Thursday, March 24, 2005

5th District: Johnson Seems Safe

Final map in the series for now (yes, there are two more districts, but they are not interesting. Just imagine every town in varying shades of blue):
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Notice the change from an interestingly split district in 2002 (when fellow incumbent Jim Maloney was running against Nancy Johnson in their combined district) to a mostly Republican one. The incumbent rule ("all things being equal, voters trend towards the incumbent") was somewhat neutralized in 2002, although Johnson was able to use the power of more incumbency (her main argument was that she had been in Congress longer and had introduced more legislation than Maloney) to gain votes. In 2004 this mostly-Republican district went for Bush and sent the lion's share of the GOP delegation to the General Assembly. They also happened to re-elect Johnson in a landslide. Her challenger, Theresa Gerratana, did well in only two towns (liberal Cornwall and, ironically for Johnson, New Britain) while Johnson won big everywhere else.

Is this a district Democrats should forget about? Maybe. Jim Maloney did as well as he did because of his incumbent status, and he lost by 10%. Johnson is also personally popular, and is seen as moderate despite being the most conservative member of our congressional delegation.

It seems obvious that district 5 was created with Johnson in mind. After all, the district stretches far to the east, including New Britain (Johnson's hometown) by a hair. New Britain went to district 5 while Bristol went to district 1, which makes no geographic sense. Redistricting in 2010 might fix some of these problems. Johnson, who turned 70 this year, might decide to retire before then. Even if she does, though, there is little reason to believe that Democrats can take this seat from the Republicans.


tkd27 said...

I absolutely HATE to advocate playing dirty... I really really really do... but why can't do a mid-term gerimandering of CT like they do in EVERY red state?

Genghis Conn said...

Well, you answer your own question. It's playing dirty, and I don't think the people or the Republicans in our state government would stand for it.

If we are to win, let's win honestly.

tkd27 said...

I suppose. I really hate suggesting it... but it just seems like they are stacking the decks against us in every state they can... it almost seems silly to keep taking the highroad. We are still following the rules, but they are not. It's just frustrating, I guess...

stomv said...

I think fighting for District 5 is important.

For one thing, it contains the town I was raised in, and the town I went to high school in. For another thing, making even some border towns more blue can result in a better chance at gains in the 2010 redistricting. The Dems don't have to change the entire district; rather, just make some gains in a few places. If the Dems can make gains near Danbury, Waterbury, and the Plainview/New Britain area, it can be primed for a more advantageous districting in '10.

I think that the CT Dems should make every effort to make the 06 map look like the 02 map -- regain lost ground near Danbury, the NW, and Waterbury.

Bottom line: if the Dems can carve out some better Dem voting trends in pockets of the current District 5, it can parlay those gains into 4 safe seats after the 2010 redistricting, instead of the current 3 seats.

Genghis Conn said...


A Democrat representing District 5 is possible, but only when Nancy Johnson retires or leaves office for another reason. She's entrenched, especially in the eastern parts of that district. Theresa Gerratana lost by more than 20%, which came out to over 60,000 votes.

A good bellweather may be the municipal elections this november. If Democrats can make some inroads in traditionally Republican towns (especially in Litchfield County) there may yet be hope for another Democratic congressman/woman from Connecticut when Johnson leaves office.

stomv said...


My hope is that if the Dems can get more support near Danbury, it can re-engineer the CT-4 / CT-5 line in 2010 to sure up one of those two. I suspect that, if it could be done, it would be to make CT-4 favor Dems at the expense of making CT-5 even more red. Somethink like putting Ridgefield and Redding into CT-5 and Cheshire, Waterbury & Meriden into CT-4. Of course, I'm not being careful about population, but the idea is sound. Another way is to send Danbury to CT-4 and Oxford, Monroe, and Shelton into CT-5. Again, rough ideas, due to population issues.

It just seems like CT-4 and CT-5 could be sliced and diced to give the Dems a 4:1 advantage, instead of its current 3:2 advantage.

Genghis Conn said...


Hm. I'd rather see the districts configured in ways that make geographic sense, rather than in ways that make sense for a particular party. Districts 1 and 5 are particularly bad. I would personally like to see a nonpartisan, nongovernmental commission set up for this purpose. I don't like the idea of setting up districts for partisan gain, no matter who does it.

stomv said...

I'd love to see a non-partisan committee. But, short of that, swapping a few towns on the edge of CT-4 and CT-5 still makes sense. The 5 congressional districts in CT are fairly convex -- the biggest exceptions are seemingly the juts in CT-4 and CT-5, which I suspect could either (a) be corrected or at the very least (b) not be made any worse with a small swap that would help the Dems.

Unless I suddenly see the Texas, Georgia, et al Republicans start clammoring for a nonpartisan redistricting committee, I'm not going to exert effort supporting one in blue states.

Anonymous said...

Nancy Johnson is not safe. And I can promise you, there will be inroads made at the Municipal and Legislative level between now and 2010.

The redistricting argument is moot because of the way Conn. structures its redistricting committee/commission. The minority is given an equal hand in negotiations, specifically avoiding the kind of disgrace that took place in Texas, the armpit of political civilization.

With due respect, Genghis' analysis of the situation in the Fifth CD is conventionally accurate, but not true. That is, nobody has mounted an effective campaign against Nancy Johnson, ever. This includes Charlotte Koskoff's near miss back when (Johnson was weak and got caught not paying attention, rather than Koskoff mounting a strong campaign per se). Since then, Johnson has carefully positioned her image, and the conventional wisdom out of wonkdom has denied any potential challenger of any reasonable expectation of the kind of resources (money) needed to conduct the kind of campaign (wasteful media spots on TV) that has been SOP for too long....

Two things have changed. Johnson has a track record of supporting the wishes of her masters DeLay and Bush at the expense of her constituents that she cannot run from. And (as the Dean campaign most famously demonstrates), the technology and culture has moved to the point where a popular campaign and a populist message are possible and available to us.

Additionally, Gerrantana offered no apparent contrast with Johnson in terms of image. There are two young Dems in the District now with the appetite, resources, and retail skills to offer a clear contrast to the voters. And there is a grass roots movement afoot in the District to challenge her on her methods and her record.

Johnson may survive this cycle, but it will be the last time.

stomv said...


Any word on just who these two young Dems are?

Genghis Conn said...


Johnson is extremely elusive on questions of actual policy. She is seen as a very moderate figure, but has conservative credentials (i.e. voting record). This helps her in a part of the state that heavily went for President Bush in 2004, but also has its share of Democratic legislators and town councils. So far this sort of fence-sitting has helped her with moderate voters while not alienating her hardcore conservative base (like Shays seems to be doing). Democrats would need a charismatic candidate with regional appeal (i.e., can win outside New Britain and Waterbury), a certain amount of name recognition, and lots of money. I'd be interested if someone like that stepped forward.