Monday, October 31, 2005

Special Session: Campaign Finance Reform

Democrats will be meeting in caucus today to discuss campaign finance reform. Let's hope they can overcome their fears and do what's right for the state.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Municpal Elections: New London

Eminent domain is making New London one of this year's most interesting municipal elections.

New London

Town Statistics
  • Population: 26,201

  • Registered Voters: n/a

  • U.S. Congressional District: 2 (Rep. Rob Simmons-R)

  • State Senate District: 20 (Sen. Andrea Stillman-D)

  • State House Districts: 39 (Rep. Ernest Hewett-D); 40 (Rep. Ted Moukawsher-D)

  • 2004 Presidential Vote:
        John Kerry: 5,984
        George W. Bush: 2,381

  • 2004 Congressional Vote:
        Jim Sullivan (D): 4,220
        Rob Simmons (R): 3,210

  • Form of government: Council/manager

  • Town Council: Controlled by Democrats 5-2

  • Mayor: Jane Glover (D)


The Kelo v. New London Supreme Court decision upholding the right of governments to use eminent domain for private development has touched off a firestorm of protest and controversy all over the country, not least in New London itself.

The past two months have seen the city council try desperately to take back some of the power it invested in the New London Development Corporation (NLDC). First, the council blocked the final eviction of Fort Trumbull residents, then held a vote of no-confidence in the leadership and the organization, pushing the NLDC to the brink of extinction (only to be rescued by the state). Will it be enough to save their political careers?

In 2001, following the first wave of disgust with the NLDC and the Fort Trumbull situation, most of the city council members who voted for the project were turned out by voters. The current city council, whose mayor, Jane Glover (D), was one of only two pro-NLDC council members who survived 2001, must fear that the same will happen this year.

In fact, things may be much worse for New London’s incumbents this year than they were in 2001. Opposition is coming not only from Republicans, but from a surprisingly competitive Green Party and a conglomeration of interests called the One New London Party. Eminent domain and Fort Trumbull form the center of opposition campaigns, especially considering that several of One New London’s candidates have lost their homes to the NLDC.

Here’s who’s running (* = incumbent):


Jane Glover (mayor)*
Kevin Cavanaugh
Elizabeth Sabilia*
Bill Morse*
Margaret M. Curtin*
Gerard Gaynor Jr*
Elizabeth Garcia Gonzalez


Robert Pero*
L. Allyn de Vars
Jason Catala*
Mike Doyle
Kathryn L. Schargus


Andrew Derr
Robert W. Stuller

One New London

Charles W. Frink
Michael Christofaro
Thomas J. Picinich
William Cornish
Richard L. Humphreville

The Day, New London’s daily newspaper, has endorsed change on the council, backing Frink (ONL), Derr(G), Pero(R), de Vars(R), Cavanagh(D), Glover(D) and Sabilia(D). Other groups, such as Free New London, have endorsed their own slates.


If there is a place in Connecticut where third party candidates will succeed this year, New London is it. Third parties do well when voter discontent is high, and the third parties in New London this year have turned themselves into a viable opposition. The real questions are whether the city council’s Democratic majority has distanced itself enough from the NLDC to survive, and whether voter anger is so high that it doesn’t matter.

New London has a seven-member city council which elects the mayor. There’s a very good chance that Republicans and the third parties will capture four or even five of those seats and form an anti-NLDC coalition government, probably with one of the Republicans serving as mayor (depending on the party makeup of the coalition).

The New London election is very much a referendum on Kelo by voters who live at the center of the controversy. Expect them to reject it.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Shadow Governing

Malloy Issues Statements on Legislative Action

In countries with a parliamentary system, prominent members of the opposition will take up the roles of cabinet ministers and issue plans and statements that compete with those of the government. This presents voters with a clear idea of what the opposition wants, and what it would do if in power. These opposition members are called "shadow ministers."

Right now, Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy is trying to act as the shadow governor, issing two statements in the last 24 hours about the actions (or lack thereof) of the governor, and giving us a clear idea what, exactly, would be different if Malloy were in charge instead of Rell.

On Contracting Reform

"I applaud the State Senate for once again passing much-needed comprehensive state contracting reform and am confident the House will follow suit. I strongly urge Governor Rell to drop her continuing opposition to this bill and sign it into law.
"It seems that the Governor's real problem is with the privatization standards themselves, which do place some common-sense restrictions and guidelines on the Governor's ability to privatize state services. There were virtually no standards during the Rowland Administration, and we all know how that turned out." (Press release: "Malloy Calls on Rell to Sign Contracting Reform Bill." Dan Malloy for Governor. 27 October, 2005)

Malloy would be signing the bill, because he believes that the privatization of state services ought to be better regulated. Rell sees this bill as legislative encroachment on the executive branch's power.

On CDA Disclosing Company Information

Dan Malloy, Stamford Mayor and Democratic candidate for Governor, today called on Governor Rell to order the Connecticut Development Authority (CDA) to release the names of companies that have defaulted on state loans or have had their loans written off as uncollectible by CDA employees and its Board of Directors.
"Governor Rell should order the immediate release of this information. ... The Governor has said that disclosure might need to be weighed against the interests of the businesses and their employees, but that does not serve the interests of the state's economic development policies, or that of the taxpayers who unwittingly shell out millions of dollars to these private corporations. ... I'm not suggesting CDA release proprietary information, but, at the very least, we should be entitled to know the names of those companies who can't meet their financial obligations to the State." (Press Release: "Malloy says Rell Should Order Connecticut Development Authority to Release Info on Companies that Fail to Repay Their State Loans." Dan Malloy for Governor. 28 October, 2005.

If Malloy were in the governor's chair, he would order the release of some information. Rell and her party seem to be in favor of keeping the information under wraps for economic reasons.

While these releases aren't surprising in any way, they do start to highlight actual differences between the candidates, and what we could expect from a Malloy administration, should one ever come to pass.

Issuing a statement for every action the governor takes (or doesn't take) may seem unnecessary, but the eventual goal for the Malloy campaign is to clearly define what a Governor Malloy would be like, as well as showing why the current administration is lacking.

Expect both the DeStefano and Malloy campaigns to be very active at shadow governing next year during the legislative session.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Open Forum

Connecticut's citizens are among the smartest in the nation, according to a new survey. Well, we knew we had to have something on North Carolina, even though they have all of our jobs and our old hockey team, too.

But if we're so smart... Why can't we get companies to stick around or open plants? Why is our economy struggling? Why can't we find a way to fix it?

If we're so smart, why can't we build useful public transportation, or more livable towns and cities? Why are we letting our state become a nightmare of sprawl and congestion?

Why is it that the best we can do for our capital city is an oversized convention center and an empty slogan?

Why can't the legislature get it in gear and pass meaningful campaign finance reform, or a contracting reform bill that won't be vetoed by the governor?

This post is reserved for all manner of complaining.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Realistic Reform

The legislature today is debating a contracting reform bill, which the governor may veto. Again. (See my list of vetoes for more information. It's #6.)

Later this week, the issue of campaign finance reform may finally get taken up. If all parties can agree, we may find ourselves with a public financing system, and with lobbyists and those who have contracts with the state excluded.

Will either of these measures, if passed, lead to less corruption and better government? Maine and Arizona both have public financing, and both states have seen an upswing in primaries, candidate diversity and competition. The "money gap" incumbents hold over challengers would either disappear or be greatly reduced. Candidates wouldn't have to spend most of their time fundraising. These would all be good things for Connecticut.

