Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The 1994 Election: A Wild Race to November

This is the second of three posts on the 1994 election.

Part One: Two Primaries, One Upset

Part Three: Conclusions and Implications for 2006 (includes sources)

A Wild Race to November

Republicans, gleeful at the liberal Curry’s victory, reached out to moderates and began to compose the Democratic Party’s eulogy. However, they found themselves under attack from the right by the entry into the race of conservative radio host Tom Scott, who advocated the complete repeal of the income tax.

Scott personified the discontent, disaffection and anger with taxes and government so many Americans felt. Scott had been a talk radio host, and had spent more than a year hammering away at the income tax on the air. Scott told supporters in his September announcement speech that his campaign was “…a crusade—not just another campaign… Connecticut…cannot sustain another four years of business as usual,” (Daly). The centerpiece of his campaign was the repeal of the “dreaded, devastating” income tax (Daly). To add credibility to his campaign, he picked a budget analyst, Glen O’Keefe, as his running mate. Most of his barbs were aimed at Rowland, whose tax plan he said “…could fit on the back of a matchbook,” (Daly).

Rowland responded by tacking to the right, reversing his earlier position on the income tax. He had promised earlier in the year to reduce the tax instead of eliminating it, but Scott’s entry into the race prompted him to also call for its repeal (Rabinovitz. “Connecticut”). The other candidates attacked Rowland for flip-flopping and political opportunism, but Rowland preferred to call it “growth” (Rabinovitz. “Connecticut”).

Ethical problems dogged Rowland’s campaign, as well. Curry and others criticized him for 108 overdrafts from the House Bank while he was a member of Congress, and questions surfaced about a domestic disturbance between Rowland and his soon-to-be-former wife, Deborah, in 1993 (Rowland would marry Patricia, his second wife, not long after he was elected).

Still, Rowland held a lead in the polls throughout the election. Curry found it difficult to find his footing against Rowland, who proved to be a much tougher foe than Larson. He had difficulty articulating his message, and, according to one Republican, was trying to “retain a base of liberal supporters while drawing conservative support with his call for tax cuts and a tougher stance on crime,” (Grant). Curry suddenly seemed uncomfortable in his own skin. His calls for property tax reform, a theme to which he would return in 2002, seemed complicated and less clear-cut next to Rowland and Scott’s pledge to repeal the hated income tax.

Groark remained the greatest threat to Curry. She pledged to continue the policies of the Weicker Administration, and portrayed herself as a mature realist in opposition to the three other candidates, all of whom she had at least a decade on. She likened Curry and Rowland to two children flinging accusations at one another, while making promises about taxes they couldn’t possibly keep (Williams). She was popular among women, a fact that Rowland, who far less popular with women, tried to mitigate by choosing a woman much in the model of Groark, Rep. Jodi Rell of Brookfield, as his running mate.

The campaign was a dirty and negative one, highlighted by negative television ads from all sides. Disenchantment with all the candidates stemming from the constant negative ads kept the race close despite Rowland raising nearly twice what Curry had (Jacklin. “Skepticism”). Rowland watched his lead in the polls shrink during the final weeks of the campaign. Both Groark and Curry picked up ground against him during the home stretch; one October poll even showed Curry ahead by three points—the only time that would happen in the campaign.

But in the end, it was Rowland who finally came out on top. Groark and Curry split the anti-Rowland vote, while the effect of Scott was somewhat negated by Rowland’s rightward shift. The final tally: Rowland 36%, Curry 33%, Groark 19% and Scott 11% (a fifth candidate drew 1%).

Part One: Two Primaries, One Upset

Part Three: Conclusions and Implications for 2006 (includes sources)

No comments: