of personal ties and political party to bind followers to them, and each had an enthusiastic legislative echo chamber. For Rowland, especially, the Republican Party became his first and greatest line of defense in the face of scandal.

Almost exactly two years ago, during the days just after Rowland's admission that he had lied about contracting work done on his cabin, Republicans sprang into action:

With their leader under fire politically and legally, the state Republican Party is launching a multi-pronged counterattack against Democratic calls for Gov. John G. Rowland to resign.


The GOP's rally-the-troops effort involves calling all 71 Republican state legislators in the state House and Senate to directly spread Rowland's message and seek input from all corners of the state. In public and in private, Republicans have already started to rally around Rowland. Rell and U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson were both standing side by side Sunday with Rowland in South Windsor at a party for family members of Connecticut National Guard troops who are deployed overseas. (Keating)

It was only when Republicans like Shays began turning on Rowland in droves that his resignation became inevitable. In the beginning, however, Republicans seemed willing to defend their leader come hell or high water.

So what happened? Now, Republicans seem to be blessed with a governor whose approval ratings are consistently among the highest in the nation, and whose re-election seems assured (thus granting the Republican Party another four years of influence in state government) in 2006.

Yet when a mild ethics scandal is threatening the governor's chief of staff, the only thing anyone is hearing from the state Republican Party is a deafening silence. Where are Rell's friends and defenders? Where are her partisans?

The answer may be that she doesn't really have any. Republicans, who would ordinarily make up the majority of her supporters, have been increasingly alientated by her moderate-to-liberal positions on publicly-funded elections and civil unions. The governor's support in the legislature has been on the wane. Just three Republicans voted for the campaign finance reform package that she had been pushing since February, despite promises from the governor's office that the bill would have GOP support. Republicans are also not pleased that she has assented to Democratic tax increases, and has proposed a few of her own.

Conservatives have a lingering suspicion, seemingly confirmed by her support for minimum wage increases, civil unions, public financing of elections and tax increases, that she is not one of them. Rowland was, so they would move heaven and earth for him. Rell, on the other hand, only provokes the mildest of enthusiasm from most Republicans.

Democrats, despite the fact that she has either implemented, assisted or allowed much of their agenda, see the "R" next to her name, remember the ten years she spent at Rowland's side, and treat her as the opposition.

So when things get tough next year, as they inevitably will, where will Jodi Rell turn?


Keating, Christopher and David Lightman. "GOP Rallies Around Rowland; But Shays Critical of Governor." Hartford Courant 16 December, 2003.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Moody Suspended Two Weeks

Following three days of rising political waters, Gov. Rell suspended her chief of staff, M. Lisa Moody, for two weeks without pay. Moody is under investigation for violations of state ethics laws. An AP article is here.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates John DeStefano and Dan Malloy continued to hit Rell hard on the issue, saying that the suspension was not enough.

John DeStefano:

Today’s suspension of the governor’s chief of staff for two weeks amounts to a holiday vacation and still does not address what the Governor knew and when she knew it about illegal fundraising on her behalf by her chief of staff and one half dozen of her commissioners. (DeStefano Press Release, 12/16/05)

Dan Malloy:

The suspension of the Governor's Chief of Staff is a step in the right direction, but there is much more that Governor Rell must do. Specifically, there are two other actions the Governor should take, immediately: First, the Governor needs to explain publicly what role Special Counsel for Ethics Compliance Rachel Rubin played in this whole matter. ... Second, the Governor needs to provide the Chief State's Attorney's office with every piece of relevant information that exists that is in any way, shape, or form related to this matter, including a list of names of everyone who appeared at the fundraiser in question. (Malloy Press Release: 12/16/05)

Rachel Rubin's role in all this is still murky. If she's spposed to be in charge of ethics compliance... why hasn't she said or apparently done anything? The system is apparently still broken.

