Sunday, January 22, 2006

House-10: Special Election Monday

There will be a special election tomorrow (1/23) in House District 10, which covers much of East Hartford. The winner will serve the remainder of the term of Democrat Melody Currey, who was elected mayor of East Hartford in November.

The major party candidates are Democrat Henry Genga and Republican Stephanie Labanowski, both of whom currently serve on the town council. This race really hasn't made headlines, even in East Hartford, because it comes on a Monday in the dead of winter. Bad weather tomorrow will probably hold the turnout down even more.

One thing that's interesting about this sleepy race is the fact that the chairman of the state GOP has seen fit to involve himself in a spat between the candidates:

n a press release, Republican State Party Chairman George Gallo accused Town Councilman Henry J. Genga and his campaign of "several instances of intimidation and dirty political tricks" against Councilwoman Stephanie L. Labanowski, the Republican candidate, and her supporters. Some of the intimidation included "anonymous phone calls to the candidate and one veiled threat to a business owner," Gallo said.
Gallo said the state Republican Party will continue to support Labanowski and monitor the situation to report or prevent future incidents. Republicans did not provide further information about the incidents.

"It is shameful that something like this happens in today's world, but the sad fact is Henry Genga has nothing to say to the voters of East Hartford and Stephanie Labanowski is being heard by the people of her district," Gallo said in the press release. (Stuart)

Allegations of harassment and intimidation aside, the fact that Gallo got involved at all (especially in a district lost by the GOP candidate by more than 50 percentage points in 2004) suggests that the GOP may be more forceful in contesting races this year than they have been lately. Gallo has already proved himself to be a tough campaigner: he was Rowland's campaign manager in 2002 and helped defeat Alex Knopp in Norwalk this past November. Could the state Republican Party be showing some signs of life, after all?

That aside, history and demographics (Republicans are heavily outnumbered in the district) suggest that Genga will win handily, although special elections can get a little strange. I'll post results when I see them.


Stuart, Christine. Republicans cry 'dirty tricks'; Democrats say 'not us'." Journal-Inquirer 20 January, 2006.


Weicker Liker said...

Did anyone read Kevin Rennie's piece in the Hartford Courant today regarding Ned LaMont??

Apparently, the State Republicans are wooing another Greenwich Millionaire to run for the United States Senate....

Genghis Conn said...

I did read that, and I wasn't sure if that was what he meant or not. If the GOP does have someone in mind, I wonder who? I also wonder if they only started wooing this person after Lamont surfaced.

Weiker Liker said...

I am putting my money on someone connected with the Bush family.

Anonymous said...

Rennie's columm is not on-line. How lame

BTW, it will be fun now having two party politics now that the CT GOP actually has a skilled politician as a chairman. Which it has not had since about 1994

Genghis Conn said...

Link to Rennie column.

That was really amazingly hard to find.

Anonymous said...

Wonder if Aldon and DF will weigh on regarding this

Gabe said...

I wonder if anyone will bother to follow to cut and paste the address into their browser...

Independent1 said...

We have, in the name of political and campaign reform, eviscerated the concept of political parties in Connecticut (and a lot of other places). The great patronage machines of yore are gone, and with it, one of the main commanding reasons for political loyalty and activity. (The last bastion of which is public sector unions, which is not a bash, but simply reality). Parties as the source of campaign money is also long gone, with each candidate raising his/her own funds, with little or no dependence on the party for money. (It's not a coincidence that most new candidates bring with them not the leadership of new ideas, but the leadership of ready, personal cash.
The ability of party leadership to pick its candidate had its last gasp when the Democratic party leadership pressured Curry to step aside for Kennelly, but can anyone realistically believe that DiNardo is in any position to suggest to either DeStefano or Molloy to step aside for the 'good of the party?' Now with direct primaries, whatever control once remained is completely gone. The irrelevance of each party is plain to see. Both parties are planning on single day conventions, neither has significant funds to contribute to any candidate. The parties are the repository of volunteers and information, and that's about it. Even that is falling away, as the campaign industry takes over many of those same tasks. Party identity is a handy tag to identify general leanings, but that's about it.

Aldon Hynes said...

Random thoughts:

Gabe: The link is

Apparently there was a shooting in New Haven, and Anonymous(3:45) seems to think that DF or I know something about the shooting.

Independent1, I think your analysis of political parties is compelling, and I'd like to add a few additional thoughts to this. For example, you mention, “The parties are the repository of volunteers and information”. More and more the volunteers are not tied to parties either and in many ways the role of parties is reduced to that of ‘institutional memory”. With the Internet making more information available online, even the significance of that is in question.

