Wednesday, November 09, 2005

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.

31 comments:

Paul Vance said...

I am very happy to announce that the entire Democratic underticket in Waterbury was elected (some re-elected). There will be a Board of Aldermen of 9 Democrats, 4 Independents and 2 Republicans. The Board of Education candidates, City Clerk, Town Clerk and City Sheriff were all elected. While it was an unusual circumstance, I am proud to have been a part of the team that was re-elected. ONLY IN WATERBURY....

Aldon Hynes said...

Let me challenge the view that Republicans did well in Danbury. I spent the morning helping with GOTV in Danbury. While I am disappointed that Dean Esposito didn't get elected, I have to applaud him for having fought a good hard campaign. Mark Boughton had a lot of money and it was a difficult battle. Dean did a great job in helping build the party in Danbury.

However, when you look at the underticket, as reported in the Danbury News Times:
"The Republican party's majority on the Common Council dropped from 17 to 14, and incumbent Republican Town Clerk Joe Scozzafava lost to Lori Kaback, the assistant town clerk."

I'm very excited that Lori upset Joe Scozzafava. It was Lori's first time running for office, and she was a great candidate.

Aldon Hynes said...

Now to a more general comment. I was surprised that Dan Malloy didn't do better in Stamford. I was surprised that Mayor Knopp lost in Norwalk, that First Selectman Mitch Goldblatt lost in Orange, that First Selectman Opie lost in Branford, and that Mayor Domenique Thornton lost in Middletown.

On first blush, it looked to me like it is a growth in Republican support, with the except of Selectman Opie. However, thinking more about it, and other changes, like I mentioned in Danbury (see above), I wonder if really the mood is one of disenchantment with incumbents.

I will admit, I posted a while ago talking about the power of incumbency, but I'm wondering if that power is was a little tarnished this time around.

Chris MC said...

Trying to break it down by Democrat versus Republican is misguided at the municipal level, GC. These races are very idiosyncratic.

New Haven, Meriden, Waterbury, and most others simply can't be understood in D v R terms.

If generalizations cannot be made, however, more interesting is the potential insight into the local political scene in each town that this year's muni-only races may provide.

What, for example, is going on in Cheshire? Traditionally Republican, particularly in this part of the cycle, the Democrats appear to have mopped up. Very interesting. The opposite can be said in spades in Bethel. What is up with that?

In Torrington, State Rep. Ruwet appears to have systematically re-established her family's hold on power there, culminating with her son's upset win last night.

Meanwhile, Rep. Piscopo (R) got beat for First Selectman by a woman who moved to his hometown of Thomaston about a year ago. Next door in staunchly old-guard Republican Harwinton, an "out" Democratic Selectman won the top job. Next door, Plymouth turned out the incumbent Democrat in an upset.

The outcome in New Britain, too, can't be correlated to affiliation when registration is 4 to 1 Democratic.

In Middletown, there was an overriding issue bearing on voters' decision about the incumbent.

In Middlebury, you had upwards of 70% turnout. A lot of other suburbs you had ballpark 20 - 25%.

Was East Hartford Melanie Curry's victory, or is there a trend of some kind there?

Roxbury cross-endorsed the Republican incumbent! Wolcott re-elected its unaffiliated incumbent.

Aggregating contests with basic facts as disparate as these is mixing apples and oranges.

Hamden, Derby, Orange... All these upsets and close calls with incumbents from either party who are vigorous and capable people opens a window onto the strictly local in local politics.

Anonymous said...

Reading the press today - it has been noted that the state Republicans came out strong for the Republicas in Stamford. I live in Stamford, and recieved an automated call from the Governor herself. I read this morning that the new Republican state chair personally coached Munger. If this doesn't show that the Governor is scared of Malloy, I don't know what does.

The fact that DeStefano won by more means nothing if you understand that New Haven has no Republican party to speak of. Frankly, I'm surprised DeStefano didn't recieve over 80%. You cannot compare two different races in two different cities and say that one means more towards the governor's race than another. I would argue that coming from a town where he has to deal with a strong opposition situates Malloy much better for a tough statewide race and also would make him a better consesnsus builder in Hartford, than a mayor in New Haven who hasn't had to fight for much of anything, and is used to getting his own way.

Genghis Conn said...

Well, breaking things down by party at the municipal level is both useful and useless at the same time. In many cases, especially in larger towns, voters get into the voting booth, look at the candidates, and think Oh crap, I have no idea who any of these people are. So what do they do then? They vote for a party.