But would we see corruption decrease? Would we have better government after this? The legislative shakeup would start to provide some much needed fresh blood, but corruption may be much harder to remove. Here are some steps we can take toward both better government and less corruption:
  • Strictly Enforce Exisiting Ethics Rules: The state does have plenty of ethics rules on file. The legislature should be vigilant and be prepared to punish even the smallest of violations.

  • Longer Terms and Term Limits: Put a cap on the number of years a person can serve in the legislature. It doesn't have to be something silly, like a single or two terms. But perhaps 16-20 years should be enough time. This allows experienced public officials to remain in leadership posts, but also allows fresh ideas to enter the House or Senate on a regular basis. Lengthening terms would give legislators a break from constantly running for re-election. Perhaps half to a third of the legislature should be up for re-election every other year, with a significant number of incumbents taken out of the mix by term limits.

  • Legislative Pay Raise: Legislators don't make enough money to survive on. This can lead to questionable situations like Speaker Amann holding fundraisers for the charity he works for in his office. It also guarantees that members of the middle and lower classes can't afford to be in the legislature.

  • A Full-Time Legislature: The legislature has been running out of time to finish its yearly business for a long while, now. These special sessions can get tiresome. If they are full-time, they can react to changing situations more quickly and be able to finish the business at hand. We also won't have "midnight rushes" on the last day of the session, when a dozen or more bills are passed in the last minutes.

  • Sensible Redistricting: The legislature currently controls redistricting. This is a terrible idea. Districts for both the legislature and the U.S. Congress can and have been gerrymandered to keep incumbents in power. A retired panel of judges or some other worthy independent body could do just as good a job, and be more fair about it.

  • A Larger Legislature: Enlarge the size of the House and Senate. New Hampshire has 400 members in its House of Representatives! Why not 200-300 here? Smaller districts means less money spent on each race (although more money is spent overall), and constituents may actually get to meet their representative. The larger the legislature is, the more accurately it will reflect the political makeup of the citizenry.

I believe these ideas could help make our government and our democratic system stronger, more accountable, more flexible and more reflective of the population. If we add these to sensible contracting and campaign finance reform, we could find our state government in much better shape than it is now.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Special Session: Heating Assistance Passes

That was the easy one. The legislature unanimously passed an energy assistance bill today designed to help offset rising heating oil and natural gas prices. Some of the bill's highlights:

  • ...a sales tax holiday from Nov. 25 to April 1, 2006, on weatherizing products, energy-efficient home heating equipment and windows

  • ...$23.8 million to expand a state energy assistance program for needy families, providing an additional $200 per family during the heating season to help pay for natural gas, oil or other fuels.

  • In addition to financial assistance, the legislation would create low interest loans for eligible homeowners to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

  • The bill would also create a Home Heating Oil Planning Council to address home heating issues and state policies

  • [The] Office of Policy and Management is required to monitor pricing. There's a provision in the bill that doubles civil penalties for price gouging.


The last provision is especially needed.

Gov. Rell is expected to pass the bill. I believe that most of the money will be coming from the state's projected budget surplus. This is as good a use of that money as any, at this point. If this week is any indication, we're in for a lousy winter.

The legislature still has to deal with privitization of state services and campaign finance reform. There's no word on when either of those will come to a vote.

"Lawmakers pass bill to address high heating costs." Associated Press 25 October, 2005.

Interesting Numbers

This is from a New York Times article released yesterday about Rell's fundraising:

If Mr. DeStefano followed Mrs. Rell's rules, he would have had to decline about 17 percent of the $2.6 million he has raised, according to a breakdown of state campaign finance records. Mr. Malloy would lose about 4 percent of the $1.7 million he has raised, records show.

If Mrs. Rell had applied her current rules in 2002, she would have rejected about $160,000 of the $768,278 she received. That number may actually be higher, but contributors of less than $1,000 were not required to disclose whether they had state contracts.

More than a fourth of what Mr. Rowland raised at the top of the ticket in 2002 came from the same kinds of sources. He would have had to reject at least $1.6 million of the $5.6 million he raised. (Yardley)

No one seriously thinks that Rell is going to be significantly handicapped by her fundraising rules, but it's interesting to see how much of DeStefano and Malloy's respective war chests comes from lobbyists, PACs and those associated with state contracts. Actually, it's most interesting to note how little of Malloy's money is from those sources.


Yardley, William. "Rell's Fund-Raising Rules Put Her at Risk." New York Times 24 October, 2005.

Open Forum

Ellef and Tomasso are to sign a plea agreement today, ending yet another chapter of the Rowland scandals.

The legislature is actually meeting today. Too rainy for golf.

It'll be interesting to see where the campaign finance reform bill starts.

Funny stuff.

It's raining again. What else is new?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Requiem for a Lieutenant Governor

And if you gaze upon the stars tonight,
Heed what they hint, and down the face of the sky
Behold one drop through space, recall the plight
Of man on earth, our earth from Beauty spun,
And know a grief as lonely as His sigh.
-Wilbert Snow
from "The Stars are Tears" (1959)

There is an article in the Hartford Courant today about the plight of poor Kevin Sullivan, who has been stuck as the Democratic lieutenant governor to a Republican governor ever since the resignation of John Rowland last June. Sullivan, who had been president pro tem of the Senate before Rowland's resignation required him to step into his current office, has possessed less power and relevance during his tenure than most lieutenant governors. His main recourse has been to snipe at his boss and feint at running for governor, although a former colleague of Sullivan's has the following interesting observation to make:

Senate Republican leader Louis DeLuca, who came to know Sullivan well when they both served as leaders in the Senate, said he believes Sullivan is actually running for his current position - lieutenant governor - as the running mate for whichever Democrat gains the nomination. (Keating)

Unfortunately for Sullivan, it probably won't happen. If he is not nominated for a post by his party he will be out of the Capitol entirely, possibly for good.

Sullivan may take heart in the fact that he is not quite alone in his predicament. Cruz Bustamante is the Democratic lieutenant of Arnold Schwarzenegger in California, a situation brought on by the bizarre recall election that took place there two years ago. Of course, Bustamante's governor is far less popular than Sullivan's, although I doubt that fact cheers him much.

Sullivan is also not alone in Connecticut's history, and in this he may take some heart. Half a century ago, there was a poet who was governor of Connecticut for twelve days.

His name was Wilbert Snow. From the early 1920s until the 1960s, his main occupation and his major claim to fame was the writing of poems about the landscape of coastal New England, specifically Maine. He met with some critical acclaim, although one noted that

"Mr. Snow's method of making poetry is homespun and simple. He writes with considerable detail and with rather less implication and overtone than one might wish." (Ritchey)

In other words, he wrote pretty poems about the scenery. He rarely wrote about people, and apart from a poem in which he confesses a certain fondness for November, never about anything remotely political.

Yet strangely, he became a politician. In 1944, he ran as a Democrat for Lieutenant Governor and won in a Democratic tidal wave (it was a presidental year, Roosevelt carried him and his party into office in Connecticut). Unfortunately, Robert Hurley, the Democratic candidate for governor, lost to popular Republican incumbent Raymond Baldwin. Until the 1960s these were elected separately, although it was very rare even then to have the state's two top offices split by party. A "party lever" which could be used to select all the candidates of a certain party at once on Connecticut voting machines almost guaranteed this. Only Baldwin's personal popularity saved him.

Snow and Baldwin seemed to have a much more cordial relationship than Sullivan and Rell. The two seemed to ignore one another. It's tempting to picture Baldwin dealing with World War II, labor issues and other pressing matters in his second-floor office while Snow penned poems about lobsters upstairs.

