Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Campaign Finance Bill Passes Senate

Rell Promises to Sign Bill if Passed by House

According to CT News Junkie the CFR bill will be signed by the governor if passed by both chambers today.

The Senate passed the bill by a wide margin. See the roll call here.

The House is the tricky one. Let's hope the governor leaned on members of her party to vote for it: otherwise it ain't happening.

Either way this turns out, I'm glad it's finally come to a vote.

Open Forum

Campaign finance reform should, after a lengthy and mind-numbing debate, be voted on today at some point. By tomorrow, it could be signed.

What else is happening today?

DeLauro Involved in Arizona Land Giveaway

This comes to me from Porkopolis, a nonpartisan Ohio-based site monitoring pork barrel spending in Congress.

The recent agriculture appropriations bill (H.R. 2744) has a provision (SEC. 783) in it that transfers the Western Cotton Research Laboratory (WCRL), to two lobbying organizations: the Arizona Cotton Growers Association (ACGA) and Supima.
To justify the conveyance (the terminology used in the legislation) of the WCRL, Congressman Pastor of Arizona, Congresswoman DeLauro of Connecticut, Congressman Kolbe of Arizona and Congressman Bonilla of Texas, at a minimum, told their colleagues in the House of Representatives that the land for the WCRL was originally donated to the U.S. Government by the ACGA and Supima. The donation was for the purpose of building a research facility that would benefit the cotton growing membership of these two lobbying organizations.
But what the representatives conveniently left out when making their argument for the conveyance is that the ACGA and Supima will continue to benefit from the research conducted at the new Western Cotton Research Laboratory which will be relocated at the U.S. Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center.
The actions taken in this conveyance represent an abdication of government oversight at best and lobbying influence at the taxpayers' expense at worst.

Essentially, these two lobbying organizations have seen a sizable return on their initial donation. They get, free of charge, a research facility and improvements made to the land by the federal government. It's all a little shady-see the site for full details. Porkopolis has tried without success to get DeLauro's press people to explain.

Check out the AZ Tribune story, also posted by Porkopolis. Interesting stuff, to be sure.

There is little chance that a faraway land deal with lobbyists will hurt the extremely popular DeLauro, especially as she continues to make most of her headlines from her fight against Wal-Mart. Still, an explanation is in order.

Update: Apparently, DeLauro put her name on this as a favor to another Arizona congressman. Therefore, I'm not quite so sure that this is a story worth following, but I'll keep track of it anyway.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Joe Goes to Iraq (Again)

Sen. Joe Lieberman lately returned from another trip to Iraq, and lauded the apparent progress being made there:

Lieberman, D-Conn., who spent Wednesday and Thursday in Iraq, saw strong evidence that a workable American plan is in place.

"We do have a strategy," he said. "We do have a plan. I saw a strategy that's being implemented." (Lightman)

Lieberman's comments are in direct opposition to those made by Sen. Dodd just one month ago:

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., visited Iraq last month, and came away saying "we need a major course correction" in American policy - notably "we need to let Iraqis know we're not there forever." (Lightman)

Lieberman is one of the biggest supporters of a war that has never been popular in Connecticut, yet he is still one of the state's most popular politicians. His approval ratings have consistently been in the high 60s, and he seems assured of re-election. It's noteworthy that the only Republican who has so far stepped forward to challenge Lieberman next year is, well, a little mentally unbalanced:

Right now, Manchester resident Herschal Collins is the only Republican to have filed for the Senate race. Collins has sued the state of Connecticut and the United States government for various things.

He insists that Lieberman's term — along with most other members of Congress — is invalid because they violated the law by permitting the Department of Interior to deal with the state's two casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. (Lucas)

He doesn't have a website yet, but I can't wait.

It's sometimes hard to explain Lieberman's popularity. Most Democrats say that they can't stand him. Whenever he makes a move, the left-leaning blogosphere excoriates him. Republicans, on the other hand, love Joe, even though he actually votes against most of their positions in the Senate. His campaign for president in 2004 flopped terribly as he completely missed the mood of Democrats nationwide (his withdrawal saved him from losing the primary in his own state), but Connecticut voters seem willing to return him to the Senate anyway.

Lieberman has made a career out of playing to the middle, and perhaps that appeals to the huge number of independents in Connecticut. Many people find him dour, boring and a bit too liberal/conservative/moderate for their tastes, but not so much so that they won't vote for him. It helps that Republicans haven't put up strong candidates against him since he defeated Lowell Weicker in 1988.

So Lieberman, despite lukewarm support from his own party and a seeming inability to sense the national mood, will win in another walk next year. That's something we can all feel, well, moderate about.


Lightman, David. "`We Do Have A Plan'." Hartford Courant 29 November, 2005.

Lucas, Fred. "Ho-hum '06 state political races looming." Danbury News-Times 27 November, 2005.

Campaign Finance Reform Should be Supported

No, it isn't perfect.

From early reports, the campaign finance reform compromise bill due to be voted on by the General Assembly this Wednesday has plenty of flaws. It sets high thresholds (the amount required to get public funding), is soft on unions, makes it nearly impossible for third parties to compete and doesn't go into effect until 2008.

It should be passed anyway.

Let's face it: we weren't going to get a perfect bill. Incumbent Democrats are wedded to special interest, contractor and lobbyist money, and they rightly fear that a public funding system will benefit the opposition. There was also a fear that a lot of public money would be spent on "vanity" candidates, or third-party candidates who would gather less than 10% of the vote.

It's a start, though. Let's get a system in place now. Let's put these moderate reforms in place, so that we have something to build on later. Imperfect campaign finance reform is better than no reform at all.

A historical precedent does exist for this situation. In 1959, the state abolished the anachronistic county governments and town courts at the behest of then-Governor Abraham Ribicoff. Democrats were loathe to give up the courts and the county governments because of the plum patronage positions that would be lost (county commissioners were appointed by the legislature, meaning that the majority got to appoint their friends). A compromise allowing sheriffs to remain in place was made. It wasn't a great compromise, but the deal was struck and counties disappeared. If they had waited for the perfect bill, nothing would have been done.

That's the problem facing us today. If we wait for the perfect bill, nothing will be done. In 2008 we will have a system that is far better than what most states operate under, and future legislatures will have the opportunity to improve it further. This is the best the Democrats are going to offer. Let's not miss this historic chance while we have it.

Here are some stories worth reading about campaign finance reform in today's news:

Pazniokas, Mark. "Closing In On Election Reform." Hartford Courant 29 November, 2005.

Hldaky, Gregory. " GOP questions Dems’ finance reform plan." Bristol Press 29 November, 2005.

Levine, Dan. "Once More Unto the Breach." CT News Junkie 29 November, 2005.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Campaign Finance Reform Deal Reached

Vote Expected This Week

At last. Few details yet.

The General Assembly's Democratic leaders said today they will vote this week on a compromise plan to reform Connecticut's campaign finance laws.
The legislation is expected to create a voluntary, public financing system for state candidates, ban contributions from lobbyists and state contractors and place limits on political action committee contributions.

The reforms would not likely take place until after the 2006 elections. (AP)

I'll let you know when I find out the details of the deal. I have to assume that they finally found the votes to pass it, whatever it is. I hope it's worth the wait.

"Democrats Plan To Vote This Week On Campaign Reform." Associated Press 28 November, 2005.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

How Red is My Blue State?

"Connecticut Democrats aren't a party. They're a collection of individuals who, by coincidence, share a ballot line."
--Michelle Jacklin, 2002

I keep hearing that Connecticut is a "blue state," meaning that it is one of the more liberal states, and therefore a state that favors the Democratic Party.

I've been wondering whether this is actually so.