I’ve mentioned ‘Bowling Alone’ before, about the decline in civic action by U.S. citizens. Much of the focus is how people are less involved in civic organizations, whether it be political parties, bowling leagues or groups like the Elks. My sense is that this is somehow tied to the decline in the importance of political parties.

For me, this brings up an interesting question: what should be done to improve citizen involvement in the political process? What role can, or should the political parties take in this revitalization of civic involvement? Are political parties even capable of taking a leading role in revitalizing civic involvement? Of course asking these sorts of questions on a blog is interesting in and of itself. What role does the Internet have in all of this?

Sorry if it seems that I only have questions and not answers. However, I hope that these questions can help all of us work together to find answers.

As to the Republican Millionaire from Greenwich, there are plenty of them. Bill Buckley, who helped finance Joe Lieberman’s first senatorial campaign immediately comes to mind, but Bill is actually from Stamford. Livvy Floren, the State Rep from the 149th A.D. is a millionaire from Greenwich, as I believe are the two other State Reps from Greenwich. Personally, I would love to see a debate between Ned Lamont and Dolly Powers.

Of course you can’t overlook the Bush clan either. Prescott still lives in Greenwich and may be a little old for a run, but there have to be other Bushes in Greenwich willing to give it a run.

Aldon Hynes said...

P.S. Connecticut Conservative has an interview with Paul Streitz: 2004 Senate Candidate and Potential 2006 Candidate.

Weicker Liker said...

First, I hope the State Republicans do not put up another Jack Orchulli up for the US Senate.

Orchulli was nothing but an empty suit who spent about a Million Dollars of his own money. People in general do not like Millionaire politicians.

If the GOP does put up another Millionaire, look carefully of how many dollars this person gets from other parts of the state.

Second, the state GOP practically is broke and has no money to support candidates. George Gallo intimated this when he admitted the party needs cheaper headquarters space and might trim staff.

MikeCT said...

A little more about Democratic candidate Henry Genga on his Web site.

I think that the decline of parties and party platforms is problematic to democracy, as they were and can still be a means of keeping elected officials accountable to a set of principles established by a broad set of grassroots activists (i.e., town committee members). Detachment from that grassroots and the absence of accountability is what gets us pols like Joe Lieberman. Local town committees don't always function well, and there are certainly flaws, but the ideal is a good one.

Also think you overstate the "irrelevance" of parties. How many candidate go to a direct primary rather than seeking party endorsements? How many can afford to ignore their town committees and go it alone? And with the (unfortunate) loophole left for state parties and legislative leadership PACS in the new campaign finance reform laws, their role could vastly expand, not diminish. (You also don't distinguish party leadership from the grassroots members - they are often at odds.)

Anonymous said...

WL...except for Corzine, Bloomberg.....

Independent1 said...


You posit some good questions. However, without sounding too cynical, I believe people are motivated for the most part by self-interest. This is not necessarily negative. Self-interest helps us take care of ourselves and our families. People joined the Knights of Columbus (thank you , New Haven), fraternal societies, credit unions and all of the rest to band together in order to protect themselves, and to advance themselves. As government has taken on more and more of the responsibilities traditionally left to these organizations (minimum support for widows, orphans, access to capital, job opportunities otherwise closed to any particular ethnic/gender/color group, etc), the need to band together for those types of protections and opportunities has gradually dropped away. Add to that the increasing demands on time (from both work and choices, as in the over programming of our children's lives) and not much time is left for bowling.

I think one of the greatest flaws of my generation is that we seem to think that we're different from all those that came before. Because of civil rights and Viet Nam, we KNOW better. If only the government was as smart as we are, things would work better.

I don't know how to reverse this trend. We have to find a way to give people more of an personal interest in the outcomes. That is why right now, the most engaged are those who have something to directly gain; a job (public sector unions), a social outcome (pro-choice/pro-life; pro-gay marriage/anti-gay marriage), pro-tax cuts/pro-progressivity. We've created a system in which the vast middle, which pays taxes, and other than schools/police, don't get a heck of a lot out of it. Until they have something at stake, they'll spend their time at the barbeque in the backyard.

Anonymous said...

Aldon, you still think you know better.. particuarl know better than the fortysomethings trying to deal with the messes the Vietnam generation left for us.

perhaps your wisdom might start with the aphorism "the government that governs least governs best"

(in order words, a proper society runs with people NOT having a direct stake in the government, since they CONTROL THEIR OWN LIVES)

However, you and Johnny D will impose the nanny state on us whether we want it or not

Independent1 said...