Then again, a lot of voters, especially in smaller towns, know the candidates pretty well. They may know them personally. Strong personalities and intense campaigns can make more of a difference in this case.

I think Aldon might be on to something with the idea of frustration and disenchantment with incumbents and the status quo.

These trends are all very faint and hardly definitive. There wasn't a big shift in any direction last night.

Chris MC said...

Not available anyplace I've been able to find online: Watertown.

Nine At-Large Council seats, no District seats (Council-Manager Gov't.):
D's - 6
R's - 3

Genghis Conn said...

That's a Dem pick-up... I have just colored it blue on my map. Thanks!

Aldon Hynes said...

Anonymous, I live in Stamford as well. You will recall that there was a lot of positioning early on about who the Republican candidate would be, as well as a lot of efforts by petition candidates.

You may be right that it shows that the Governor is afraid of Malloy. However, a more reasonable interpretation may well be that the Republicans felt that he was vulnerable and that they had a reasonable chance at picking up a Mayor's seat.

Usually vulnerablity is a bigger motivator than some fear about some future election.

Genghis Conn said...

Aldon,

I remember hearing that Malloy had a lot of trouble with the unions, and that the police and school unions backed Munger. How much of a liability do you think that was for him?

Chris MC said...

GC -
These are muni-exec outcomes, except where you have a council-manager, and in Roxbury (cross-endorsed R) and Wolcott (U).

Avon - R
Bethel - R
Bethlehem - D
Bridgewater - D
Brookfield - R
Burlington - D
Canton - D
Cheshire - D
Canaan (Falls Village) - D
Cornwall - D
Danbury - R
Farmington - R
Goshen - R
Harwington - D
Kent - D
Litchfield - R
Meriden - D
Middlebury - R
Morris - R
New Britain - R
New Fairfield - R
New Milford - R
Newtown - D
Norfolk - D
North Canaan (Canaan) - R
Plainville - D
Plymouth - R
Salisbury - D
Sharon - D
Sherman - D
Simsbury - R
Southbury - R
Thomaston - D
Torrington - R
Warren - R
Washington - D
Waterbury - D
Watertown - D
Woodbury - R

Again, the variety of combinations and differences in Charters make for quite a mix of local government forms.

Aldon Hynes said...

Genghis,

I was surprised that the unions actually endorsed Munger. I would have expected them to simply sit out endorsements. I suspect that the endorsements did help Munger and made the race much closer than it otherwise would have been.

Munger did work really hard on issues around the police department and his background as a former FBI agent added to his credibility to talk about these issues.

That said, Munger didn't really bring a lot to the discussion. If anything Green candidate Darek Shapiro probably did more for making it an interesting race talking about issues than Munger did.

Quinn said...

Watertown is a HUGE SHOCK! I'm not sure what was going on there yesterday, but Republicans are hugely dominant. I worked on the local state representative race there last year for the Republicans and the Democrats could offer only token opposition.

I'm also quite surprised that Torrington switched hands. I'm not really that well informed there, but I beleive that ex-Mayor Quinn's (distant relation) arrest for DWI may have had something to do with it. Also mentioned is the already influential family on behalf of the winner. The youth of the candidate to me is also interesting, as I intend to be a youth candidate. Torrington is, I beleive, well majority Democrat, and the fact that they were willing to go out on a limb and elect a young Republican challenger is noteworthy. I think it will be interesting to see how the new Mayor's administration works out.

Another race I found interesting is the race for Darien mayor, which a Democrat won. Darien is unfathomably wealthy and has a decent Republican majority of registrations. Republicans wanted to win that campaign, and the fact that they did not is interesting.

I voted in Avon, possibly the most boring election in the state. You could vote for five candidates for town council, on the ballot were 4 Republicans and 1 Democrat. Gee, I wonder who won?

MikeCT said...

Genghis,

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.

I don't see this, since
* The Democratic majorities in the House & Senate are nearly identical - two-thirds - veto-proof in the Senate and just shy in the House. It's not easier to unseat Senators just because there are fewer.
* There is no clear statewide partisan trend in these results and municipal elections tend not to reflect ideology.
* National partisan trends and fervor are more likely to be reflected in state legislative races. Given Bush's plummeting ratings and growing public dissatisfaction, Republicans have more to worry about in terms of Congressional coattails than Dems.
* Republicans won in some cities, Dems won in some traditionally Republican towns - looks like a wash thus far.
* One of the most decisive powers in electoral politics is that of incumbency, and state Dems have it.
* Rell is not exactly energizing the Republican base of conservatives.