Compared to the rest of the country, Connecticut is quite liberal. We have, among other things, laws on the books granting civil unions to gay couples and allowing women to have abortions, should Roe v. Wade be overturned. We promote stem cell research while ignoring the dire warnings of Connecticut's arm of Focus on the Family, the Family Institute of Connecticut. We disapprove of native son George W. Bush, who wandered a little too far west and south for our tastes, and of the national Republican Party in general. Connecticut was a theocracy once: we have no intention of becoming one again.

As for favoring Democrats, that's a different story.

It's easy to pigeonhole Connecticut from the national point of view. The state has voted for Democrats for president since 1992, and both of its senators have been Democrats since 1988. The General Assembly has been entirely controlled by Democrats since 1998, when Democrats recaptured the Senate. The first and third congressional districts are among the most solid in the country for Democrats.

But scratch the Democratic surface, and you'll find a deep Republican past. If you're looking for the Party of Lincoln, this is where it came to die. Lowell Weicker was perhaps its last true representative. The antislavery forces that gave birth to the Republican Party in the 1850s were strongest in pious, egalitarian New England, and the state continued to support Republican candidates through the rest of the 19th and 20th Century. Connecticut has voted for Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover (twice), Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

To give an example of just how Republican the state was--in 1932, only six states failed to vote for FDR. Connecticut was one of them. It's no surprise that the Republican answer to the Kennedys, the Bushes, came out of Greenwich.

The vast majority of Connecticut governors from 1855 on have been Republicans (33 to 15, with one independent), and the legislature was consistently held by that party up until constitutional changes in the 1960s. Currently, our governor is a Republican and three of the five congressional seats are held by Republicans. A look at the "top offices" map for the most recent municipal election will show a state with almost as much red as blue. A look at the map of the 2002 governor's race will give Democrats a heart attack.

Connecticut Republicans have often followed the old northeastern line of pragmatic fiscal conservatism matched with a grudging social tolerance. If they have failed in recent years, it's because the national party has gone in the opposite direction and the state party has fallen to pieces.

Connecticut Republicans suffer from a terrible identity crisis. How do they follow the national GOP without losing support at home? Successful Republicans like Shays, Johnson, Simmons and Rell have figured it out: don't follow the national party. By and large, Connecticut voters seem to support fiscal prudence and social tolerance. Add electoral reform to this, and a winning combination emerges. Governor Rell seems thrifty, while at the same time supporting minimum-wage increases, civil unions and campaign finance reform. Her approval rating is astronomical. There is a lesson here.

So what does this mean? It explains how Connecticut, thought to be so blue, can keep returning Republicans to Congress and the Governor's Mansion. It also suggests that Republicans need only to reorganize and return to their roots in order to regain meaningful power. Lost in the massive Democratic gains of the past four years, but all-too-apparent from their inability to pass campaign finance reform, is the collapse of the state Democratic Party. The Democrats have gone from the disciplined machine of the 1960s and 1970s to a disorganized mess of conflcting interests and people who just happen to put a "D" after their names.

At the moment, neither party stands for anything clear. They both have let the national parties define them. If state Republicans suddenly jumped into sharp focus, Democrats would be at a loss. The 44% of Connecticut voters who are affiliated with neither party might, for the first time in a decade, swing back toward the right. Seven seats flip the Senate. It isn't terribly likely, but it's possible.

National winds are blowing Democratic for next year. Connecticut's winds may be blowing in the opposite direction. It wouldn't be the first time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Education Funding at Heart of Lawsuit

State Aid to Towns Could be Issue in Governor's Race

Back in the early 1970s, the landmark case of Horton v. Meskill changed the way that school systems get their money. The disparity between rich and poor districts was so great that it had become necessary for the state to step in to level the playing field. This was the beginning of state aid to districts.

Thirty years later, state aid to towns is at the center of another lawsuit, one that could have consequences for the gubernatorial race next year.

A school-funding lawsuit filed Tuesday aims to increase state aid to municipalities by as much as $2 billion annually, creating an instant issue for the 2006 campaign for governor.
The lawsuit claims there are vast disparities in opportunities and levels of achievement among Connecticut's public schools.

The long-anticipated legal action is based on the widespread belief that the General Assembly lacks the will to tackle a major spending increase without the threat of court intervention.
The two Democratic mayors running for governor, John DeStefano Jr. of New Haven and Dannel P. Malloy of Stamford, are among the sponsors of the litigation, which names Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell as a defendant. (Pazniokas)

Okay. State aid has been decreasing for years. There are huge, huge disparities between districts like Bridgeport and Fairfield, or Bloomfield and next-door Simsbury.

I'm still not convinced that this lawsuit is a good idea.

Firstly, how are we going to pay for the huge increase it demands? The theory seems to be that more state aid would allow property taxes to dwindle; how likely is that? Income taxes will almost certainly go up. Other programs will suffer.

Secondly, there is absolutely no guarantee that more money will equal better schools. If I knew for certain that the money would be spent in the best possible way and that students would be learning more because of it, I'd be all for it. Instead, this lawsuit seems to want the state to simply throw more money at the towns, many of which will not spend it wisely. Districts like Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven lead the state in per-pupil spending.

The legislature needs to act before this beast gets through the court system and forces their hand. Yes, school districts do need more money, but the state needs to make sure they're spending the money on the right things. New state money for education should go to the following:

  • Reducing class sizes: This should be the first order of business. Study after study shows that smaller class sizes mean more individual attention for students. How do you manage this? More teachers!

  • Smaller schools: If a high school has more than 500-600 students--subdivide it. Make it smaller. You can do it in the same building--there's no need for new construction. Kids get lost in huge schools. Smaller schools mean, once again, more individual attention. This is necessary, and it's why magnet and charter schools are so successful.

  • New Materials: Self-explanatory.

  • Environmental Improvements: Better air circulation. Less mold. Brighter hallways. Well-kept classrooms. It matters.

This shouldn't be done in a haphazard way, but as part of a focused, innovative and concrete state plan. Cutoffs for pupils per classroom should be set. School sizes should be capped. Once materials reach a certain age, they should be replaced.

The legislature owes it to Connecticut's children to do this right, before control of the situation is taken out of their hands. It may already be too late.

Pazniokas, Mark and Robert A. Frahm. "State Sued Over School Funding." Hartford Courant 23 November, 2005.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Open Forum

What's happening in parts of the state that aren't Enfield?

Enfield Town Manager Forced Out

Democrats Dismiss Shanley Without Explanation

The Democratic-led town council last night accepted the resignation of town manager Scott Shanley over the bitter and vocal objections of the minority. Here's the strange part:

Democrats did not offer any rationale for wanting Shanley out, and Tallarita refused to answer a direct request that he do so from Republican William Lee.

"You have to consider that there are people who believe that this is the best decision to make," Democrat Brian Peruta said. "We will move this forward and do what's best for Enfield." (Byron)

Enfield's Greg Stokes, who attended the meeting, reports on his Stokes Report that when Lee asked his question, Tallarita simply said "No." (Read The Stokes Report for more. Especially read the comments. Very informative--this is a good example of what blogs can do on the local level)

I don't understand this. We can't be expected to have blind faith in our leadership, especially on such a local level, and it's absurd for the council majority to ask us to. If there are good reasons for forcing out the town manager, explain them. But so far, the Democrats remain mum. Why?

The working theory, in the absence of any actual reasons provided by Mayor Tallarita or his party, is that the Democrats want to install someone more friendly to their plans. Well, so be it. If that's what they want, then they can do it. They did win in November, and control the council 7-4. I believe it violates the spirit of the charter, which intends the town manager to be an apolitical administrator, but technically there is nothing wrong with that.

It's the secrecy and the "we know best" mentality that bother me most.

Byron, Ken. "A Divided Council Accepts Town Manager's Forced Resignation." Hartford Courant 22 November, 2005.