Why didn't Rell suspend Moody at once instead of waiting until today? It's as if her office has been paralyzed since this broke on Wednesday. A two-week suspension is also kind of a weak punishment, especially during a time of the year when nothing major is happening. That, and the fact that Moody was the one who determined the punishment, not Rell, makes Rell seem weak and indecisive.

The best the Rell team can hope for is that Moody is quickly found to have been the only one who committed any violations. She'd get slapped with some sort of unremarkable fine, and then life would go on as normal. Moody might find herself on the sidelines a little more, but nothing too terrible would happen.

The worst...? Who can say? It depends on whether Rell or other staff members knew anything about this.

Regardless, Rell needs to start taking decisive steps now if she doesn't want to watch her 77% approval ratings and her huge lead in the governor's race melt away.

(Another) Open Forum

First off, thanks to everyone who participated in one of the saner debates about Iraq I've ever seen.

Since that Open Forum is pretty full, I'm starting another one up.

The Moody Investigation is off and running this morning. DeStefano and Malloy continue to call for Rell to take more decisive action. Bob Englehart has his own view of how the two Democrats view the situation, of course...

More people seem to be clambering aboard the Weicker bandwagon.

What else is happening today?

Northeastern States Take On Pollution

Connecticut Signs On To Compact to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

The Northeast is one of the most polluted areas of the country. Our dense population, cold winters, manufacturing plants and older structures means that the Northeastern states tend to pollute quite a bit more than other states in the south, midwest and west. A reduction in greenhouse gases and other pollutants here will go a long way towards making this a cleaner world.

That's why I'm glad to see that Connecticut has signed on to a regional initiative to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and cut greenhouse gases by 10% by 2020:

Connecticut is expected to be one of seven Northeastern states signing on to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which sets goals for reducing carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants beginning in 2009.

"The agreement creates incentives that will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and help free our economy from the price volatility of world oil and gas markets," Rell said.
The formal plan has yet to be released, but a draft proposal requires a 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020. Utilities that exceed the goals could sell credits to companies that do not.

The market approach "has been a very effective tool that's been used in our air programs over a decade," McCarthy said. (Pazniokas)

Both Rhode Island and Massachusetts have held off on signing the compact for economic reasons, however:

Gov. Don Carcieri of Rhode Island and Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts each raised concerns that the plan could drive up electricity rates. Romney had sought a cap on what power plants would have to pay if they exceeded emissions limits. (Pazniokas)

Hopefully Romney, at least, will sign on. The compact is useless without Massachusetts.

Both governors have legitimate concerns, but Rell seems satisfied that consumers will be protected. It's good that governments are trying to make environmentalism work with economics instead of against it.

I'm glad to see New England and the rest of the northeast taking the lead on these issues when the federal government won't.

Pazniokas, Mark. "State Joins Pollution Compact." Hartford Courant 16 December, 2005.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Open Forum

Posts unrelated to the Moody investigation can go here.

Opponents of the Iraq War protested outside the offices of Rob Simmons and Joe Lieberman yesterday. The demonstration was organized by members of MoveOn Connecticut.

Lieberman was the topic of an article in Salon today (you'll have to watch the commercial to get to it).

What else is happening today?

Democrats Call for Investigation, Suspension of Moody

Elections Enforcement Commission Investigating Matter

Both of Gov. Jodi Rell's Democratic opponents have stepped up their criticism of the governor and her staff following yesterday's revelation in the Hartford Courant that cheif of staff M. Lisa Moody may have violated state ethics laws as well as Rell's self-imposed ethics rules.

The state Elections Enforcement Commission is now investigating, but Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy wants to see more:

"It is unacceptable that Gov. Rell is willing to wait for the Elections Enforcement Commission to act on what appears to be a violation of the election law committed by her top aide. Instead, the Governor should call on her own Ethics Czar, immediately, to conduct an internal investigation into what happened, and who was responsible -- and to determine whether or not the Ethics Czar herself was aware of this apparently improper activity." (Malloy press release 12/15/2005)

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano called for Moody's suspension pending the outcome of the investigation:

“With Governor Rell’s top aide admittedly engaged in improper fundraising, Governor Rell should suspend her top aide until the criminal and ethical investigations are complete. Connecticut residents have had enough of scandal during the Rowland years; now Governor Rell needs to clean up her own office,” said DeStefano. (DeStefano press release, 12/15/2005)

DeStefano also accused the governor of "closing her eyes" to ethical lapses in her administration and campaign.