Snow decided to run for governor in 1946 (state officers served for two-year terms until 1950), and was nominated by his party. Unfortunately, 1946 was a very different year than 1944. Frustration with a lagging postwar economy and dislike of Harry Truman's administration led to a Republican rout. Snow lost by more than 100,000 votes to Republican James McConaughy.

Governor Baldwin, meanwhile, had decided to run for a vacant U.S. Senate seat, and had won easily. In December 1946, he decided to get a little seniority on the other freshman senators, and resigned as governor to take office in Washington.

That left Snow as governor. He was sworn in, and served from December 28, 1946 to January 8th, 1947, the second-shortest tenure on record (see my previous post for the shortest). According to Joe Lieberman's biography of former party boss John Bailey, Snow moved into the governor's mansion and had a fine time with other Democrats for the full twelve days.

From that point on, Snow faded back into poetic obscurity. His poetry never reflected the strange times he had lived through as a Connecticut politician.

Kevin Sullivan now walks in Wilbert Snow's shoes. He should take inspiration that Snow did get his shot at running for governor, and, though he lost, became governor anyway. Fate works in strange and unpredictable ways. Sullivan may find himself unemployed at the beginning of 2007, but it shouldn't be for lack of trying.


"Hurley Renamed in Connecticut." New York Times (1857-Current file) Aug 6 1944: 36.

Keating, Christopher. "Sullivan Living In Political Siberia." Hartford Courant October 24, 2005.

Lieberman, Joseph I. The legacy : Connecticut politics 1930-1980. Hartford: Spoonwood Press, 1981.

Ritchey, John. "The World of Poetry." Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current file) Nov 16 1940: WM13.

Snow, Wilbert. "The Stars are Tears." New York Times (1857-Current file) Jul 28 1959: 26.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Running for Mayor/Running for Governor

Paul Bass over at the New Haven Independent has written an interesting article about John DeStefano catching a little bit of flak during his mayoral campaign for his upcoming gubernatorial candidacy. At the heart of the matter is the charge that DeStefano will be necessarily distracted by his campaign for governor, and therefore won't have time to run the city. Why, therefore, should voters re-elect him?

The question was posed at the outset of the debate by moderator Clifton Graves, Jr., of the NAACP. "Why should the citizens of New Haven vote for you," Graves asked, "when at best you might be a part-time mayor for the next year, and at worst" step down as mayor in the second year?
"There is a job that needs to be done," DeStefano "replied." "There is a job that needs to be done creating more jobs in Connecticut."

He continued that litany of jobs that need to be done, like reducing property taxes and improving school readiness among pre-kindergarten children.

"It's important to bring voice" to those issues, he concluded. And who better than the mayor a city to bring that voice?

"It's an opportunity to have our voice be heard" statewide, DeStefano said. "It's not just me who's running for governor. It's all that we've done together."

So New Haven's running for governor. (Bass)

Now, there's no love lost between Bass and DeStefano, but the issue raised is a good one. Is it ethical for a candidate to run for one office while actively seeking another, higher one?

This issue has been raised in Stamford, as well. Republican Christopher Munger's slogan is "Stamford First," and the latest entry on the Stamford Republicans' blog calls attention to the fact that Malloy is often out of the city.

Voters in both cities are expected to re-elect their mayors. But if either DeStefano or Dan Malloy win the election next year, the victor would obviously step down as mayor. Depending on how the city works, a deputy mayor would then step in and/or a special election would be held. In either case, citizens get someone they didn't vote for in the top office.

This was an issue (albeit a small one) in 2000, when Joe Lieberman was simultaneously running or both Senator and Vice President. It turned out not to matter, as we recall, but had Lieberman become Vice President his replacement would have been appointed by then-Gov. John Rowland, and would certainly have been a Republican.

In 1924, Hiram Bingham (a very cool guy who was the archaeologist who discovered Maccu Piccu) was running for governor of Connecticut as a Republican. In October of that year, Sen. Frank Brandegee committed suicide. Voters in November probably knew that Bingham was leaning towards running to fill the Senate seat (the special election was in December of that year), but elected him anyway. Bingham did run for Senate, and won. He served exactly one day as governor before resigning and going to Washington, the shortest term on record.

So should candidates devote themselves fully to a single campaign, and not run for two offices simultaneously? In the above cases, voters haven't seemed to mind one bit. It's likely that the voters of New Haven and Stamford won't mind, either.

So is there an issue? As long as voters keep approving candidates who do this, perhaps not. It's up to each candidate to decide whether or not it's ethical for him/her.

Bass, Paul. "DeStefano Ducks." New Haven Independent 21 October, 2005.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Open Forum

Audrey Blondin is out of the SOTS campaign, leaving only Susan Bysiewicz and the invisible, mysterious Norma Rodriguez-Reyes of New Haven. It's very possible that Rodriguez-Reyes has dropped out, too. How would anyone tell?

It only took Coventry's voters five tries to pass its budget. Turnout was a brisk 42%.

Kurt Claywell, an electrical contractor connected with the Rowland scandals, is going to jail for 5 1/2 years on corruption charges.

Apparently, Waterbury's Republican Party wants to build a nuclear power plant in their city. "[Aldermanic candidate Dennis] Odle said residents living in the immediate vicinity of such a facility wouldn't pay any property taxes, and those who wanted to move away from it would be compensated."

What else is happening today?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

October Special Session: What to Expect

The legislature will be meeting in special session over the next week. Here's some of what they hope to address:

Campaign Fianance Reform

The long-awaited bill should--should--go to a vote next week. We'll see if it actually happens. The AP reports that "closed-door meetings" are going on to work out an implementation schedule for public financing, which was the sticking point at the end of the regular session. If it comes to a vote, it will probably pass by a small margin.

Eminent Domain

Now that the New London City Council has dumped the NLDC, eminent domain and its effects will be on everyone's minds again. I'd like to see stricter laws passed in this area, but I'm not holding my breath.

Heating Oil Costs

It's going to be a long winter. There's a lot of uncertainty about the heating oil supply for the coming winter following the Katrina/Rita disasters and the declaration of bankruptcy by Heating Oil Partners, the suppliers for Automatic TLC (hint: if you're a customer of Automatic TLC, like I am, I suggest giving them a call).

The legislature will almost certainly earmark up to $30 million, mostly from the state's $29 million projected budget surplus, for heating assistance. I would suggest that we try not to use all of the surplus, but, if it's the only way, heating assistance is as good a use of it as any.

There are other issues to be resolved, like the creation of a contracting review board. Campaign finance reform and heating oil assistance are the two most pressing issues that ought to be resolved one way or the other before the end of the session.

Keating, Christopher. "Winter Oil Bills Hot Topic." Hartford Courant 8 October, 2005.
"Rell outlines campaign finance plan, lawmakers plan session next week." Associated Press 19 October, 2005.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Farrell, Jepsen Endorse Malloy

Communication Workers Endorse DeStefano

Say what you like about the endorsement race we're suddenly seeing between DeStefano and Malloy; it does show us that the Malloy candidacy isn't going to go away, and that Democrats are far from united behind any candidate.

Malloy's list of endorsements, released today, has a few high-profile names in it, including former party chair, Senate Majority Leader and Lt. Gov. candidate George Jepsen, Wesport First Selectwoman and congressional candidate Diane Farrell, and two former Speakers of the House: Moira Lyons and Richard Balducci (who is, although the release doesn't note it, from my hometown of Newington).