Monday, November 21, 2005

AP: 5th District a "Bellweather"

As Nancy Johnson goes, so goes the Republican Party? According to a recent Associated Press article, that may be just the case:

The re-election campaign for veteran U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson of Connecticut is one of several emerging as an early barometer for Republican fortunes in next year's elections.
"If you're looking for a canary-in-a-coal-mine race, this is one," said Amy Walter, who tracks House races for [the Cook Political Report]. "If all of a sudden you see Nancy Johnson slip, it's a sign other Republicans in similar districts should be concerned." (AP)

Johnson has been strong in her district since nearly losing to Charlotte Koskoff in 1996, and stronger still now that her district includes more of Fairfield County than before. She has easily won her last four elections, including a 2002 race against fellow U.S. Representative Jim Maloney following redistricting. Here's the map of her last two elections:

The article postulates that the ongoing national crisis for the Republican Party could nullify Johnson's advantage as an incumbent, which is considerable. In fact, national trends are one way in which I suggest that the Incumbent Rule--which states that all things being equal, incumbents will win-- can be broken.

It seems like it would take one heck of a national trend to knock off Johnson. She's well-known, she has a very useful public persona as a nice, moderate little old lady, and she has an absolute ton of money in the bank. Her district, which includes part of Fairfield County and most of Litchfield County, is also heavily Republican.

But the article is absolutely correct. If Nancy Johnson finds herself in trouble in 2006, Republicans ought to panic. They already seem a little worried. Here's a telling statement:

National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Carl Forti predicted a solid Johnson win next fall. "People up there have known Nancy Johnson for years," said Forti. "They know she votes her conscience, she doesn't vote the party line." (AP)

When the NRCC is touting the fact that Nancy Johnson disagrees with the party, they're worried.

Should they be? Paul Vance and Chris Murphy are both good challengers, and either will be able to make a run at Johnson. Still, it's going to take a well-funded, beautifully executed campaign combined with a national backlash against Republicans to defeat her, and there's no guarantee of either of those things coming to pass.

If it does happen, though, the shift in national politics will be seismic.

"Connecticut's Fifth District seen as a bellwether for GOP." Associated Press 21 November, 2005.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

News Briefs

Here's a few stories from around the state:

Enfield Town Manager Forced Out

Enfield's Democratic town council majority was successful in forcing longtime town manager Scott Shanley to resign. Shanley had been at odds with the Democratic council over budget issues. There is coverage by the Journal-Inquirer here and here.

I'm not happy with this. We have one year to go until revaluation, which is going to be a nightmare. Shanley was an experienced town manager who worked well with government and town staff. Breaking in a new town manager at this time is going to be very difficult.

The entire point of having a town manager is to have a full-time administrator to run the staff and give the town council good, nonpolitical advice on how the town should be run. Shanley was a fine example of this sort of town manager. The Democrats' push to remove a competent manager and, presumably, replace him with someone who agrees with their way of thinking, politicizes the position to a degree that I find troubling.

From a purely political standpoint, Mayor Patrick Tallarita is for a brief moment acting like a strong mayor (in the governmental format sense). Enfield, which has found stability under the council/manager form of government, doesn't need a strong mayor.

Jack Stone Rejects Selectman Seat

Rep. John "Jack" Stone (R-Fairfield) rejected the seat he won on the Fairfield board of selectmen in the November election. Stone lost the first selectman's race to incumbent Kenneth Flatto (D), but polled enough votes to win a selectman's seat. Stone, who represents the 134th House District, has said he'll finish his term in the legislature instead of sitting on the Fairfield board.

The 134th is on the list of races to watch in 2006. It will become more interesting if Stone decides not to seek another term.

Simmons Sounds off Against War Critic

CT Blue has video of U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons (R-2nd) attacking war critic John Murtha for demoralizing the troops with his dissent. Judge for yourself whether or not this is justified... and whether or not we're going to stop talking about Vietnam any time soon.

Campaign Finance...zzz...

Campaign finance reform is still stuck in park following another go-round of squabbling between legislators and the governor's office.

If this keeps up, the regular session is going to start without campaign finance reform put to a vote. We might as well have a full-time legislature at this point.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Courant Losing More Staff

Columnist Michelle Jacklin Offered Severance in Latest Round

CT News Junkie has been following the latest round of "belt-tightening" over at the Hartford Courant, which apparently is now going to include columnist Michelle Jacklin.

The details are well-covered on that always excellent site, so I'll let you read about them there. It's worth a look.

The Courant has been losing local coverage for years, which is where I imagine these cuts will be felt the most. There were a lot of complaints about coverage of local races leading up to the elections, and their print edition had very little that was useful in the way of results.

Who will fill the local news void? Smaller papers like the Journal-Inquirer have already stepped in, and I tend to prefer them over the Courant for coverage of my own town. However, people do seem to be turning to online sources more and more for local news, which seems to be counterintuitive on the face of it. After all, the web is "world wide" and accessible from anywhere. Isn't it overkill?

Not at all. Websites are cheaper to create and maintain (my total costs for this site? $25/year) than a run of 5,000-10,000 copies of a print newspaper each week, and they have the advantage of being accessible from anywhere by anyone at any time.

Local news sites (Westport Now and the New Haven Independent are good examples) can exist in a variety of formats and have many different types of features. They can also be interactive, meaning enabled comments, forums, etc. Many have taken blog formats and have specific points of view, like Willington Issues and the newly created Stokes Report.

In short, people are stepping up to fill the need they see.

So perhaps the future of local news is on the web instead of in print, although it may be more accurate to say that online sources will not replace but supplement and coexist with print sources. This makes the decision of Tribune (the Courant's parent company) to gut the paper's staff, thereby reducing already lousy local coverage to next to nothing, highly questionable. This ground, once lost, may be impossible to recover.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

CT Congressional Delegation This Month

What are our representatives in Washington up to?

Home heating oil seemed to be very much on the congressional delegation's minds over the past month. The Republicans in the House delegation are distancing themselves from President Bush. Nancy Johnson's web site looks like a liberal Democrat's page, these days. Is that the Sierra Club honoring her? Is that Bill Clinton? Huh. Strange days.

So what have they been doing?

Sen Joe Lieberman (D)

Sen. Lieberman has joined a bipartisan group dedicated to reducing our dependency on oil by promoting fuel-efficient cars.

Lieberman and Sen. Dodd also secured billions of dollars in defense spending for Connecticut, as part of the massive new defense appropriations bill. Feel free to make oinking sounds.

Lieberman met with President Bush's Supreme Court nominee Sam Alito, and assures us that he will not overturn Roe v. Wade.

"U.S. can cut oil consumption, Lieberman says." Associated Press 17 November, 2005.
Miga, Andrew. "Senate defense bill includes billions of dollars for Conn. firms." Associated Press 16 November, 2005.
Reynolds, Maura. "Senators Feel Assured on Abortion After Alito Visit." Los Angeles Times, 9 November, 2005.

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D)

Dodd is helping to sponsor a media shield law that would protect journalists from being compelled to reveal sources. He also contributed to the defense spending bill that will net billions for Connecticut companies.

Dodd also wants oil companies to pay a windfall profits tax.

Kaplan, Jonathan E. "Libby case will help move shield law, says Pence." The Hill 16 November, 2005.
Dalrymple, Mary. "Dem. Senators Use Tax Bill to Squeeze Cos.." 17 November, 2005.

Rep. John Larson (D-1)

Larson was the only member of the congressional delegation to oppose new restrictions on eminent domain.

Larson is also trying to gain a leadership post in the House. At least it would give him something to do.

"Larson only Conn. lawmaker to vote against eminent domain bill." Associated Press 3 November, 2005.
Hearn, Josephine. "Supporter lists escalate Dems’ vice-chair battle." The Hill 27 October, 2005.

Rep. Rob Simmons (R-2)

Connecticut members of the House helped to pass federal funding for eastern Connecticut.

Moderate Republicans, Simmons, Shays and Johnson among them, helped to block oil drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve.

Simmons also missed the BRAC vote to go to Vegas, but it was a sure thing and he had an appointment.