There are a couple of things that stand out about this story. First... it's great to see the Courant investigating a major story like this and staying with it. They've been in the shadow of other papers, like the scrappy Journal-Inquirer, for too long when it comes to investigative journalism.

Secondly, I've been somewhat surprised that the rest of the state media hasn't picked this up. I check online versions of most of the state's dailies in the morning, and only a handful were running it. Why the slow response? I would have thought that possible campaign ethics violations by the chief of staff to a governor who has made ethics a central part of her image would be something people would want to know about.

Meanwhile, the Elections Enforcement Commission is investigating, although the special ethics counsel is not. Colin McEnroe speculates on why that is.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Moody Draws Fire for Ethics Violations

Chief of Staff “Unwittingly” Broke State, Rell’s Rules

M. Lisa Moody, Governor Rell’s longtime chief of staff, finds herself in ethics trouble today following revelations by the Courant that her actions in distributing invitations to a fundraiser to state commissioners violated her boss’s self-imposed campaign ethics standards, and quite possibly state ethics rules.

…Rell's top aide violated her boss's own ethics policies by handing out fundraiser invitations to top appointees on state time at the Capitol.

Chief of staff M. Lisa Moody also directed those appointees, the governor's commissioners, to distribute the invitations for a big fundraising reception last week. That was less than two months after Rell publicly reminded commissioners that it is against the law for them to solicit campaign contributions.

Despite the prohibition against commissioners and deputies soliciting contributions, Garfield said, state election laws do not ban a person in Moody's position from handing out fundraiser invitations in a state building on state time.

But Rell's own self-imposed rules clearly apply to what Moody did. On Oct. 19 … the governor's special ethics counsel, Rachel Rubin, issued a detailed list of policies and prohibitions for all agency heads and their deputies. First on the list: "State employees shall not engage in any political activity during regular working hours unless during lunch or while on approved leave."

The memo also stated: "State employees shall not use state funds for political activity. This includes the use of the office." (Lender)

Moody claims that she didn’t know she was violating ethics rules, and others in the Rell campaign, including the governor herself, say they were unaware of Moody’s actions.

I don’t believe the first. Moody has been around the Capitol for a long, long time, and is known as someone who pays a lot of attention to detail. She’s also one of the people who is primarily responsible for cultivating the governor’s image as a squeaky-clean reformer. She should know ethics rules for the state and for her boss’s campaign backwards and forwards.

As for the second…

Officials in Rell's campaign said they were unaware of Moody's actions, including finance director Peggy Deschenes, who was listed on the invitations as the person to respond to. (Lender)


So if Moody (and probably others) knew what she was doing, why take the risk? The answer, in all likelihood, has to do with the looming end of the fundraising reporting period. Rell’s own ethics rules make it nearly impossible to raise as much money as her Democratic opponents, but Moody must be under enormous pressure to deliver respectable numbers. The Rell campaign so far has seemed very willing to bend their own rules, which could eventually backfire on their candidate.

The elections enforcement commission, the same one that gave Rell a pass on campaign materials created too far ahead of the date of her official announcement, needs to make a good faith effort to get to the bottom of this.

There should be consequences for Moody, if Rell wants her image to remain untarnished. At the very least, the governor should consider whether having the same person run both her Capitol and campaign operations is in her best interests.

Lender, Jon and Edmund Mahoney. "After Rell Draws Ethics Line, Aide Crosses It." Hartford Courant 14 December, 2005.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Lieberman Loses Some Ground

Ratings Fall Among Democrats, Liberals

SurveyUSA 100 Senators Approval Poll

Joe Lieberman's poll numbers appear to have suffered because of his pro-war, pro-Administration stance over the last few weeks, but probably not enough to make a challenge credible unless the downward trend continues.

Lieberman's overall approval fell five points from 68% in November to 63% now. This is well within his usual range, as a peek at the graph will show you. It shouldn't be much of a cause for concern in the Lieberman camp.

The interesting numbers are from what ought to be Lieberman's base: liberal Democrats. A survey of self-identifying liberals shows Lieberman's approval dropping from 68% in October to 52% now. This is significant movement. Disapproval of Lieberman among liberals went from 25% in October to 41% now.

Democrats have probably the most noticable movement, if not the largest. Lieberman lost ten points among Democrats from November to now. His approval ratings went from 69% to 59%, and disapproval went from 26% last month to 36% now. Before November, his approval among Democrats was steady in the high 60s and low 70s.

There is a slight drop in approval (68% to 63%) among unaffiliated voters, and a two-point drop among moderates. Lieberman's ratings among Republicans also dropped, but only two points from 71% to 69%. Lieberman is rated higher among Republicans than Democrats by ten percentage points.

So does this mean Lieberman is vulnerable? Maybe, but at this point it's very hard to say. Support for the senator is usually pretty solid, and any downward trend may indicate that he's starting to lose that support. However, his numbers are still strong, and his overall approval is within what seems to be his usual range.

But as the upcoming election and the possibility of a credible candidate running against him draw more of the public's attention, those numbers could suffer.

Check out the entire poll here.

Interesting Malloy Interview

Dan Malloy was campaigning in New Haven, yesterday, making a point about challenging John DeStefano in his own backyard. Paul Bass caught up with him for this interview. Some interesting excerpts:

Asked what percentage of votes he expects to win in New Haven in a gubernatorial primary against DeStefano, he replied, "I think Marty Looney is my target. Forty-three." (Bass)

Actually, that number wouldn't surprise me. From what I understand about New Haven politics, because the city is so heavily Democratic, Democrats are their own opposition party. There's a pro-mayor faction and an anti-mayor faction. Anti-DeStefano Democrats will vote against him. It may not be 43%, but it'll be more than 25%. Absolutely.

You and DeStefano have taken money from people who do business with your cities.



But how are you going to get ahead of Rell if you continue to take money from people who do business with you? How can the voters look at that and say, “This guy’s going to change the system”?

You know what? It’s going to be very interesting when you answer my question about where the governor is raising her money from. Did she have a fund-raiser the night of the vote?


And that’s so different?

Can you win by not being different from her on this issue? You don’t think the Democrats should have claimed this issue before she did?

I did. I said let’s have a whole new set of rules. I said I would return contributions on a pro rata basis. I said it in the press. And let’s have instantaneous statewide [publicly financed elections]. I said, “Let’s do it immediately.” And if I was governor, I would veto any bill that didn’t do that. I’m not saying that [just] today. I said that in July, when there were people in the legislature who wanted to do that. (Bass)

He doesn't really answer the question. Why not do what Rell is (theoretically) doing, except do it better? Do it right?

What Malloy probably doesn't want to say is that if he did that, he'd get creamed by DeStefano, who has no intention of doing any such thing.

The rest of the interview is worth reading. Malloy seems very... defensive.


Bass, Paul. "Dannel Does New Haven." New Haven Independent 13 December, 2005.

Open Forum

The alcohol ban in Eastford has been lifted.

Connecticut is getting $500 million in road money from the federal government, a small part of which is earmarked for the completion of Route 11. Money is also earmarked for the replacment of the Q Bridge in New Haven.

Michelle Jacklin's Last Stand is very much worth reading. I don't know what the Courant is thinking, these days.

What else is going on?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Education and the Strong Mayor

As I'm sure most of you saw, Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez last week appointed himself to the city's school board, and was then elected its chairman. There were at first cries of "power grab!" from the usual quarters, but dissent within the city itself has been relatively low. Perhaps the idea that the mayor is trying something, anything different to turn Hartford's schools around makes a difference.