Genghis Conn said...

Mike,

The chances of the GOP retaking the Senate are vanishingly small, but they do exist. I think this because 2004 threw everything off. The huge majorities for Democrats in 2004 were caused mainly by the presidential election: in the absence of that, we ought to see Democratic totals deflate a little just as a matter of course. There's also a possibility that a strong Rell candidacy will pull moderate Republicans into the Senate if independents trend her way.

And while there's no clear partisan trend, there may be a sense, as Aldon said, of being fed up with incumbents. If that's true, Democrats are in deep, deep trouble. National trends may mitigate some or all of this, of course, depending on what kind of a year 2006 is for Republicans nationally.

There are six Democratic Senate seats and three GOP seats won by less than 20%. If I were the Republican Party, I'd concentrate on those nine.

MikeCT said...

One interesting trend - Sen. Ed Meyers (D) took a seat from a Republican Senate leader in 2004. Almost all of the first selectman/mayor seat in the towns that Meyers represents turned from Republican to Democratic yesterday - Branford, Durham, Guilford, Killingworth, and North Branford. Only Madison's first selectman position remains in Republican hands. Apparently, the Democrats learned some organizing skills and gained some confidence, and perhaps Meyers has won over some hearts.

4nextyr said...

Running in political circles as we all do I've had the occasion of meeting members of both the Malloy and DeStefano staffs. I find it interesting that despite the fact the Malloy staff always insinuated that they only had a "token republican" their guy had ALOT of trouble. For the past few months we've heard talk that Malloy is the guy to beat Rell b/c he can sway the moderates. Well first he'd have to win in a primary - fewer moderates. I was also a little confused by Roy's spin on 1080 this afternoon. He was defending the 51% saying that when there is an organized Republican operation they are bound to pick up at least 45% of the vote - well Roy what about a popular Jodi Rell - how do you expect to beat her now she’s more than just organized. Not with Stamford voters. It’s starting to look more like DeStefano V. Rell for '06 - should be interesting.

Aldon Hynes said...

A couple additional Fairfield County comments. Evonne Klein, the Democratic First Selectwoman who won re-election in Darien is pretty well liked in town from all that I've seen. Her opponent, got tripped up in some issues of being a resident of Florida, at least for tax purposes. She didn't seem to catch on. I don't think the vote had much to do with party politics.

In Norwalk, I found this blog post interesting. Again, it is talking about wanting a change and not really caring about party affliation.

My.02$ said...

This is a great thread! I think the problems we saw with a lot of incumbents were with issues that will be revisited in the next statewide/national election.

When people go to the polls they ask the question "Am I better off than I was 4/2 years ago". Don't know about you but my pocketbook is being pinched and I don't even own a home.

Many of the incumbents who lost did so on property tax/development issues. As to the surprise hold ons like in New Britian where Stewart had not raised taxes as much to the best of my knowledge - but of course that could explain why there are so many other problems in NB.

Looking forward - I think nationwide trends suggest that Rs are in trouble. Maybe Arnold won't be back!

Closer to home. The last comment here and a couple on the previous post make a lot of sense. Sure Malloy may have got more people to vote for him - but everyone knows turnout is tough on off years. Winning only 51% of the vote is bad news, no matter how many Republicans Stamford has.

As to DeStefano, everyone knows New Haven is the most liberal town in the state where Dems don’t fight Republicans but fight amongst themselves. Regardless of how many people voted this time around New Haven will produce the largest number of democrats in a primary and it looks like they support their Mayor.

I'm still on the fence, but I want to beat Rell. Maybe 4nextyr is right, maybe John DeStefano is the guy for it.

TheGuiltyParty said...

Regarding the "anonymous" post about John DeStefaNO's lackluster win in New Haven... You're absolutely right that there is no comparison between the local races that Malloy and DeStefaNO ran -- the key factor that is ignored is that DeStefaNO had no major party (Republican) contenders.

If this were a mayor that truly had "the public's endorsement", why then were there 4 opponents (minor parties, petitioning candidates and write-ins) who garnered significant support, in spite of New Haven's powerful Democratic machine? In actual fact, the DestefaNO administration thrives only because of general voter apathy and low turn-out at the polls. Under the circumstances, 76% of the vote is rather pathetic for an incumbant pitted against 4 long-shot candidates with minimal funding.

The actual bottom line tells the real story: of registered voters in New Haven, only 15% cast their votes in favor of DeStefaNO. Is this a whole-hearted endorsement?... I don't think so.

mccommas said...