A lot of the people on the list are old-guard Democrats. Many are from Fairfield County, although a significant percentage are not. Here's the full list, from the Malloy campaign's press release:

Malloy Endorsements, Listed Alphabetically

Martha Aasen, Town Chair (Westport)
Carl Anderson, Town Chair (Voluntown)
Richard Balducci, Former Speaker of the House
Neil Beup, Town Chair (Burlington)
Nancy Brouillet, Town Chair (Lebanon)
Ellen Camhi, Town Chair (Stamford), Democratic National Committeewoman
Eileen Daily, Senator (Westbrook)
Steve Dargan, State Representative (West Haven)
John Davis, Town Chair (Darien)
Richard Duda, Town Chair (Griswold)
Bob Duff, Senator (Norwalk)
Diane Farrell, First Selectwoman and Congressional Candidate (Westport)
Gerry Fox, State Representative (Stamford)
Tom Gaffey, Senator (Meriden)
George Jepsen, Former Senate Majority Leader, Former State Democratic Party Chairman
Braith Kelly, Town Chair (Canterbury)
Matt Kelly, Town Chair (Barkhamsted)
Alex Knopp, Mayor (Norwalk)
Mike Lawlor, State Representative (East Haven)
Carlo Leone, State Representative (Stamford)
Moira Lyons, Former Speaker of the House
Joe Mann, State Representative (Norwalk)
Andrew McDonald, Senator (Stamford)
Chris Perone, State Representative (Norwalk)
Joe Serra, State Representative (Middletown)
Jim Shapiro, State Representative (Stamford)
Galen Wells, Town Chair (Norwalk)

Make of it what you will.

Update: 3:45pm

The DeStefano campaign announced that the Communication Workers of America, Local 1298, have endorsed their candidate. Said Shonu Gandhi, DeStefano's campaign director, "Mayor Malloy's unveiling of endorsements today is an obvious response to the DeStefano campaign tv ad went on the air today. It's no surprise that Dan has some supporters. But the fact is since Attorney General Blumenthal's decision not to run for governor, John DeStefano has received growing support from Democratic leaders and groups representing working men and women throughout Connecticut."

The Malloy campaign earlier accused the DeStefano campaign of responding to their good fundraising numbers with the TV ad.

Malloy's campaign questioned investing in television commercials so far in advance of the Democratic primary in August and the general election in November 2006.

"It's so odd, frankly, we were wondering if our recent momentum" was the cause, said Chris Cooney, Malloy's campaign manager. (Pazniokas")

This could get ugly. In the meantime, I need an Advil.

Malloy press release: 10.18.05
DeStefano press release: 10.18.05
Pazniokas, Mark. "DeStefano Opens TV Campaign." Hartford Courant 18 October, 2005.

Municipal Elections: Call for Submissions

The greatest thing about this site is the people who frequent it. Your comments have always been insightful and interesting, and your knowledge of CT politics and issues continues to impress me. With that, I need your help.

There are over 150 towns and cities in Connecticut holding municipal elections this year, and I simply don't have the time to research and write about even a good percentage of those races.

So here's what I'm proposing: if you are familiar with the races in your town, and can write about them in a reasonably unbiased manner, please consider writing a brief overview to be published in a post here at CLP. You would get credit for your work on the post.

Things to include:

  1. Candidates: Who are the major players this year? What positions (if any) have they staked out? Who are the interesting personalities?

  2. Issues: What's important to voters in your town this year? Taxes? Development? Education? Tell us a little about what's important and why.

  3. Websites: If any of the candidates have space on the web, link to it.

  4. Prediction: This is the fun part. Who do you think will win? Why? Give us your analysis of the campaign.

  5. Misc.: What else is important to know about the race?

See the two previous entries on the subject (Enfield and West Hartford) to get an idea of what I'm looking for.

Email me your submission at jeenaone(at)gmail(dot)com. I just ask that the writing be clear, and that you try to be as objective as you can. I may edit posts for clarity and language. I'll post the entry within a few days of recieving it. I will post town statistics and recent election data with each entry.

I hope to get at least ten or so, although if there are more I will be very happy. If two people do the same town, that's fine. I'll publish them both.

If you have questions, post them here. Thanks in advance.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Open Forum

It's been too long.

Special session tomorrow. Expectations?

The DeStefano ad will hit the air. We'll see what people think. See the previous post below for analysis and URL of the ad.

Congressional candidates are taking in lots and lots of cash. Next year is going to be a real slugfest in the 2nd, 4th and 5th districts. I'm going to unplug my phone.

Municipal elections are only three weeks away.

What else is happening?

DeStefano Ad

Update: Here's a link to the ad:

I was going to just post this as a comment, but I wrote a bit more than I thought I was going to. So it's a full-length entry.

All right, I did see the ad. I'm not posting it here, but I'm sure it'll be up on the DeStefano site soon enough.

Here's the text of the ad, and what I saw:

Fifty states, but Connecticut is last in job growth. Property taxes
skyrocketing. Endless traffic jams.

Black and white montage of sad-looking people, followed by a traffic jam. Message: the current state of affairs is bad. This is aimed at the Rell Administration, although it doesn't accuse them directly. The beginning photograph (a worker in a hard hat) is visually arresting and very eye-catching. She looks tough, but under a lot of stress. The next two images (two sad, concerned-looking white people and a traffic jam) are much less interesting, but still evocative. The music is sad.

We can do better.

The words "We can do better" appear on the screen. Music becomes more upbeat.

John DeStefano. The son of a police officer, devoted husband and father.

Picture of DeStefano surrounded by children. Old photograph of father. DeStefano on lawn with family. All of these pictures are in color (except DeStefano's father), and are bright and hopeful. People are smiling.

As New Haven Mayor, new jobs created, crime cut over 40%, dropout rate cut over 40%.
More color pictures of DeStefano on the job, working with people. The statistics appear on the screen. Why no statistic for job creation? (Actually, according to the CT. Department of Labor, New Haven's unemployment rate has spiked this year, up to around 8% in August. It was around 4% in 2000. This doesn't mean jobs weren't created, as the labor force has increased slightly.)

For Connecticut---jobs and economic growth. For our families. John DeStefano for Connecticut.

More colorful photos. Stirring music. Words like "Families" appear at the botton, re-emphasizing values and campaign themes. The ad ends with DeStefano staring off to the left with resolve, while the campaign logo appears next to him.

So here's the progression of the ad (and the basic theme of the campaign):

  1. Connecticut is in crisis. Even if you don't know it yet, it is.

  2. But there's hope! Things can change.

  3. Our candidate has a great background. He's a family man. He's like you.

  4. He's done great things in New Haven. New Haven is a lot better than you remember.

  5. He'll do great things for us, too.

No real substance yet, but it's early. A little negative for a first impression. People don't have to be told when there's a crisis: they figure it out for themselves. If a candidate pushes crisis too hard when the public doesn't feel there is one, that candidate becomes vulnerable to charges of negativity. That's the route the governor is going.

Otherwise it's a solid campaign piece. I do think, however, that people are going to be surprised to see it on the air a year before the election. Then again, the ad is meant more for the party base than anyone else. It lets them know that the Democrats are alive and kicking, and that this campaign will be hard-fought. As a message to the base, it succeeds very well indeed.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

First DeStefano Ad to Air This Week

Huh. This is early:

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano's 30-second ad will begin airing Tuesday - 10 months before the Democratic primary and more than a year before the election, his campaign said. It's a sign that Democrats are preparing to spend big to try to unseat the popular incumbent.
The advertisement cites a federal report that identified Connecticut's job growth as the most stagnant in the nation. It also features a picture of highway gridlock as a narrator says, "We can do better."
"We know she's running for governor. We want to start having that conversation now," DeStefano's campaign manager, Shonu Gandhi, said. (AP)

All right, then.

I suppose that when the opposing candidate is as popular as Rell, the only way to gain some ground is to tear her down. Make the public believe that she shouldn't be elected for a full term. The tactic is sound enough.