"U.S. House OKs Millions For Projects In Region." New London Day 11 November, 2005.
Schultz, Jennifer. " Johnson leads GOP moderates to block drilling for Arctic oil." New Britain Herald 11 November, 2005.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-3)

DeLauro introduced legislation banning advance notification of inspections by DOL, a bill aimed mostly at Wal-Mart.

DeLauro also panned the White House's avian flu plans.

Gruenberg, Mark. "Wal-Mart in Trouble II." International Labor Communications Association 14 November, 2005.

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-4)

Shays has been in the news for proposing new regulations on Internet communications.

Shays also met with controverisal Iraqi leader Ahmed Chalabi, which drew criticism from Democrats.

Urban, Peter. "Shays under fire for meeting with Iraqi." Connecticut Post 15 November, 2005.

Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-5)

Johnson has proposed new legislation regarding health care techonology and infrastructure.

She has also been promoting Medicare programs in her district.

Broder, Caroline. "Senate bill falls short for HIT funds, Johnson introduces legislation." Healthcare IT News 28 October, 2005.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Rell Vetoes Contracting Reform

Privatization of State Services at Issue

Gov. Rell today vetoed a contracting reform bill for much the same reasons that she vetoed a similar bill in July, namely that it would have subjected the privatization of state services to regulation. The reform bill is one of the major pieces of campaign finance reform, which the governor has supported. Rell did implement some of the measures the bill contains by executive order this summer.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Dan Malloy and John DeStefano say they would have signed the bill.

No one looks good after this failure. Rell didn't sign a major reform bill (again), which makes her look like a hypocrite. However, Democrats must have known she'd do exactly this, but passed the bill anyway with the privatization language intact. Both sides are playing politics, and many of the reforms still don't get done.

Rell to Bush: Forget It

Don't look for George Bush to come campaign for Jodi Rell next year.

"I don’t think President Bush would want to campaign particularly for me," said Rell. "I’m campaigning right now..with individuals who wish to campaign with me."
"I don’t mean that to be disrespectful in any manner, but I think over the last year there have been many initiatives that I have put on the table where I differ very much with the Republican administration," Rell added. (Hldaky)

Can you blame her? According to the Courant/UCONN poll released this morning, Bush's approval rating in Connecticut hovers around 30%.

Of course, it isn't like Bush would come here anyway. He was only born in New Haven, went to college at Yale, and is the grandson of a well-respected Greenwich senator. No connection at all. Has he actually come to Connecticut while president? I can't remember him campaigning for Simmons, Shays or Johnson.

I also can't imagine those three particularly wanting Bush to show up to campaign for them, either. The only people who would benefit if Bush set foot within our borders are Democrats.

Hldaky, Gregory. " Rell to campaign without Bush’s help." Bristol Press, 16 November, 2005.

Open Forum

All's quiet on the election front.

Anyone get a chance to see the new voting machines?

I've heard rumors of campaign finance reform inching slowly ahead, but I'll believe it when I see it.

What else is happening today?

Poll: Good News for Rell, Mixed News for Dems

A new Hartford Courant/University of Connecticut poll released this morning shows that most people in Connecticut are satisfied with the way things are going in the state, but that there is concern about jobs and economic growth.

Gov. Rell's approval ratings are still quite high. 73% of respondents rate her as either "excellent" or "good." This is consistent with earlier Quinnipiac and SurveyUSA polling.

Her Democratic opponents continue to suffer from a lack of name recognition, although this will certainly change as the campaign generates more news coverage over the coming year. Rell would easily defeat both Democrats by 40% or more.

In other good news for the Rell campaign, 63% of respondents think that Connecticut is headed in the right direction.

There is some good news for Democrats, here. A wide majority of respondents say that jobs and the economy are the number one issues for them in the upcoming gubernatorial campaign. Both Democratic candidates are strong in this area, while Rell is percieved to be weak. Issues where Rell is strong, such as campaign finance reform and ethics in government, are rated lower.

There is little new or surprising in this poll, although it will probably help to cement the Democratic tactic of attacking Rell on the economic front.

Read the full poll here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

General Assembly 2006: 22 Races to Watch

Now that the final election of 2005 is behind us, it’s time to start looking ahead to 2006 and legislative races. As it is impossible to cover every race in-depth, I have selected 22 races that I’ll be highlighting over the next year. I chose the districts that were the most competitive in 2004 (and should be competitive again in 2006), but this is a list that will evolve during 2006 to include other interesting or competitive districts. This list is a starting place.


Senate 07

  • Incumbent: Sen John Kissel (R)

  • Opponent: Bill Kiner (D) (website)
  • Towns: East Granby, Enfield, Granby, Somers, Suffield, Windsor (part), Windsor Locks

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 1.64%

  • Notes: Kissel won based on his personal popularity alone in 2004. His district went heavily for Kerry. Kissel was one of the few senators to vote against civil unions in 2005.

Senate 12

  • Incumbent: Sen. Edward Meyer(D)

  • Opponent: Gregg Hannon (R) (website)

  • Towns: Branford, Durham, Guilford, Killingworth, Madison, N. Branford

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 3.16%

  • Notes: This is typically a Republican area. Meyer defeated Bill Aniskovich in an upset in 2004.

Senate 14

  • Incumbent: Sen. Gayle Slossberg (D) (website)

  • Towns: Milford, Orange, West Haven (part)

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 3.82%

  • Notes: Slossberg defeated a GOP incumbent in 2004.

Senate 18

  • Incumbent: Sen. Cathy Cook (R)

  • Towns: Griswold, Groton, N. Stonington, Plainfield, Preston, Sterling, Stonington, Voluntown

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 8.95%

  • Notes: This is a pretty weak number for such a Republican district. Cook has been mentioned as a possible running mate for Rell.

Senate 22

  • Incumbent: Sen. Bill Finch (D)(website); (blog)

  • Towns: Bridgeport (part), Monroe, Trumbull (part)

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 7.96%

  • Notes: A longtime friend of Ernest Newton.

Senate 31

  • Incumbent: Sen. Tom Colapietro (D)

  • Towns: Bristol, Harwinton (part), Plainville, Plymouth

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 5.14%

  • Notes: Colapietro has said homosexuality is a "sickness."

House of Representatives

House 02

  • Incumbent: Rep. Hank Bielawa (R)

  • Towns: Bethel (part), Danbury (part) Redding (part)

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 0.82% (87 votes)

  • Notes: Bielawa won because he was cross-endorsed by an Independent party. Very strange stuff. This is his second term.

House 30

  • Incumbent: Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D)

  • Opponent: Edward Pocock (R) (website)

  • Towns: Berlin (part), Southington (part)

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 7.44%

  • Notes: Berlin and Southington trend Dem, probably safe. Aresimowicz defeated a GOP incumbent in 2004.

House 34

  • Incumbent: Rep. Gail Hamm (D)

  • Towns: East Hampton, Middletown (part)

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 9.92%

  • Notes: Probably safe, although both towns are unstable for Democrats lately. Hamm irritated her constituents in East Hampton when she pushed for a law restricting development around lakes.

House 37

  • Incumbent: Rep. Ed Jutila (D)

  • Towns: East Lyme, Salem

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 8.69%

  • Notes: East Lyme is GOP, and Jutila is invisible.

House 38

  • Incumbent: Rep. Elizabeth Ritter (D)

  • Towns: Montville (part), Waterford

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 6.61%

  • Notes: Waterford is trending GOP

House 44

  • Incumbent: Rep. Michael A. Caron (R)

  • Towns: Killingly (part), Plainfield (part), Sterling

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 10.37%

  • Notes: Should at least be competitive. This part of the state is trending Democrat.

House 50

  • Incumbent: Rep. Mike Alberts (R)

  • Towns: Brooklyn, Eastford, Hampton, Pomfret, Woodstock

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 0.44% (48 votes)

  • Notes: Most endangered Republican. Defeated Democrat Reece Painter in general election, but Painter defeated Alberts in special election to fill remaining two months of term vacated by Rep. Jefferson Davis (D-Pomfret), who resigned 8/04. Very strange.