When someone wins with something like 70+ % of the vote that is a strong indication to me that he is doing something wrong. A pol that always does the popular thing to get a lopsided margin of victory like that is pretty much useless for solveing real problems.

The next governor needs to be a serious person. We do not have that in the incumbent or in the mayor. We need someone new.

Aldon Hynes said...

mccommas: Um, that's an interesting perspective.

It is worth noting that at least 37 of the races, according the the Hartford Courant, had the winner getting 70+% with a few more just missing at 69%.

I think the bigger issue is that our political system does not promote competitive races.

Brass Tacks said...

I hear Bristol is another city that went from D to R in the Mayor's office, with an incumbent being turned out. 'zat true??

Brass Tacks said...

Ghengis: You've made this THE PLACE to watch politics in Connecticut!!! Kudos to you and all the great observations everyone's making!!

Should have put this in my first post, but...

quinn: Re Watertown: Not that big a surprise if you look at the pattern. The town's electorate is roughly 50% Unafilliated; 26% GOP; 24% Democrat, and the LOCAL offices have swung back and forth every two/four years like clockwork. You're right on the state races. They've been dominated by the GOP since the 80s with Flaherty and Williams, and Sen. DeLuca.

chis mc c: Thomaston: Altho a surprise, Maura Martin is not just "a woman who moved to [Piscopo's] home town. She returned to HER hometown, where her Dad had been a judge/legislator and her mom the probate judge. She's the real deal!

DeanFan84 said...

Regarding strength in New Haven:

I agree that the current election is meaningless as a gauge of DeStefano's relative strength in his hometown. If one wants to know how strong John is, one needs to look at the 2001 mayoral race, in which DeStefano was challenged in a Democratic Primary by current Senate Majority Leader, Martin Looney.

In that heated race, DeStefano won with 62% of the vote. Then in November of that year, he beat a very well known Republican challenger, Joel Schiavone, with 73% of the vote.

That 3,000 people turned out yesterday to vote for one of four challengers means little. Most of these people were friends and family of the challengers. A small percentage were enemies of the Mayor. (you can't govern for 10 years plus without creating a few enemies.)

The fact is that thousands more would have turned out to vote for DeStefano, if we thought he was at risk. I started to stay home myself, before ultimately heading to the polls at the last minute. When there, a bumped into a like-minded friend. We both shrugged at each other, "Why are we bothering to vote?" DeStefano is the best mayor New Haven has ever had, and the job is his as long as he wants it.

On the other hand, you have Dan Malloy, who promotes himself as a moderate who will take votes from the Republicans. What does it say when he wins re-election with a bare 51% majority?

Wrath of Conn said...

DeanFan84,

I'm a New Havener and I remember the 2001 primary against Martin Looney that you speak of. Indeed, on the surface this appears to be a solid victory for Destefano. However, I find it disturbing that you fail to mention the mitigating circumstances of that primary. If you recall it took place on September 11th 2001.

I'd like to give you the benefit of the doubt and hope this was an honest oversight, but nothing in your previous rants inspires that kind of condfidence.

To say that people were distracted is an understatement. Turnout was affected and shame on you for not saying it. If you can't tell the whole truth, then don't tell any of it. And if you're going to respond with anything other than an apology for your mistake, then don't bother responding.

DeanFan84 said...

Wrath--

Fair point. I was living in Rhode Island in 2001, so no, I never realized that the election was held on 9/11! (and you ought not impugn my character over this.)

Your implication is that the terrorist attack dampened one side's turnout more than another's. I have no way of knowing if that is true or not.
But certainly such horrific events could have had an impact on the outcome, and are worth noting.

Thanks for your post. Believe it or not, I had been scratching my head wondering why the turnout had been so low for such a contested election.

JJ said...

Off the top of my head, I think about 15,000 votes were cast in the 2001 New Haven Mayoral primary. For a party primary, this is actually rather high (it's just shy of 50%). If you factor in a major terrorist attack 90 miles away, then it's even more impressive.

(And why would 9/11 change the margin of victory? Turnout yes, but the percents should be the same... unless DeStefano's supporters are somehow more hardy than those of his opponent?)

myelectionanalysis.com said...

Just curious -- are CT State Senate seats every other year, or every four years? Just curious.

Great blog, btw.

Genghis Conn said...

Both the State Representatives and State Senators serve two year terms. There has been some talk around here about changing that, but for now that's the way it is.

mccommas said...

4 year term for Senators? Bad idea! How about 1 year terms or better yet, 6 months?