It also counters the free publicity Rell got on Friday, when the major networks covered her announcement.

Still seems really early. Might also be playing into Rell's accusation that the Democrats are too negative.

...That's all I'll say about it right now. If I happen to see it, I'll say more.

"New Haven mayor hits airwaves early to take on candidate Rell." Associated Press 16 October, 2005.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Rell Announcement

In a short, emotional speech this evening, Gov. Jodi Rell announced her intention to seek her own term as governor.

She seemed at times overcome with emotion, and at other times seemed very uncomfortable. She didn't present anything in the way of new plans or details, but did list some of her accomplishments over the past year and a half.

She took some time to attack the Democratic candidates for "seeing the worst in Connecticut" and for generally being too negative.

I'll have a more detailed analysis tonight or tomorrow. For now, the governor's staff has been quick to get her website up: This was password protected earlier today, and "under construction" yesterday. It's a bio, a welcome letter and a contribution page. That's it so far.

Blumenthal Fallout

Attorney General's Withdrawl Prompts Endorsements, Dropouts

This has been a week of shifting ground in Connecticut politics. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal began the week Tuesday with his not altogether unexpected announcement that he would be staying out of the race for governor next year.

The week will be framed by Jodi Rell's announcement later today that she will seek a full term. In between, Democrats have been reacting to the new political reality that Blumenthal will run to retain his seat as AG.

First came several dropouts. Rep. Evelyn Mantilla and John Nussbaum both announced that they would be withdrawing from the Secretary of the State race. They probably remained in the race up to now hoping that current SOTS Susan Bysiewicz, who withdrew from the governor's race last month, would run for AG should Blumenthal run for governor. Unfortunately for them, it looks like Bysiewicz and Blumenthal will stay right where they are.

Today, Democrats are starting to line up behind the two remaining gubernatorial candidates: specifically, behind John DeStefano. According to a press release from the DeStefano campaign, the following Democrats are backing their man:

Endorsing DeStefano today are Ansonia Mayor James Dellavolpe, Derby Mayor Marc Garofalo, East Hartford Mayor Tim Larson, Westbrook Mayor Tony Palermo, and Bethany First Selectwoman Derrylyn Gorski.

Add Rosa DeLauro, the mayor of Manchester and two unions to this list, and it's obvious that DeStefano is still the front runner-presumptive. Malloy, who has recieved relatively few endorsements up to this point, has a climb in front of him.

All is not rosy for the DeStefano campaign, however. News of some filing irregularities, which are being investigated, and a fiscal quarter in which they were outraised by Dan Malloy means that they still have a fight ahead of them. A protracted primary struggle could be in the works for the first time since 1994, when Bill Curry defeated John Larson for the nomination.

Blumenthal had the potential to be an overwhelming consensus candidate. A DeStefano/Malloy primary could leave the Democrats divided heading into the last two months of the election. We'll see if either John DeStefano or Dan Malloy unite Democrats the way Richard Blumenthal would have. As it stands, Jodi Rell enters the race tonight against a Democratic Party that has the potential to be divided, and whose strongest candidate is not running against her. It's not a bad position to be in.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Municipal Elections: Big Issues

I've been going around to a lot of municipal candidate sites, just to see what sorts of issues people across Connecticut seem to be concerned about this year. Here is a list of what the candidates, at least, are talking about:

The Budget

A perennial favorite in municipal elections. The town/city budget is a big concern, as how money is spent and how much money is allocated directly affects the lives of all citizens in one way or another.

Most budget discussions this year by members of both parties seem to be focused on managing the town's money wisely and/or stingily. I didn't see too many big-ticket projects being promoted by candidates, although there are a few here and there.

A traditional part of municipal elections is the opposition party accusing the party in power of mismanaging the town's funds, and the party in power retorting that the opposition is crazy and doesn't understand anything. This is happening just about everywhere.


This goes hand in hand with the budget, and is becoming more important as state aid dwindles. Property taxes seem to be on everyone's minds, and most candidates are pledging to at least "hold the line," if not try to lower those taxes (good luck). Taxes, of course, are tied directly to...


This is one of the most divisive issues in suburban and rural Connecticut today. Falling state aid and rising populations outside the cities and core suburbs means that towns suddenly have to find a way to provide services for more people with either the same or fewer funds than they had before. One way out is to encourage economic development (another is to fiddle with zoning laws to ensure that only huge, expensive houses are built), which often takes the form of big-box retailers and national franchises coming in to town. This, detractors say, ruins the "character" of a place, and hurts small business. The often-bitter fight over putting a Wal-Mart in an exurban or rural area can color town politics for years.

In older suburban and urban areas, the talk is usually about redevelopment and revitalization. These sorts of fights can be just as nasty: ask West Hartford.

Most candidates are treading cautiously here. Most promote economic development but stress the "character" of the town in the same breath.


The biggest part of any town budget goes to the school system. In towns where budgets are decided by agonizing referendum after referendum, funding the schools can be an especially divisive issue.

Most candidates promise better schools through either clever management, new buildings or generally more spending. Few seem to have innovative plans.

Open, Accountable Government

Another favorite tactic of the opposition is to promise to "open city hall" to everybody, and to make government more accountable. This is easy to say, but almost impossible to deliver. Following years of statewide scandals, voters' desire for more open, accountable government may be increasing, and candidates who pledge this might actually be held to it.


There are plenty of other issues being talked about in cities and towns across the state, many of them town-specific.

It may be wise for next year's legislative and statewide candidates to see what issues have the greatest traction in local elections now.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Open Forum

Malloy is showing definite signs of life: more than that, he outraised DeStefano this quarter by between $70K-$100K. DeStefano actually raised less money this quarter than last, although he still has more total cash than Malloy. Could be that Bysiewicz supporters drifted en masse to Malloy.

If Malloy had raised as little as he did last quarter, DeStefano would have started to look inevitable. As it is, Malloy seems to be picking up some speed while DeStefano is slowing down a bit. It'll be interesting to see where the money goes now that Blumenthal is officially out.

Jodi Rell will (finally) declare her candidacy this Friday.

Nancy Johnson is catching some heat for taking a very nice trip to Ecuador, paid for by the partially federally funded Nature Conservancy.

And lastly, it's still raining. It'll keep raining until well into Friday, causing already swollen and flooding rivers and streams to rise even further. There's already been some substantial flood damage in northern New England and parts of Western Massachusetts: we may experience the same here.

What else is happening today?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Campaign Finance Reform Pushed Back (Again)

Legislative Democrats quickly closed today's special session, called by the governor and intended to deal with campaign finance reform, and set a date for their own session in one week's time.

Chances of getting a real reform bill passed are getting dimmer all the time. The governor isn't helping matters by sending mixed messages. There was a fundraiser (with many lobbyists) that took the guise of a golf tournament called the "Governor's Cup," and now the Journal-Inquirer is reporting that Rell has been appearing in some fishy-sounding state tourism ads. Former Gov. Rowland caught a lot of flak for appearing in endless tourism ads during the run up to his last re-election campaign. Rell will be declaring her candidacy this Friday.

It's safe to say that reform is badly needed around here. It's less certain whether it will ever actually happen.

Hot Air Mass Over Connecticut

Dean, Mehlman Appear in State

What did we do to deserve this? The party chairmen for both the RNC and the DNC appeared in Connecticut over a three-day stretch from Sunday to today.