Perez found support yesterday for his move from another strong mayor, John DeStefano of New Haven, in the form of a letter to the editors at the Courant:

I'm writing in response to Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez appointing himself to the board of education and subsequently being elected chairman [editorial, Dec. 7, "Mr. Mayor, Or Is It Chairman?"]. Although The Courant argues that Mayor Perez is stretching himself too thin, I applaud Mayor Perez for his bold leadership.

Mayor Perez understands that a city cannot succeed without great public schools, the type that attract and retain children from all backgrounds and prepare them to compete in today's global economy. What's more, Mayor Perez is not afraid to take accountability for accomplishing this.

As mayor of New Haven, I not only appoint the board of education, I am also a voting member. This benefits our children in three substantial ways. First, the board is made up of professional educators and parents instead of politicians. Second, the mayor's office and the board of education are better able to work as a team. And perhaps most important, voters know exactly who to hold responsible for what happens in their public schools.

DeStefano then goes on to tout the results of this arrangement: lower dropout rates, new school construction and a higher percentage of students reading at grade level.

In essence, both Perez and DeStefano seem to believe that a strong hand is required to turn around dangerously awful school systems like Hartford's, and that a board that is entirely elected by the voters and separate from the mayor's office can't do it. They may, in fact, be right. School board members are sometimes notorious for trying to advance their own political agendas and careers instead of focusing on the schools, and the relationship between school board and town council or mayor's office is usually contentious at best. It also always struck me as madness that the school board in the town where I was a teacher was made up mainly of people who had never worked in a school before.

Yet this arrangement allows voters and parents to believe that they have control over their schools, and so it persists. Perhaps it ought not to. Parents and well-meaning civilians are the last people who should meddle with something as complicated and fragile as a school system.

In reality, the average parent or citizen has very little control over the schools anyway, no matter who they elect to the board. Most don't know which board members are doing what on the board, so it's hard to hold anyone responsible for his or her actions. Therefore, the only issue here is whether school service would be adversely impacted by removing an elected board and replacing it with one that is either entirely or partially appointed.

DeStefano is making the case that his system has helped his city's schools improve. Hartford voters approved charter changes that move their city towards this system, in the hopes of that their schools, too, will improve.

I say it's more than worth a try.

Eastford May (Finally) End Alcohol Ban

One of Connecticut's last two "dry" towns may soon end its prohibition on alcohol, which has been in place for eighty-five years:

Eastford is reconsidering its status as one of two remaining "dry" towns left in Connecticut. The town of 1,700 will vote on a referendum Monday that would allow a proposed organic restaurant to serve wine and beer. (AP)

I had no idea we still had "dry" towns. Huh.

Sometimes old attitudes and traditions die hard. I wonder if it will pass?


"Dry since 1920, small town considers allowing alcohol sales." Associated Press 11 December, 2005.

Why Connecticut?

I was talking to a reporter tonight, and he asked me why I write about Connecticut. The question caught me a bit off-guard, and the best I could do was to stammer out that I had always been interested in Connecticut politics.

But why? There are a lot of possible answers. Politics, campaigns and elections especially, fascinates me, and I'm quite fond of my home state. It's natural that those interests should mix, right?

There may be a simpler reason. Here's a quick story:

When I was a little boy, my mother took my sister and I into Hartford, to visit the State Capitol. We took the tour. I remember being impressed by the building, but little else except this:

We were on the first floor somewhere when a large (to me) man came over to say hello to us. He was very kind, and shook my hand. I learned that he was Bill O'Neill, who was then the governor of Connecticut. It struck me, even then, that such an important man would take a moment out of his day to say hello to two kids and their mother. If there is a moment when I was bitten by the political bug, that was it. I've always thought of Gov. O'Neill fondly since that day.

So, if there's a reason, there it is.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Rell Won't Use GOP Funds

Gov. Rell said yesterday that she wouldn't make any use of GOP funds in next year's election:

"I am not taking money from the Republican Party, period," Rell told reporters.