House 65

  • Incumbent: Rep. Anne Ruwet (R)

  • Towns: Torrington (part)

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 5.1%

  • Notes: Ruwet’s son is Mayor Ryan Bingham of Torrington.

House 100

  • Incumbent: Rep. Raymond Kalinowski (R)

  • Towns: Durham, Middlefield, Middletown (part)

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 2.93%

  • Notes: Durham went Dem in 2005, and the margin is small. Kalinowski served on impeachment committee in 2004.

House 101

  • Incumbent: Rep. Deborah Heinrich (D) (website)

  • Towns: Guilford (part), Madison

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 6.06%

  • Notes: Very Republican area. Heinrich defeated a longtime GOP incumbent in 2004.

House 104

  • Incumbent: Rep. Linda Gentile (D)

  • Opponent: Joseph Romano (R)
  • Towns: Ansonia (part), Derby (part)

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 4.17%

  • Notes: This was an open seat in 2004, vacated by a long-serving Democrat.

House 117

  • Incumbent: Rep. Paul Davis (D)

  • Towns: Milford (part), Orange (part), West Haven (part)

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 4.73%

  • Notes: Milford and Orange trend Republican. Davis is one of the people behind the bill to make assulting umpires a felony.

House 120

  • Incumbent: Rep. John Harkins (R)

  • Towns: Stratford (part)

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 5.81%

  • Notes: Stratford is trending Democratic following gains by Democrats in the municipal elections. Harkins has been in the news for controversial anti-illegal alien stances.

House 132

  • Incumbent: Rep. Thomas Drew (D) (website)

  • Towns: Fairfield (part)

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 4.90%

  • Notes: Against natural gas terminal in Sound.

House 134

  • Incumbent: Rep. John "Jack" Stone (R)

  • Towns: Fairfield (part), Trumbull (part)

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 7.88%

  • Notes: Lost the first selectman race in Fairfield to Ken Flatto. Stone was elected to a selectman's seat, but may not take it.

House 136

  • Incumbent: Rep. Joe Mioli (D)

  • Towns: Westport (part)

  • 2004 Margin of Victory: 2.77%

  • Notes: Most endangered Democrat. Defeated a GOP incumbent in 2004.

2006 is going to be an interesting election year, if the anti-incumbent mood we sensed during the municipal elections holds true. New campaign finance rules, if passed, will also complicate matters.

Remember that this list is a starting place, and that it will probably change as the situation does. Suggestions for additions or deletions are always welcome.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Senate 23: Gomes Wins

The AP is reporting that Bridgeport City Councilman Ed Gomes(D) has been elected to replace former Senator Ernest Newton, who resigned over corruption charges. No word on margin of victory or turnout. Gomes was the endorsed candidate of the Democratic Party.

Senate 23: Special Election Today

At least one chapter of the Ernest Newton story will come to a close today when his successor is elected.

Six candidates, five Democrats and one Republican, are running. The endorsed Democrat is city councilor Ed Gomes, who is expected to win. Turnout should be low because of the odd timing of the election (state law forbids a special legislative election on the same day as a municipal election).

The 23rd Senate District is reliably Democratic and encompasses most of Bridgeport and a slice of Stratford.

I'll post results as soon as I get them.

Shays v. Blogosphere

I've been following some of the deliberations in the U.S. House about campaign finance and the internet, especially those involving Rep. Christopher Shays (R-4).

I don't want to delve too deeply into this, since national blogs like Daily Kos and RedState have done a much better job of explaining and denouncing what Rep. Shays is after than I could at this time.

The upshot is that Shays wants to see FEC regulation of political blogs like this one, which means that our ability to discuss, endorse and even link to candidates may be limited. Bloggers want the same sorts of exemptions given to more established news media, such as FOX News and the Courant.

Both sides seem a bit prone to hysteria. Any regulations the FEC hands down will be nearly unenforcable, and Shays seems not to understand that a lot of what he's trying to define already has laws written about it.

Shays may find very little support from the Web next year, especially as national attention turns on the 4th District.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Open Forum

Special election in Bridgeport tomorrow. Low turnout is expected, which means that absolutely anything could happen. Ed Gomes will probably quietly walk away with the victory anyway.

Dan Malloy was on Stan Simpson's radio show Saturday morning, answering charges that his campaign may be in trouble from his close win last Tuesday. He seemed pretty irritated at the DeStefano campaign. Anybody else catch this?

I am working on a list of legislative races to watch next year, which I will post Tuesday.

What else is happening?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Last Election 2005 Poll

Check out the new poll on the sidebar beneath the maps. Apart from Jarjura's historic win in Waterbury, what was the biggest surprise of the night? I picked a lot of the bigger stories that people are likely to have heard about, but if there was something else, pick "other" and post about it here!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Campaign 2005 and the Internet

Ever since the political world discovered the Internet back in 1996, each passing year has brought more technological sophistication and a wider online audience to campaigns. Campaign 2005 was no different, although the local and state candidates and parties lag far behind what's happening on the national level.

So how did candidates and parties make use of the net? It depended on the candidate or the organization. Most had websites, especially those in larger towns and cities. Some candidates had individual websites, while others, to save money, were part of a party or slate site.

Designs ranged from professional to disturbing, but they all had one thing in common:

No one could find them using Google.

Go and search the web for "Enfield Democrats" and see if this site comes up. It's #35, after a mess of things about Enfield, England. Actually, up until very, very recently, it was much farther down. The Republican site is, if anything, even harder to find. Enfield is a large town, and both parties marketed their sites reasonably well, and it was still difficult to find them.

I watched my own site stats very carefully on Monday and Tuesday, and I could see some of the searches people were using on Google, Yahoo and other search engines. I ran some of those searches myself, and if these people were frustrated that they couldn't find what they were looking for, I couldn't blame them. People want to find good information about candidates, and in general newspapers have abandoned the field in that area.

So, naturally, people are starting to turn to the web. This is a golden opportunity for candidates to get their message out. Most failed to do so.

Candidate sites almost never turned up on the first four or five pages of a Google search. Most users won't go past the first one, let alone wade all the way down to #76. Admittedly, it's hard to bump yourself up in the ratings, but candidates do need to learn to better market their sites, and state parties have to learn to help. Links from established sites will help search engines find new ones.

The state parties have yet to learn how to do this. Cases in point: the Republican and Democratic state committee websites. There are no links to candidate sites, although the Democrats at least have links to DTC sites (many of which were rarely updated or didn't link to candidate sites). The Republicans have an unhelpful directory feature instead of links. They can both do a lot better.

In general candidates put sites up on the web (because they feel they ought to) and then just sort of let them sit there. A few candidates experimented with blogs, but didn't update or used them just as a rolling events calendar. The information contained on candidate sites tended to be minimal, and there was little to no interactivity. There was little to draw users back for a second visit.

So while candidates had a presence on the web, most web users didn't know about it and candidates aren't taking advantage of it. As national and state political sites evolve and become more interesting, interactive and open, their ideas will start filtering down to this level. This year helped to solidify a local political beachhead on the web. It's now up to future candidates to consolidate their gains and break new ground.

Rowland Campaign Manager to Head State GOP

When I first heard this, I didn't understand why the Republicans went in this direction:

The manager of John G. Rowland's last campaign for governor is about to become the next Republican state chairman.

George D. Gallo, 37, managed Rowland's 2002 campaign and was executive director of the state party for six of Rowland's 91/2 years as governor.

H. Ross Garber, who was Rowland's legal counsel during the impeachment inquiry, previously was named as a legal adviser to Rell's campaign. (AP)

And then I read a little farther and found out.

...Republicans say Connecticut is a small state and there's just not that much top political talent. (AP)

The Republicans have a very short bench, in other words.