DNC Chair Howard Dean appeared at a fundraiser in New Haven on Sunday, pledging more support for Democratic congressional challengers and criticizing Connecticut's congressional Republicans:

Democrats have targeted U.S. Reps. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, and Chris Shays, R-4th District, promising assistance to challengers Joseph Courtney and Diane Farrell. Dean said the party also had hopes of unseating the dean of the House delegation, U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-5th District.
"Nancy Johnson has taken $10,500 from Tom DeLay, who was just indicted. She votes with Tom DeLay about 80 percent of the time. Chris Shays votes with Tom DeLay about 92 percent of the time. Rob Simmons votes with Tom DeLay 95 percent of the time and has taken $40,000." (Pazniokas)

He also criticized RNC chair Ken Mehlman for appearing before the NAACP in Waterbury:

"I'm shocked that he would have the nerve to show his face in front of any African American organization after the way they treated those people in New Orleans," Dean said. (Pazniokas)

Mehlman's spokesman shot back.

"While the president is unifying the country to help with recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast, Democrats continue to shamelessly use this tragedy to tear the country apart," McLear said. "We are proud of our efforts to make the party of Lincoln stronger through its diversity and will not stoop to the race-baiting that now seems to guide the Democrats' agenda." (Pazniokas)

So... vitriol and possible race baiting followed by outright lies followed by a remarkably shallow historical reference followed by more vitriol. Ugh. This is why I try not to follow national politics so much. (You can read a more positive view of Dean's speech over at Aldon Hynes's blog.)

Mehlman, aside from going before the NAACP and repeating the technically correct "Party of Lincoln" stuff, spoke with reporters about Connecticut politics.

Mehlman said the national GOP will provide resources to the three congressional incumbents. He said the party is also willing to help Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, if she decides to run for governor in 2006. Rell is expected to announce her decision soon. In past interviews, Rell has said she is leaning toward running.

Rell has taken stands on social issues that differ from Bush's. For example, she supports civil unions, stem cell research and abortion rights. Mehlman said the national GOP welcomes diverse views and hopes Rell will run.

"We're a big tent party and I'm proud that we're a big tent party," he said.(Haigh)

Sure you are, Ken. Actually, it would be nice if either party were a "big tent" party, but the sad fact is that at the national level moderates are increasingly finding themselves cut loose from both. Daily Kos has yet another article attacking Joe Lieberman for fraternizing with the enemy, while Harriet Miers finds herself under constant attack from the right for not being the sort of Neanderthal conservative Pat Robertson was thinking of when he asked God to smite a justice or two.

Connecticut, despite the anti-Rob Simmons phone messages I seem to get every week, is a lot saner. The last thing we need is Howard Dean and Ken Mehlman messing it all up for us.

We can't hide forever, though. The one thing that seems certain is that races of national importance will be played out in the second, fourth and fifth districts next year. National trends will play a huge part in determing the makeup of our next congressional delegation.

Haigh, Susan. "RNC chairman says Bush's poll numbers won't hurt candidates." Associated Press 10 October, 2005.

Pazniokas, Mark. "Dean Lays Into GOP." Hartford Courant 10 October, 2005.

Well, No Kidding

Blumenthal Not Running for Governor.

Sheesh, did anyone think he was at this point?

That leaves Malloy and DeStefano in a two-man race. Bysiewicz is out, Sullivan has backed off his earlier lean towards a run, and now Blumenthal is staying away. The big loser? George Jepsen, who was considering a run for attorney general himself.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Municipal Elections: West Hartford

Apparently, the folks in West Hartford don't just drive big cars and live in big houses: they also have enormous yard signs. 4'x8'... wow. From political feuds to shopping malls to the size of the average resident's ego, West Hartford always operates on a grand scale.

West Hartford

Town Statistics

  • Population (2003): 61,426

  • Registered Voters (est.): 38,800
        Democratic: 16,000
        Republican: 8,000
        Unaffiliated: 14,800

  • U.S. Congressional District: 1st (Rep. John Larson-D)

  • State Senate Districts: 5th (Sen. John Harris-D)

  • State House Districts: 18 (Rep. Andrew Flesichmann-D); 19 (Rep. Robert Farr-R); 20 (Rep. David McClusky-D)

  • 2004 Presidential Vote:
        John Kerry: 21,612
        George W. Bush: 11,641

  • 2004 Congressional Vote:
        John Larson (D): 23,169
        John Halstead (R): 7,536

  • Form of government: Council/manager

  • Town Council: Controlled by Democrats

  • Mayor: Scott Silfka (D)

Election 2005

Apart from oversize yard signs, the 2005 election will be interesting to watch because of two independents. Normally, independent candidates, while interesting, don't gather many votes. This may also be the case in West Hartford, but the presence of at least one of these two independents may help to slant the race in a certain direction.

Joseph Visconti was one of the loudest and most recognizable detractors of the Blue Back Square development project, and helped to lead the ultimately unsuccessful fight against it. Blue Back Square is a redevelopment project in West Hartford Center which was approved by a large majority of voters. Twice. If you aren't a West Hartford resident, that's really all you need or want to know about it. Visconti initially tried to get on to the Republican ticket as a candidate for town council, but couldn't muster enough votes at the town convention. He is now running as an independent.

What does this mean? Well, it might mean that those people in town (and they do exist) who still despise Blue Back Square might vote for him instead of one of the Republican candidates (the project was hatched by the Democratic town council), feeling that the WHGOP has abandoned them (which it has). This could help secure another two years of Democratic control. Given the large majorities who voted for the project, it's unlikely that Visconti will actually win a seat on the council.

The other independent candidate is a Republican who was often criticized for voting with Democrats. She decided to take herself off the Republican ticket before the convention. She probably won't win, either. There is no shortage of actual Democrats in West Hartford.


What we seem to be seeing in West Hartford is a rudderless, fractured Republican Party competing against a creaky, top-heavy Democratic monolith. West Hartford's political landscape is very like Connecticut's in miniature.

Given that, Democrats ought to retain control of the council with ease.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

New Polls

I have finally updated the polls. A few questions about municipal races this time. As always, feel free to talk about your answers here.

The polls are on the sidebar beneath the maps.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Change to Comments / Open Forum

Since I haven't heard from anyone who seriously objects to word verification in order to post comments (and since I just erased 20 spam comments), I have turned that feature on.

The word to type will appear below the comment box. Scroll down a bit to see it and type it in. If you enter the word incorrectly, all that will happen is that your comment won't be published and you will be asked to type in a new word. The text of your comment should remain (although you may want to paste a copy into Word or Notepad, just in case).

Let me know if anyone is having trouble with this. You can email me (click on "About Me" to get my email address), and we can try to figure something out.

This is otherwise an open forum.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Dems: No Campaign Finance Reform This Time

The Journal-Inquirer is reporting that Democratic leaders Rep. Jim Amann and Sen. Don Williams will not be bringing campaign finance reform to a vote during the upcoming special session. Both seem to be indicating that they don't have the votes right now. The J-I is also reporting that fundraising has increased dramatically as lawmakers try to grab as much money as possible before the laws change.

This is nonsense. Democrats (the ones who aren't currently holding office) want this bill done. Campaign finance reform is in the state's best interest, it should have been done last June. Democratic leaders continue to stall, however, making themselves look greedy and selfish in the process. Despite what they may think, it doesn't matter one way or the other to Governor Rell. She'll continue to look great next to the Democrats, and one way or the other campaign finance reform will probably get done.

Let's hope they figure this out soon.

Phaneuf, Keith. "Dems go for the Bucks." Journal-Inquirer 7 October, 2005.