But Rell said she would not be averse to her campaign viewing polling data collected by the state party, which would be an in-kind contribution.
Democrats have long predicted that the Republican governor will use her party to get around a self-imposed ban on contributions from lobbyists and state contractors. (Pazniokas)

So much for that line of attack. I have to think she's been raising enough money to make her feel secure in taking the high road on this. Make no mistake, it's much easier for Rell to take the high road than her opponents because of name recognition and lofty approval ratings, but she must be raising money at a good clip to respond to a minor attack by cutting herself off from party funds.

If she is raising decent money, it's a smart move. It helps insulate her from any attacks the Democrats can make in this area, which decreases the possibility that they'll run right at her perceived strength a la Karl Rove.

Pazniokas, Mark. "Rell Says She Won't Use GOP Funds." Hartford Courant 10 December, 2005.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Reid: Lieberman "Alone"

Yikes. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the Minority Leader and the leader of Lieberman's caucus, had this to say on the Bill Press Show yesterday:

"I’ve spoken to Joe Lieberman and he knows he’s out there alone. I mean, literally alone. Joe is a fine man, he has strong feelings, but he’s just alone. Even Republicans don’t agree with Joe."

They don't? ...Have you asked them?

How telling is it that Reid, the most powerful Democrat in Washington, is distancing himself (and by extension the party) from Lieberman?

He may know something we don't about the Secretary of Defense rumors, or he may just be expressing frustration with a difficult party member.

Really an interesting quote.

Seen on FreeRepublic

I got a kick out of this, which I ran across during a routine Rell Google search:

To: RWR8189

How the heck does that egg-head Rell have the highest approval rating of all U.S. governors? Has Connecticut reached the point where approval polls are administered like they are in China? Is there any other explanation?

9 posted on 11/29/2005 3:13:06 PM PST by Texas Federalist (Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.)


I like that Texans and Freepers find us enigmatic.

Malloy Slams DeStefano, Rell on Campaign Finance Reform

All three gubernatorial candidates have been sniping at one another over campaign finance reform, today. Here's the latest release from the Malloy campaign:

Democratic candidate for Governor Dan Malloy, Stamford's Mayor, today criticized Governor Rell and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano for what he called "disingenuous squabbling" over the financing of their gubernatorial campaigns. Earlier today, DeStefano and Rell traded criticisms regarding Rell's apparent willingness to use State party funds coming from contractors and PACs, and DeStefano's heavy reliance on contractor dollars.

"Both Jodi Rell and John DeStefano are being disingenuous," said Malloy. "Governor Rell wants to have her cake and eat it too by refusing 'special interest' money and then accepting money from the State party -- most of which comes from special interests. Meanwhile, John DeStefano is trying to wear a mantle of reform that doesn't fit. As the New Haven Register pointed out today, John rejected a proposed spending cap in 2001 and opposed proposals to implement public financing for the 2006 Governor's race."

This dance is going to continue for how many more months? Anyway, here's the opinion piece Malloy is referencing. You'll have to register, since the New Haven Register has decided that it doesn't really want readers, after all.

As for DeStefano rejecting the public financing for next year, everyone already pretty much knew that wasn't going to happen. If Malloy were asked to give up the money he has raised right now, would he?

Rell, on the other hand, is kind of trying to have things both ways. She's always walked a very fine line between her desire for reform and her desire to raise money and win. For example, she shouldn't have printed up those "annual reports," nor should she have done state TV commercials or allowed her name to remain on a lobbyist-infested golf tournament back in October. Yet, for all of that, she did end up signing the bill.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Open Forum

Too much work, too much snow.

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton has formed a new group to study immigration reform. So far the group is him and one other guy. I wonder if this has anything to do with those chickens?

There are concerns over the new voting machines that will be in place for next year's elections. The Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut (ROVAC) has also expressed concerns over training and costs surround the new machines. ROVAC, incidentally, is headed by Republican SOTS candidate Richard Abbate.