However, I will give Gallo credit: he crushed Bill Curry very efficiently.

"Republicans tap former Rowland aide." Associated Press 10 November, 2005.

Top Offices Map

Lots of mapmaking today. The white spot is Winchester, which will be resolved next week.

This is the "top offices" map. In some cases, the mayor or first selectman is elected by the council majority, so there's no difference. In most Connecticut towns, however, councils and top offices are elected separately. Here's the council control map (left) next to the top offices map (right):

There's really only a handful of places with split government. Many of them are medium-sized cities that have Republican mayors and Democratic councils. There are a few cases, like Stratford, of Democratic mayors and Republican councils, but not as many as the opposite.

This map clearly shows that there were no huge shifts in power, at least along party lines. Most incumbents were re-elected, but a higher number than usual, it seems, got tossed out. Still a lot to think about.

If you want to hear more about the crazy election in Waterbury, listen to WTIC-AM this afternoon at 4pm. Waterbury Alderman J. Paul Vance, who posts here from time to time, will be on to talk about what happened.

Updated Council Control Map

Here is the updated council control map (on the right), compared with the old map on the left:

To view the full map, click on the thumbnail. Then, when seeing the larger image, look below it to find the "Other Sizes" menu. Choose "Original BMP" if you have some time to wait.

This map shows control of local legislative boards and councils, often either a town/city council or a board of selectmen.

Democrats have made inroads into Litchfield County, but seem to have dropped off a bit in Fairfield County and parts of New Haven County. This map hardly tells the whole story, of course. I'm also working on a "top offices" map, which will be a new map category. It will be much easier to make, since that information is widely available.

I am lacking good information about Beacon Falls, Litchfield and Wolcott. West Haven and Winchester are having recounts. Torrington's city council is split evenly between the parties.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Open Forum

Now that the election's done, what's happening around the state? Also, don't forget about the upcoming special election in Bridgeport.

Election 2005 Post-Mortem

Election Day came and went with a few surprises, but in general voters in most towns didn’t drastically alter the makeup of their governments.

The biggest story of the night was Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura’s unprecedented write-in landslide. Jarjura, who lost a bitter primary fight to rival Karen Mulcahy, spent over $20,000 running as a write-in candidate. Unbelievably, he won by more than 2,500 votes. Nearly 8,000 people lifted the little door on their voting machines and penciled his name in. Waterbury, it seemed, had no intention of being parted from its mayor.

Other incumbents didn’t fare as well as Mr. Jarjura. In Middletown, Mayor Dominique Thornton lost a close race to Republican challenger Seb Giuliano, while in Norwalk Democratic Mayor Alex Knopp lost to Republican Richard Moccio, and in Torrington incumbent Democratic Mayor Owen Quinn lost to 22-year-old Republican Ryan Bingham.

Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy, a candidate for governor next year, found himself in a much tighter race than expected, winning with just 51% of the vote. The other Democratic candidate, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, won with 76% of the vote. "This sign of overwhelming support in New Haven is the first step in winning the Governor's race," said DeStefano in a press release Wednesday. DeStefano campaign director Shonu Gandhi had this to say when I asked about Malloy's close victory in Stamford:

With yesterday's landslide victory, it is clear that John DeStefano has won the first phase of the Democratic [gubernatorial] contest. With an overwhelming 76 pecrent re-election win, over a million dollars more than his nearest opponent and the only union endorsements in the race, John is clearly the strongest Democratic candidate to run against Jodi Rell. Bottom line: John DeStefano has the most money, strongest endorsements, and the strongest base of any Democratic candidate running for Governor.

So who came out on top last night? What does it mean for next year? There are some very slight trends that I'm seeing here, although I haven't had time yet to go through all the data. Republicans seem to be doing better than expected in mid-sized cities like Torrington, Danbury, Norwalk and New Britain. Democrats seem to be making inroads into some of the small towns. Independent parties and town-specific parties also did better than they have in the past, capturing boards in East Hampton, Winsted and Willington. Independent candidate (and former mayor) Rodney Mortensen won a landslide victory in Newington. In New London, anger about eminent domain helped the One New London party win two of seven council seats.

Each party should be feeling both good and bad about last night. Both major parties made gains in what could be considered enemy territory. Republicans seemed to come out on top with some high-profile victories in traditionally Democratic areas like New Britain, Middletown, Torrington, Danbury and Norwalk. However, Republicans have yet to translate their gains at the top of the ticket into victories on town boards and councils. Each of these mayors will have a Democratic legislative body to deal with. The opposite seems to be happening in some of the small, traditionally Republican towns like North Branford, where a Democrat is the new First Selectman. The rest of the board, however, is in Republican hands.

An openness towards Republican candidates in small to medium-sized cities could be trouble for Democrats next year. The House of Representatives is in no danger of seeing a Republican majority any time soon, but the Senate, which has only 36 members, may be.

Election 2005 provided a lot of surprises and a lot of the same. Many towns opted to keep incumbents right where they were. Now the focus shifts to 2006, and to state races.

I am working on a new town council control map, but it won't be finished for a while yet. I am still compiling all the results.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Municipal Election Results

7:25am Update: Jarjura wins in Waterbury, Thornton out in Middletown

Town-by town results from the Courant

Jarjura wins in Waterbury!

Holy cow. Jarjura won by over 1,000 votes and 10 percentage points. A historic write-in landslide. Amazing.

James Miron(D) wins in Stratford's first-ever mayoral election.

Dominique Thornton has been defeated by her Republican challenger Sebastian Giuliano by over 1,000 votes in Middletown.

One New London and anti-development forces have lost in New London, according to WTIC-TV.

Enfield Democrats have retained control of the Enfield town council.

Mortensen(I) over Kelly(D) and Pappas(R) in Newington by a landslide.

Moccia(R) over Knopp(D) in Norwalk by about 200 votes.

DeStefano, Malloy both win, although Malloy's race was closer.

Timothy Stewart(R) over Jason Jakubowski(D) in New Britain, by 53% to 46%.

Democrats win big in West Hartford.

Boughton(R) over Esposito(D) in Danbury 57%-43%.

In the other contest where a sitting town leader was campaigning as a write-in, Plainfield First Selectman came in second to Democrat Kevin Cunningham, 42%-31%. Republican David Erstgard got 27%.

Ellen Marmer(D) over Robert Kleinhans(R) 51%-49% in Vernon mayoral race.

Dyer(D) over Thompson(R) in Norfolk by 19 votes. Petitioning candidate Helen Beaudry won 57 votes.

Currey(D) wins in East Hartford.

Quinn(R) defeated by Bingham(D) in Torrington.

Stupinski(R) retakes his seat as First Selectman of Ellington from Dennis Milanovich(D), who defeated Stupinsky in 2003.

No major shift towards eithe party can be reported at this time. Maps will be forthcoming as all the data is gathered and analyzed.

The site recorded over eight times its usual number of hits today. The internet is fast becoming a major source of information for local races.

More results from the Courant and the AP.

Nice ticker from WTNH.

The Day has good election coverage for southeastern Connecticut.

The Journal-Inquirer has good coverage for north-central Connecticut.

The Connecticut Post has an election blog.

Check the comments for more results and commentary.

Please post returns as you find out about them!


I'll start an "Election Results" post after the polls close. We ought to get the first results between 9pm and 10pm.

The May elections saw a slight trend towards Democrats in traditionally Republican areas. Non-incumbent Republicans did particularly badly. Will tonight be more of the same, or do municipal elections defy logic and trends?

Waterbury figures to be the big story tonight, but there may be other surprises. I'm keeping an eye on New London.

I'll be on the Bruce and Colin show this afternoon at 5:40pm on WTIC-AM 1080. Listen in!

Election 2005

Today is Election Day. I plan on getting to the polls myself after work. If there's an election in your town, don't forget to vote!