Congressional Delegation Update

Let's check in again on our representatives in Washington:

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT)

Dodd recently sponsored an amendment to a Defense Appropriations bill intended to help those soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who have had to buy their own body armor and other essentials. The amendment orders the Pentagon to reimburse those soldiers. Apparently, although the Department of Defense was ordered by Congress to do something about this back in February, nothing has happened.

Last week, when Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., announced he would offer new legislative language to force the refunds, defense officials announced they were finalizing the details for the refund program. (Shane)

What's remarkable is that Dodd has to force this at all.

"Dodd puts pressure on Defense Dept." Connecticut Post 7 October, 2005.
Shane, Leo. "DOD reimbursing troops for protective gear." Stars and Stripes 7 October, 2005.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT)

Lieberman, with other members of the congressional delegation, has been agitating against proposed cuts in Connecticut's Homeland Security funds, and cuts intended to fund first responders nationwide.

The State Homeland Security Grants Program, which provides money for equipment and training for first responders in all states, has been cut in half, from $1.1 billion to $550 million. "Our communities depend upon them. The response problems recently exposed by Hurricane Katrina make this decision appear very questionable. We should be beefing up our support for all of our response partners, rather than leaving them in a position of having to do more with less," Lieberman said. (Urban)

Lieberman also pushed for FEMA to re-issue contracts it awarded with little or no competition following Hurricane Katrina.

"I have heard that contractors are receiving payments in excess of market rates and that FEMA doesn't appear to have sufficient contract officers to prevent overcharging," said committee ranking member Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.

"It sure looks, with hindsight, that FEMA would have been in a much better position if it had a lot of contracts in place that had been provide exactly the kind of services that FEMA rushed in to provide on a no-bid basis, and which we fear taxpayers may have ended up paying more money for than they should have," Lieberman added. (Strohm)

FEMA is now re-issuing those contracts.

Strohm, Chris. " FEMA to re-bid contracts issued in aftermath of hurricanes." 6 October, 2005.
Urban, Peter. "Legislators decry proposed cuts to 'first responder' grants." Connecticut Post 6 October, 2005.

Rep. John Larson (D-1)

Larson has been in the news following a USAToday report about nursing home fires. Larson introduced a bill last year that would require sprinklers in nursing homes, but the bill has languished since.

Larson also recently tried to amend the Manufacturing Technology Competitiveness Act to create an Undersecretary for Manufacturing and Technology, but his amendment was defeated.

Eisler, Peter. "Many nursing homes run risk of catastrophic fires." USAToday 6 October, 2005.

Rep. Rob Simmons (R-2)

Simmons has been repeatedly urged by opponents to return funds linked to indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, but so far he has refused.

Simmons has been cautious about the DeLay indictment so far, and hasn't said much:

When DeLay was indicted Wednesday, Simmons reacted cautiously, saying he was "concerned about the allegations."

"Indictments of any kind are serious," Simmons, R-2nd District, said in a statement. "That being said, let's not forget that an indictment is not a conviction. We still have due process in this country." (Scott)

Simmons is also considering legislation to block so-called "ROBO" calls, which are paid political advertisements left on answering machines. I personally have received dozens of these calls from both Rep. Simmons's backers and his opponents, and I wouldn't mind seeing them disappear.

Simmons also celebrated the saving of the Groton Sub Base, in which he played a major part.

Scott, Katherine Hutt. "Simmons reacts warily to DeLay indictment." Norwixch Bulletin 29 September, 2005.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-3)

DeLauro endorsed fellow New Haven resident John DeStefano for governor this month. She also was vocal in protesting cuts to Connecticut's Homeland Security funds.

DeLauro also questioned the administration's selection of FDA chief: specifically, she was concerned that he was doing two jobs that might conflict with one another:

Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, who is wearing two hats as the new FDA chief and the head of the National Cancer Institute, could face conflicts if the FDA must make a decision on a cancer treatment he helped to develop.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the top Democrat of the House subcommittee with jurisdiction over the FDA budget, called for the Bush administration to lay out a timeline for selecting a permanent commissioner.

"Now is clearly not the time for a part-time director at FDA with another prolonged period of temporary leadership," she said in a statement. "Irrespective of Dr. Von Eschenbach's qualifications, such an arrangement would undoubtedly compromise the distinct missions of both the FDA and the NCI. We cannot afford to weaken these two agencies." (Lumpkin)

Lumpkin, John J. "Experts, members of Congress question whether new FDA chief can do two jobs at once." Boston Globe 27 September, 2005.

Rep. Chris Shays (R-4)

Shays has been in the news for his criticisms of both former FEMA director Michael Brown ("I'm happy you left," Shays told him) and of former Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Shays has been fighting off Democratic attempts to link him to DeLay:

Michael Sohn, Shays' campaign manager, said Farrell has taken "completely out of context" a statement by Shays last year in which the Republican incumbent called DeLay "a great majority leader."

"Chris has been outspoken in his criticism of Tom DeLay," Sohn said. "I don't know how Chris can separate himself from Tom DeLay any more than he has already." (Henry)

Attempts to link Shays and DeLay won't work, considering that there is no love lost between the two.

Henry, Tom. " Shays called 'outspoken' in criticizing DeLay." Westport Minuteman 6 October 2005.

Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-5)

Johnson has been active in her district, appearing on stage with President Bill Clinton at an event in Danbury and holding Social Security forums. She has also been trying to secure new postal facilities for two towns in her district.

Johnson has also been under pressure to return campaign contributions linked to DeLay, but so far hasn't done so.

Johnson, along with Rep. Rob Simmons, has backed the idea of delaying a pay raise for Congress in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Lightman, David. "Pay Raise Dispute Flares." Hartford Courant 3 October, 2005.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Preview of Things to Come

Rell Sets Positive Tone for Campaign

In a speech to the Danbury Rotary Club on Wednesday, Governor Jodi Rell laid out a framework for her upcoming campaign, and took a moment to attack her rivals.

"I've tried to set a new tone in Connecticut to make people proud to call Connecticut home again," Rell told the Danbury Rotary Club. "We have turned the corner to bring integrity to state government."

Rell went on to talk about how she and legislators passed a state budget without the need for a special session, pushed through the largest transportation package in more than 20 years and devoted $100 million over the next 10 years to stem cell research.

Further, in a counter-attack she'll likely use against Democratic critics in next year's campaign, Rell accused potential opponents of being too negative. "Some say everything is wrong in Connecticut and the sky is falling," Rell said. "Those who see only the worst of Connecticut are not destined to lead the state to its best." (Lucas)

Now, John DeStefano and Dan Malloy are hardly "those who see only the worst of Connecticut," (DeStefano, especially, has tried to run a peppy, upbeat campaign), but voters don't know that. Rell is defining them before they have a chance to define themselves. This is a classic incumbent tactic, and one that worked very well for George Bush last year.

It doesn't help that DeStefano's big media moment this summer centered around the release of a campaign DVD with a somewhat negative portrayal of Rell, and that in general the only times either challenger made the news was when he was attacking the governor (the recent flap over illegal immigrants and ID cards in New Haven is an exception, but that didn't exactly help DeStefano either).

Malloy and DeStefano shot back with accusations of their own:

"Telling the truth is not negative, it's realistic," said Malloy.
"John Rowland didn't want anyone to criticize his ethics. Jodi Rell doesn't want anyone to criticize her record. Neither hold up to scrutiny," DeStefano said. (Lucas)

Whether voters will be willing to scrutinize the popular Rell's record in the face of a relentlessly positive campaign is far from certain. In fact, this brings to mind another "reform" candidate who ran positive campaigns...