What else is happening today?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

N.Y. Daily News: Lieberman Could Replace Rumsfeld

Lieberman Considered for U.N. Job Last Year, Report Says

Suddenly, it's becoming more than just a rumor:

White House officials are telling associates they expect Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to quit early next year, once a new government is formed in Iraq, sources said yesterday.

Rumsfeld's deputy, Gordon England, is the inside contender to replace him, but there's also speculation that Sen. Joe Lieberman - a Democrat who ran against Bush-Cheney in the 2000 election - might become top guy at the Pentagon.

That's not as farfetched as it might first appear.

The Daily News has learned that the White House considered Lieberman for the UN ambassador's job last year before giving the post to John Bolton, a Bush adviser said.

"[Bush] thought about it for a week or so and finally said no," the adviser recalled. (DeFrank)

ConnecticutBlog already has this story up, as well as a report that Lieberman had breakfast over at the Pentagon this morning.

If this story is true, and if Lieberman is nominated and accepts (we have to believe he'd be easily confirmed by his fellow senators), then next year's U.S. Senate race suddenly becomes very interesting to watch. Blumenthal would be running the race of his life against a Rell-appointed Republican incumbent.

It would be a bizarre way for Lieberman to end his career... yet considering how he got to the Senate in the first place (that is, on the back of William F. Buckley), an oddly fitting one.


DeFrank, Thomas and Kenneth Bazinet. "Rummy exit rumored; Lieberman eyed for job." New York Daily News 8 December, 2005.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Crime and the Politician

I've been seeing a lot of talk in the comments about crime in New Haven, fueled by news stories about a rash of shootings in that city. Aldon claims that overall crime in New Haven has gone down during John DeStefano's tenure, and that the city is generally a safer place than it was in the mid-1990s. This is true. Check for yourself here. It's also true for Dan Malloy's Stamford.

What's also true is that crime statewide and nationwide (see here) has dropped since 1996, although it looks like it may be ticking up slowly again. Mayors, governors and law enforcement officials across the country have been taking credit for this massive turnaround of what seemed like an unstoppable crime epidemic. Rudy Giuliani was especially sucessful at taking advantage of lower crime rates, especially in light of his new, tough policies. It could be that this is one of the reasons Republicans have stayed in power nationally for so long: they are associated with the drop in crime that happened on their watch. They get the credit.

Should they? It's hard to say. Innovative initiatives like better community policing, more police officers and programs aimed at the roots of crime may, in fact, be working.

There could be other factors at work. The economy improved dramatically in the late 1990s, and still isn't in the sort of crisis we saw in the early part of that decade, when crime was at its worst. Stephen Levitt's weirdly fascinating bookFreakonomics suggests the abortion rate is partly to blame (note: don't sic the Connecticut Family Council on me, I just think it's a unique theory). Perhaps crime goes in cycles. Maybe something else is going on. We just don't know.

Law and order is such a fundamental issue for voters that a perception of weakness in that area could lead to disaster. Alex Knopp lost in Norwalk partly because of a crime scare in that city. Michael Dukakis lost the presidency partly because of Willie Horton and a bizarre debate question about what he would do if someone killed his wife (although looking silly in a tank didn't help, either). So yes, crime and the perception of crime matters a great deal in elections.

So what about DeStefano and New Haven? New Haven is safer now than when DeStefano took over. True. The statistics bear that out. Did it have anything to do with what DeStefano did as mayor? Probably, although other factors may have been at work, too.

Even if the crime rate is lower, the perception by people living in the suburbs and the country of cities like Hartford and New Haven as crime-ridden is very real. The news media is full of stories about shootings and violence in our cities, as it has been for decades. This perception is driven by media hype, sensationalism, fear of the unknown, racist and classist preconceptions... and the fact that crime actually is higher in cities. New London and Newington have roughly the same number of people, but New London has a higher crime rate.