For your reference, here are links to stories appearing on Connecticut Local Politics about municipal elections, grouped by town. You will see post titles as well as designations like "Profile," which means that a town has been covered in depth, and "Comment," which means that a town race has been addressed in the comments of a post. Often, the comments on this site are just as or more informative than the posts, so do take a look at them.

If there isn't information about your town here, add it in as a comment to this post.

Municipal Elections Greater Hartford

Primary Results

Ballot Questions

Primary Results
Municipal Roundup

Municipal Elections Greater Hartford

Legislative Oddities


East Hartford

Hartford County Notes



Primary Results




Mentioned in Open Forum
Municipal Roundup

Municipal Roundup


New Britain

New Canaan
Ballot Questions

New Haven
Running for Mayor/Running for Governor
Primary Results

New London


Primary Results

Primary Results



Running for Mayor/Running for Governor

Primary Results

Ballot Questions

Open Forum mention
Primary Results

Municipal Roundup


Primary Results
Municipal Roundup

West Hartford

West Haven


Primary Results

Primary Results

Election Alert: Election Day 2005 is today! Don't forget to vote!!!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Municipal Elections: Newington

I can't let the election season go by without writing about my old hometown of Newington. I grew up there, and, though I've lived in Enfield for most of my adult life, Newington still seems like home to me. How fortuitous, then, that Newington's politics this year are a blast from the past.

Town Statistics
  • Population: 29,695

  • Registered Voters: 20,013
        Democrats: 8,268
        Republicans: 3,798
        Independents: 7,964

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

  • State Senate District: 9 (Sen. Biagio “Billy” Ciotto-D)

  • State House Districts: 24 (Rep. Tim O’Brien-D) , 27 (Rep. Sandy Nafis-D), 29 (Rep. Antonio Guerrera-D)

  • 2004 Presidential Vote:
        John Kerry: 9,365
        George W. Bush: 6,252

  • 2004 Congressional Vote:
        John Larson (D): 10,478
        John Halstead (R): 3,519

  • Form of Government: Mayor/council/manager

  • Town Council: 9 members. Controlled by Democrats

  • Mayor: Thomas McBride (D)


Newington has great political campaigns. Every election season, there's a blizzard of yard signs and enormous billboards on lawns and street corners all over town. The town Republicans and Democrats are well-organized, well-funded and very competitive, despite the registration advantage held by Democrats.

This year sees one of the town's most popular mayors, Rodney Mortensen, returning to the political arena after a decade off. Mortensen, who won in 1993 as a Republican but later left his party to win a second term as an independent, runs a landmark restaurant on the Berlin Turnpike. He is running for mayor as an independent against newcomer Mark Pappas (R) and deputy mayor John Kelly (D) (Mayor McBride, whose carpet store is just down the road from Mortensen's restaurant, isn't seeking another term).

At issue is the looming property revaluation. Mortensen and Pappas are both running as fiscal conservatives, while Kelly favors spending more money on improvements to the town.

The nine-member town council, which was re-elected in its entirety in 2003, will be changing as well. Several members are stepping dowm after their term ends this year.


Democrats currently hold a huge fundraising lead, and will probably retain the town council. The mayor's race is anybody's guess, though. I'm pulling for Mortensen to win. The town was well-governed during his time in office, and, I have to say, his restaurant is my very favorite place to eat. Having a great restaurant doesn't make one a good politician, of course: but it can't hurt.

I have to think that Pappas and Mortensen will split the conservative vote, but that Pappas will come in a distant third. Whether Kelly or Mortensen will win is entirely up in the air. I do know that the DSCC targeted Newington for assistance: so they must be a bit worried about Kelly's chances.

We'll find out tomorrow how it all shakes out. I'll be posting election results from all the towns I've covered and more as they come in. Don't forget to go out and vote!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Municipal Election Poll

So.... who are you voting for? Take the poll on the sidebar below the maps. As always, feel free to discuss here. This can also be an open forum about the upcoming elections.

Municipal Elections: The Swing

I ran across this quote in the Hartford Courant today:

Democratic State Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said that the Republican Party's ethical issues in Washington will translate to the local level.

"When you have a White House and a Congress with Republicans under investigation - I think a lot of people are fed up and are leaning Democrat because of that," she said. (Puleo)

We'll see about that, but I doubt it. Local elections are, well, local. When voters go to the polls on Tuesday, their minds will be more on issues like road repair, school budgets and property taxes than on corruption in distant Washington.

That being said, will we see any kind of swing? Let's take a quick look at the municipal map:

This is how control of town councils currently shakes out. Pretty splotchy. It's nothing like the elegant state representatives map from a year later, which is the next tier up the election ladder:

And yet, if you look closely, there are trends here. There's a general clumping of Republican towns in the western part of the state, out in Litchfield and Fairfield Counties (except for major urban areas along the Fairfield County coast). Hartford and New Haven Counties are heavily Democratic, as is a sizable chunk of the eastern half of the state.

The extreme southeast, down around the Stoningtons, is a Republican stronghold, as is the mouth of the Connecticut River (Old Saybrook, Old Lyme). The Farmington Valley is a narrow ribbon of Republican control in the town council map, and is part of a large Republican swath on the state representative map.

Both show the feature of the Democratic Doughnut, which shows a big loop of Democratic control around the Republican towns of Glastonbury, Marlborough, Hebron, etc.

If you look at the Presidential map, you'll see ghosts of the same trends:

There's the Democratic east, center, and southwestern coastline, and the Republican heartland in Fairfield and Litchfield counties. You'll also see the faintest outline of the Doughnut, in the form of a softer area of support for Kerry centered on Marlborough surrounded by an area of much stronger support.

It's pretty clear, then, that a significant percentage of the people who vote for a certain party in local elections vote for that party in national and state ones, too. It's less clear what percentage that is, and just how important local elections can be for state and congressional contests next year.

If there is a big Democratic shift in Republican areas like inner Fairfield and Litchfield counties, or in the Farmington Valley, then there's a good possibility that a few of the more marginal Republican state reps in those areas are in trouble. If, on the other hand, the Republicans take a lot of towns in the Connecticut Valley and eat away at the Doughnut, then some of the less secure Democrats in those areas could find themselves in trouble next year.

In general, however, local elections seem to be more about personality, connections in town and local issues than about big national or state trends. So Nancy DiNardo may wake up Wednesday to a Connecticut with more towns under Republican control, and still feel relatively secure about her party's chances next year.

Puleo, Tom. "Tuesday: Decision Day, Local Style." Hartford Courant 6 November, 2005.

(I recommend reading this article anyway: there are some nice insights)

Friday, November 04, 2005

Municipal Elections: Ballot Questions

When voters go to the polls in towns all over Connecticut next Tuesday, many won't just be selecting municipal officials; a myriad of ballot questions and initiatives will also be up for their consideration. Sometimes these questions can have just as great an impact on the city/town and its future as elected officials. Ballot questions usually take one of two forms:

Bonding Issues

This is the most common sort of ballot question. If a town needs a lot of money for a project, in many cases the town charter will require that a referendum be held on the matter. The November elections are often the best time to hold these referenda, because the town won't have to spend extra money on another election.

Big projects like road reconstruction, new municipal facilities (this can include buildings like schools, firehouses, town halls, etc.) and large-scale economic development often end up as ballot questions.

Charter Revisions

The second type of ballot question has to do with the way the town is governed. Some towns, like Bristol, want to tweak the way government functions. Others, like Stonington, could change it altogether.

Small changes to town government, like redrawing district boundaries, imposing term limits or changing the number of signatures required to force a referendum on an issue, are not uncommon. Wholesale changes, like Stonington's proposal to scrap the selectmen/town meeting form of government in favor of the more stable and apolitical but less democratic council/manager form of government, are much more rare and generate a lot more controversy.

What interesting ballot questions do you know about?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Cranegate's Revenge

This one goes out to Robert Ward:

I hope she has a license.