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan dubbed his upbeat campaign "Morning in America." Rell... might well have called her speech "Morning in Connecticut." (Lucas)

Lucas's comparison is fascinating. I could spend a lot of time dissecting it, but all I'll say for now is that while the two have somewhat divergent philosophies, they may attract the same kind of following. We saw Reagan Democrats: will we see Rell Democrats? It's possible. She has over 60% approval with Democrats, according to the last SurveyUSA poll.

This analogy leaves poor Malloy or DeStefano to play Carter and/or Mondale. Not a pleasant thought. They can take solace in the fact that she won't have nearly as much of a monetary edge as Reagan did over his challengers, if she has one at all. They'll have plenty of opportunities to get their message out.

So here's the game plan as it stands for next year: Democrats are going to try to convince voters that Connecticut is in crisis, and that a leadership change is necessary. The governor will then attempt to annihilate them with sunshine. Looking forward to it.

Lucas, Fred. "Rell Ready to Run." Danbury News-Times 6 October, 2005.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Municipal Elections: Enfield

This is the first in an occasional series about town politics. There will be more about different towns as the election approaches. Email me if you want me to write about your town.

On Monday, I was driving home when I saw a large red sign posted on one of the busiest corners in town. On it was painted, in white letters, the URL ""

Excitedly, I pointed out the sign to my beleaguered wife, who took one look at it and shrugged. Another ad, big deal.

To me, it was a big deal. It was definitely a campaign sign, probably Republican (the town GOP posts red and white signs, Democrats blue and white). The political season was finally on in Enfield.


Town Statistics

Population (2003): 45,246
Registered Voters (2004): 26,603
    Unaffiliated: 12,157
    Democratic: 9,486
    Republican: 4,899
    Minor Parties: 61
U.S. Congressional District: 2nd (Rob Simmons-R)
State Senate District: 7 (John Kissel-R)
State House Districts: 58 (Kathy Tallarita-D), 59 (Steve Jarmoc-D)
2004 Pres. Vote:
    Kerry: 10,826
    Bush: 8,669
2004 Cong. Vote:
    Rob Simmons (R): 8,948
    Jim Sullivan (D): 8,844
Form of Government: Council/Manager
Town Council:
    Currently controlled by Democrats. The council majority elects the mayor, in this case Democrat Patrick Tallarita.

Election 2005

In 2003, Democrats finally won a clear majority on the town council, following several successive terms of Republican control. Democrats want to retain their majority, while Republicans, following several retirements, are putting forth a renewed, more youthful slate in the hopes of recapturing the council.

Republicans were defeated two years ago largely because of the effect of the Enfield Taxpayers' Party, a conservative group who wants to lower taxes at all costs. The two ETP candidates and the Republicans combined received more votes than the Democrats, but the split in the town's conservatives gave the Democrats the win. The effect of the ETP this year won't be as great, as they are running only one candidate, not two.

Republicans are running on the idea that Enfield "deserves better," although some of the problems they cite on their website were initiated during the period of Republican control. Democrats are promising more of the same.

Issues will include taxes, budget matters, infrastructure, economics and possibly a new library plan that was recently unveiled.


The past two years have generally been good ones for Enfield. Several large businesses have moved into town, road improvements have been made without too much pain, and tax increases, while steady, haven't been particularly onerous. This will help Democrats.

Still, the Republicans will do much better now that the ETP seems a little weaker, although their reluctance to engage the ETP directly (Republicans backed out of an ETP-backed candidate forum) may hurt them. Minority Leader Scott Kaupin, who would become mayor if the Republicans won, is well-known and well-liked.

It'll be closer than 2003, but the Democrats will probably hold on.

Update (Thanks, MikeCT)

 Enfield Republicans
 Enfield Democrats has interviews with most of the candidates.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Housekeeping/Open Forum

The amount of comment spam this blog has been getting has increased dramatically over the past week. I've been deleting it as soon as it comes in, but there's still an awful lot. It gets annoying.

I may turn on word verification for comments at some point in the near future, if this keeps up. If you have any strenuous objections, this is the place for them.

In other news, I'll be on WTICAM 1080's streaming feed this afternoon a little after 5pm, talking with Bruce and Colin. Just a note: the feed doesn't work well with anything that isn't Internet Explorer.

You may use this as an open forum.

New Haven to Provide IDs for Illegal Immigrants

Plan Praised by Latino Leaders, Derided by Immigration Opponents

There is very little that's new in the debate over immigration. The times, people and places change, but the ideas and positions do not. One side wants to limit immigration and punish those who don't abide by immigration law, while the other wants to embrace immigrants and provide them with as much help as possible. In a nutshell, one side wants to keep them out of society, while the other wants to draw them further in.

The latest, closest go-around has New Haven mayor and gubernatorial candidate John DeStefano proposing municipal ID cards for illegal immigrants, so that they might gain better access to city services.

"Let’s be real about why this is happening first of all," said the mayor, who is also a gubernatorial candidate, during a bilingual press conference in City Hall. "The failure of the federal government to recognize and embrace thousands and thousands of hard-working residents, is subjecting those people and their families to abuse and exploitation," he said.
"All of these people are hard-working, decent members of our society on which we depend everyday," DeStefano said. "We can do better by them and we have to make up some of it as we go along." (Bromage)

This has predictably raised the ire of a Connecticut anti-immigration group.

"Does anybody in New Haven understand that they are breaking the immigration law?" said Elise Marciano, Danbury chapter president of the Connecticut Citizens for Immigration Control.

"You are not supposed to aid and abet illegal aliens." (Bromage)

Both positions are correct. Illegal immigrants are here, well, illegally. Should we not abide by the law? But DeStefano is also correct in recognizing that illegal immigrants are in fact dwelling in his city in great numbers, and that the law isn't likely to make them vanish any time soon. Instead of attempting to remove the illegal immigrants from New Haven, the city will try to draw them into more legitimate society.

Both sides ignore a vital part of the problem. No ID card will make illegal immigrants legal ones, and no amount of pontificating about the law and illegal immigrants will make them leave. So is this the right thing to do? It's almost impossible to say.

The only things that are clear about this plan is the controversy it's going to cause, and that, at most, it's only part of a larger solution to the problem of illegal immigrants.

Bromage, Andy. "City to offer ID for illegal aliens." New Haven Register 4 October, 2005.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Civil(ized) Unions

On Saturday, civil unions between gay couples were officially recognized by the state of Connecticut. Today, some couples will be, er, united? unionized? by the power of the state.

The most remarkable thing about the new law's implementation is that no one seems to care. If this were any other state, there would be rallies, national news coverage and probably Fred Phelps, James Dobson and Rosie O'Donnell. With the exception of a tiny rally in Hartford by the "CT Family Institute" (an offshoot of Dobson's Focus on the Family) and brief mentions on cable news, we have had none of those things.

Stories will start trickling out about newly united couples, and perhaps we'll see some of those on the news. In reality, though, the ban on cell phones while driving has raised much more of a ruckus, and has inspired greater passions in us than civil unions.

The calmness of this period could mean two things. Firstly, it could mean that the compromise struck by the legislature (civil unions instead of marriage and a definition of marriage as heterosexual only) was the correct one for our time and place. Conservatives can be satisfied that there is not yet full marriage rights for homosexuals and that marriage has been defined in our laws as being between one man and one woman. Liberals can be satisfied that Connecticut is one of only a small handful of states that recognize unions of any kind between gay couples, and the first to do so without a court order.

Of course, everybody could just be waiting for the other shoe to drop. There is a court case winding its way through the system now that may end up with the state Supreme Court ordering the legislature to implement full gay marriage, as in Massachusetts. This could happen as early as next year.

For now, however, the decorum of our citizens during these potentially volatile times speaks well of us, and may yet provide an example for the rest of the country.