Sunday, November 06, 2005

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)


Aldon Hynes said...

One other aspect that isn’t mentioned here is the power of incumbency. I suspect there isn’t going to be a lot of turnover because of incumbency. Also, it would be interesting to see a map showing the party affiliation of the chief elected official in each municipality. As an example, Darien has a Democratic First Selectwoman, but is shown on the map as having the town council controlled by the Republicans.

I don’t have a good sense at what is likely to happen with control of the town councils, however, I can give a run down of chief elected official races in Fairfield County. (Note, I am an active Democrat, so my opinions may be slightly slanted.) That said, here are a few comments:

Greenwich: One term Republican First Selectman Jim Lash is facing Democrat Peter Berg. There have been some other issues in the selectmen’s race in Greenwich, with former Greenwich Democratic First Selectman, Richard Bergstresser is running as an independent. This is expected to be a fairly close race, but many people expect Lash to be re-elected.

Stamford: Dan Malloy is facing the most serious challenge several years. Retired FBI agent Chris Munger is running an aggressive ‘Stamford First’ campaign. We’ve received quite a few robocalls. Darek Shapiro is running a strong campaign as a Green candidate. Most people I hear seem to think that Malloy will fairly easily win re-election

Darien: Democratic First Selectman Evonne Klein is running for re-election. She is being challenged by Susan Young. There have been some issues about Susan Young’s residency. For tax purposes Young is considered a resident of Florida. Again, the incumbent is expected to win.

New Canaan: Incumbent Republican first selectwoman Judy Neville is facing a challenge by Democrat Johnny Potts. Again, the incumbent is expected to win. As an aside, Potts is urging the defeat of a charter revision proposal. Given the strong Republican leaning of the town, the charter revision is likely to go through.

Norwalk: Mayor Alex Knopp looks like he will win easy re-election. I’m not even sure who is running against him.

Wilton: Second Term Republican First Selectman Paul F. Hannah, Jr is being faced by Democratic challenger Brian Lilly. Lilly is presenting a strong challenge, but Hannah looks like he’ll probably be re-elected.

Ridgefield: Democratic First Selectman Rudy Marconi is being challenged by Republican challenger AJ Di Mattia. Marconi has led Ridgefield during a major rebuilding of the schools. The amount of money spent on the schools is a key issue. It seems as if Marconi will win re-election, but it could be one of the closer races.

Danbury: Republican Mayor Mark Boughton is facing Democratic challenger Dean Espositio. Early reports had Boughton outraising Esposito by about ten to one, but a lot of money came pouring into the Esposito race in the final days and they have been doing a great grassroots campaign. Most people expect Boughton to easily win re-election, but this race could be a lot closer than people are expecting.

Westport: Democratic First Selectwoman Diane Farrell is not running for re-election, instead focusing on her congressional race. Democratic Gordon Joseloff is facing Republican John Izzo. I’ve run into Joseloff at various events and I think he is going to win, but I don’t really have much information about what is really going on there.

Fairfield: Democratic First Selectman Ken Flatto is facing Republican challenger Jack Stone. It looks like Flatto will win re-election and the question how wide his coattails will be.

Stratford: Stratford revised its charter and is having its first Mayoral election. Democratic Candidate Jim Miron is doing very well in this Republican leaning town. This could be a close call but I think Miron will pull it out.

Shelton: Republican Mayor Mark Lauretti is facing a challenge by former Democratic Mayor Mike Pacowta. Mike has been fighting a great race, but it is an uphill battle. The odds seem to be in favor of Lauretti, but this is another close race where Democrats could pick up a Republican seat.

Again, these are my guesses based on the Democratic slanted buzz that I’m hearing. Obviously, I am really hoping that the Democrats sweep the elections.

Aldon Hynes said...

I would also like to highlight Ken Dixon's Capital View. He has quite a few comments about the municipal elections, particularly surrounding valley votes.

I don't agree with him on many of his comments, but it is another good source to read coming into election day.

DemNow said...


I agree on most of your analysis about Fairfield county races. Here are my additional comments:

Darien: I actually think this is a toss-up....Susan Young had this in the bag and then screwed it up by mishandling the residency issue. But Darien is just so freakin' Republican

Norwalk: This one might surprise us. Fifteen local unions have endorsed the Republican (Dick Moccia), and word is he is running stronger than anybody expected. Knopp will still probably win, but it might be closer than we thought.

Stratford: Who knows? This place is the "Balkans" of CT politics...both the Rs and the Ds are constantly infighting. Miron's advantage is that there is a major Independent candidate (Best) who has the backing of many Republicans.

Monroe: A potential upset in this sleepy Republican rown. Incumbent Andy Nunn has run a lackluster race, and his challenger is extremely well organized. Think Susan Young in Dairen without the residency issues.