The DeStefano campaign dug this up somewhere. According to the AP story she's breaking ground for a warehouse in New Haven in 2002. She looks like she's having a blast.

Municipal Elections: Norwalk

The most interesting thing about Norwalk this year is the mayoral race, which is turning on a crime issue that could turn out to be a phantom.

Norwalk Statistics
  • Population: 84,170

  • Registered Voters (2004): 48,755
        Democrats: 14,541
        Republicans: 10,853
        Independent: 22,542
        Minor Parties: 816

  • U.S. Congressional District: 4 (Rep. Christopher Shays-R)

  • State Senate District: 25 (Robert Duff-D)

  • State House Districts: 137 (Chris Perone-D), 140 (Joseph Mann-D), 141 (John Ryan-R), 142 (Lawrence Cafero-R), 143 (Toni Boucher-R)

  • 2004 Presidential Vote
        John Kerry: 20,615
        George W. Bush: 14,201

  • 2004 Congressional Vote
        Diane Farrell (D): 17,720
        Christopher Shays (R): 15,426

  • Form of Government: Mayor/common council

  • Common Council: Controlled by Democrats

  • Mayor: Alex Knopp (D)


Seven murders have been committed in Norwalk this year. In a relatively quiet city unused to violent crime (Norwalk's been averaging 1-2 homocides/year), the sudden spike in murders has focused the 2005 campaign on crime. Democratic Mayor Alex Knopp, who won election in 2001 following the defeat of longtime Republican mayor Frank Esposito, claims that Norwalk is safer (overall crime is down by 12%, despite the spike in violent crime), but challenger Richard Moccia disagrees. This paragraph from a Stamford Advocate article sums up the general thrust of the mayoral campaign:

Is Norwalk "widely regarded as a city on the move," as Democratic Mayor Alex Knopp says, or plagued, as Republican challenger Richard Moccia argues, by dangerous streets, falling student test scores and a "total fiasco" of a parking system?

Got it. The Norwalk Common Council, currently controlled 13-2(!) by the Democrats, is also up for re-election, and the issues driving these races are many and varied. Historic preservation is an issue in one district, while parking is an issue in another.


Unless every Democrat in Norwalk stays home to watch TV next Tuesday, Democrats will keep a wide majority on the Common Council. As for the mayoral race, Moccia seems desperate and negative to me, and he has the added drawback of having lost to Knopp two years ago. If enough people are annoyed about parking and crime, Knopp could lose... but I doubt it.

Norwalk Links

Norwalk Democrats
Norwalk Republicans
Knopp for Mayor
Moccia for Mayor

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Ward Nitpicks DeStefano


The top Republican in the state House of Representatives is taking issue with New Haven Mayor John DeStefano and his use of heavy equipment.

House Minority Leader Robert Ward, R-North Branford, questioned Wednesday whether DeStefano - a Democratic candidate for governor - was in violation of state construction safety laws when he drove a piece of construction equipment during a demolition ceremony on Monday at the New Haven Coliseum. (AP)

...So this is what the Republicans are doing during the special session. Grand.

"Republican leader questions DeStefano's operation of heavy equipment." Associated Press 2 November, 2005.

Open Forum

Municipal elections are winding down. The legislature is doing its level best to avoid campaign finance reform.

Rudy Giuliani spoke about poverty during a fundraiser in... Greenwich. "You can't rely on government to solve most problems," said the former NYC mayor, who is currently running for the highest government office in the land. I can just see the slogan: "Rudy Giuliani: He Won't Solve Most Problems."

What else is going on?

Municipal Roundup

Municipal campaigns are heading into their last week. Here are some of the interesting stories out there:

Wild Race in Waterbury

Despite having lost the Democratic primary, Mayor Michael Jarjura is running for re-election as a write-in candidate. According to the Waterbury Republican-American, both Jarjura and Democratic nominee Karen Mulcahy have spent more than $20,000 each of their own money on the campaign. To put that in perspective, the average candidate in a state representative race spends between $8,000-$15,000. Wow.

Waterbury surprised us in September, and it may do so again next week.

Hard Times in Montville

Corruption, a huge financial loss and then a nasty mudslide are spelling trouble for incumbents in Montville, according to The Day. This is the kind of crisis situation that makes voters want to clean house.

High School Project Major Issue in Middletown

A botched high school project is at the heart of the campaign in Middletown. Mayor Domenique Thornton has come under attack from challenger Sebastian Giuliano for "mishandling" the project.

Interestingly, the contractor building the school is Tomasso Brothers, currently under investigation for its role in the Rowland scandals. According to the Middletown Press, Thornton has received $1,855 from people associated with the building project, including construction managers from Tomasso. This is starting to sound familiar. We'll see if voters make the same connection.

Getting Nasty in Vernon

Republicans and Democrats are trading accusations of campaign finance law violations.

One of the oddities brought to light was the fact that a man who has been dead for two years apparently donated money to one of the candidates. Oops.

Third Parties Grow in Strength

Both Canterbury and New London are seeing strong challenges from town-based third parties this election cycle. Many other towns, like Waterford, Willington, Enfield and others, already have town-specific third parties. We'll have to see if any of them can gain control of town boards this time around.

If you know of any other interesting stories, post them here! I'll be profiling one or two more towns before the election (including Norwalk and maybe Waterbury).

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Dems Delay Campaign Finance Vote

"Next Week" Possible

Ever get the feeling that Democrats in the General Assembly just don't want to put campaign finance reform to a vote?

...lawmakers said that they are at least one week away from a possible vote on legislation that would create a voluntary system to publicly finance campaigns for state office, beginning in 2008.

Instead, House Speaker James A. Amann, D-Milford, announced a new priority for this week: rolling back premiums on the HUSKY-B insurance program. (Pazniokas)

Like heating assistance, rolling back HUSKY-B premiums is a no-brainer. Why focus on the difficult when there's lots of easy and popular stuff to do?

Actually, the real reason for the delay seems to be that too many Democrats are balking at campaign finance reform, which they quite rightly feel threatens their job security, to guarantee passage of the bill.

Rep. Christopher Caruso, D-Bridgeport, and other reform proponents briefed House Democrats on a public financing proposal Monday. But nearly half the 99 members were absent. (Pazniokas)

Not surprising. That's why Amann is calling on the governor for help, although I doubt she'll be able to offer him much.

If there's no consensus by next week, expect the legislature's new priority to be the Keeping Grenades Away from Grandma Act or possibly a bill that gives everyone a puppy. We'll see.

Pazniokas, Mark. "Rell Challenged On Two Issues." Hartford Courant 1 November, 2005.

GOP State Chair Resigning

Hamzy, Who Has Led Party Since 2004, to Leave in December

William Hamzy will be leaving his position as chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party on December 2nd, citing the fact that he didn't have enough time to devote to the position.

Hamzy is currently a state legislator and a private attorney as well as state chairman.

"I believe that you can do this job on a part-time basis, but I don't think you can have two other jobs at the same time," Hamzy told The Associated Press.

"I think we've accomplished a lot at State Central, but in order to take it to the next level someone needs to be there and have this as at least one of their two focuses, and not three," he added. (Haigh)

State party chairmen used to be the most powerful people in Connecticut. Henry Roraback virtually controlled Connecticut through the chairmanship of the majority Republican Party from 1914-1930. Democratic chairman John Bailey was easily the most powerful man in the state from the 1954 victory of Abraham Ribicoff until his death in 1975. Now, with the decline of back-room convention politics and the rise of direct primaries, the job of the chairman is more about fundraising than about legislation, policy and electioneering. Party chairs have become less and less visible since Bailey's time.

However, a strong party leader who can focus on actually winning statewide elections might be a boon for the ailing state GOP. Rell needs to choose carefully.

Haigh, Susan. "GOP chairman to step down in December." Associated Press 1 November, 2005.