Both DeStefano and Malloy can point to lower crime in their cities as marks of progress. Their opponents can point to high-profile crimes and suggest that they haven't done such a good job, after all. Which is the truth? Does it matter?

I've said before that John DeStefano will have to work against the suburban and media perception of New Haven as unsafe, whether that perception is justified or not. His success may be directly tied to the marketing of New Haven as safe and livable.

Draft Lowell Weicker

Looks like someone has started a new site. Anyone want to own up?

Draft Lowell Weicker

It looks like part of the site will be a blog. We'll see if anything comes of it. I'm not sure if Weicker even pays much attention to the web, despite the fact that one of the major engines driving this story is the blogosphere, and that a lot of his potential support would be web-based.

Open Forum

Gov. Rell will be signing the campaign finance reform bill at the Old State House today. There was an excellent article in the Journal Inquirer yesterday about the bill, and the need to fix it next February.

Naval cutbacks are focing Electric Boat to lay off more than 2,400 workers. I guess the Department of Defense had to do something to ruin our economy. An issue for Simmons next year?

All the latest in Weicker gossip! Greenwich Democrats (including Howard Dean's brother Jim Dean) seem enthusiatic about Weicker, although many still support Lieberman.

In the meantime, William F. Buckley of Stamford, a Weicker foe from the '88 race, was amused at the thought of Weicker running against Lieberman again. "I'll have to revive my committee called 'BuckPAC,'" he said. All we need now is Michael Dukakis and Dan Quayle to make it 1988 all over again.

What else is happening today?

Update: Take a look at this story on Daily Kos today, in which a Lieberman staffer encourages her email list to go out there and freep a Courant poll. Wow. Does Weicker worry them that much?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

More Weicker Buzz

I'm amazed at how quickly this story has caught fire. I guess the chance of a senate race that isn't a foregone conclusion is way too good to pass up. Here's a snippet from a recent story in the New Haven Independent:

This isn’t a question of who’s going to win or lose. This is a question of making a statement about the war. I’m the underdog. I know that. I’d probably have my head handed to me on a chopping block. The idea is to go out and say what you believe, which nobody has done, except the pro-war people.
Would you run if an anti-war Democrat emerges?

No! I said yesterday if you get someone in the Democrat to stand up against Lieberman, that’s great! If we get a Republican who’s opposed to the war -- which I think is unlikely -- I’d back him.

I have received telephone calls from at least two Democrats who are contemplating running, both of whom I know. To both of them I said, “God bless you.” I’d back them. Both of them have a name recognition problem.
Are you up to the rigors of campaigning?

Listen my friend. I have a new titanium knee. I’m 74 years old. The dentist just yanked one of my front teeth two days ago, so I don’t smile very photogenically. Hey, I am what I am. The answer is yes, I think I understand what it takes to campaign. (Bass)

I do wonder who those Democrats are. Are there any Democrats who could realistically challenge Lieberman? Richard Blumenthal is busy waiting for Lieberman or Dodd to die so he can have one of their seats, he'd never run against them to get it. Larson and DeLauro aren't known outside their districts, and Larson was a miserable failure the last time he ran in a statewide primary (1994 gubernatorial race-lost to Bill Curry).

As for Weicker himself, even he admits he'd probably lose. Still, he has the anti-war crowd very excited.

Meanwhile, Lieberman is busy angering his own party again:

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, increasingly isolated in his own Democratic party because of his strong support for the Iraq war, today called on the White House and congressional leaders to form a special "war cabinet" to provide advice and direction for the war effort.
Lieberman, whom the Bush administration has praised repeatedly for his war stance, defended the president. "It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge he'll be commander-in-chief for three more years," the senator said. "We undermine the president's credibility at our nation's peril." (Lightman)

That sound you just heard was every Democrat's hand smacking his/her own forehead in disbelief.


Bass, Paul. "Weicker: I Can Win." New Haven Independent 6 December, 2005.

Lightman, David. "Lieberman Calls For Formation Of 'War Cabinet'." Hartford Courant 6 December, 2005.