MikeCT, I posted my last before reading yours. I agree that the detachment that the present system sets up gives up pols like Lieberman and others. What's the punishment for any politician, of either party, for not following the party platform? Basically, nothing. Town committees and local grassroots are incredibly important. But who works their way up the system now? You come in as a wealthy "above it all" businessman (Corzine, Blumberg, Orichelli, Lamont) and dive in.

How do we create more grassroots involvement on all sides? How do we give people a real ownership of outcomes, other than those already in?

MikeCT said...

What's the punishment for any politician, of either party, for not following the party platform?

Yes, there's the weakness. Lamont's challenge to Lieberman poses just such a challenge for the party, and this is part of the reason it has caught so much attention and made Lieberman so nervous. (But you're right - it would be nice if we didn't need a millionaire to do this.)

On the other hand, it's not like they face no penalties now if they "sell out" - the scorn of colleagues, the loss of volunteers and donors, the anger of constituents, the wrath of bloggers... ;-)

How do we create more grassroots involvement on all sides? How do we give people a real ownership of outcomes, other than those already in?

I'm no social theorist, but a few ideas:
* making it clear just what stake people have in public policy outcomes and how government can have a positive impact - health, education, safety, consumer rights, clean water and air, transportation, quality of life, economy, etc., etc.
* a news media (and blog media) that pays less attention to horse races and more to substance
* letting people know what the heck town committees do, when and where they meet, whom to talk to, etc.
* talking to people other than the usual suspects
* having public social/political events, making it fun
* hosting accountability sessions, in which candidates have follow up meetings with supporters, including town committee
* establishing criteria for candidate support and evaluating the elected official's "performance"
* winning and celebrating small victories on the way to larger ones

Independent1 said...


*hosting accountability sessions, in which candidates have follow up meetings with supporters, including town committee

Perfect timing, as I'm watching "Question Time" in the British Commons. Can you imagine any American politician having to go through that?

* establishing criteria for candidate support and evaluating the elected official's "performance"

Unfortunately, under CFR, all you need is some signatures from the Stop and Shop parking lot, and you get the $$!

Good points, and I hope the year brings more involvement on all sides.

Aldon Hynes said...

Independent1: I started to write a reply to your message, but my reply ended up being too long, so it has become a blog entry on my personal blog. I would encourage you, and others to stop by and talk more about civic involvement.

I would also like to particularly invite Anon(8:40) to stop by and read the post. The famous quote about the government that governs least, governs best begs the question of what is the least amount of government reasonable, which in turn brings us to the underlying question of the role of government in the first place. I believe that government does and should play an important and beneficial role in our lives, and I touch on it a bit in my blog post.

I would also like to point out to Anon(8:40) that I am a fourty-something myself. I would also point out that I have a fairly strong libertarian streak, which is why I dislike so much the efforts of the religious right to invade my life or the life of my fellow citizens. The comments that I will impose a nanny state are, to put it politely, unfounded.

Anonymous said...

Dirty Politcs? I don't think much could get lower than what happened two years ago when Sen. Gayle Slossburg's campaign accused then state Sen. Win Smith of stealing lawn signs a day before the election and placing them at a local synagogue. Sen. Slossberg then ran to the press accusing Smith of being anti-semetic. Turns out it was all a ploy. The signs were intentionally taken by a Slossberg volunteer and placed at the synogogue on purpose. The campaign then went to the press with the accusation...the story ran in local newspaper but because it was a day before the election there was no time for Smith to respond. Slossberg won in a heavily Jewish district. Amazing!!! I wonder what the Dems will come out with next this year?

Anonymous said...

Aldon, the candidate of the twinkie police not favoring a nanny state.


Aldon Hynes said...

Anon(6:23) You are right. The Government that governs least governs best. That is why we should prevent the government from selling unhealthy food to children through its public education network.

Selling of junk food by the government in the public schools is just one more example of the government abuses that we need to put an end to.

I'm glad you support the effort to prevent government abuses, like the selling of unhealthy food.

Anonymous said...

Seems DeStefano lost a mighty big endorsement ... and Shonu has changed her tune on the importance of endorsements: "Yesterday only was about a small number of elected officials and their friends ... "

Kerry Guy said...

Labanowski is the darling of the former Republican power brokers. Her campaign is being run by the troika of Chris Healy, Ben Proto and Dick Foley, which explains why Gallo has taken such an interest in the election. She doesn't stand much of a chance, in any event, but the weather will help her somewhat. As for the R party, they are broke and pretty irrelevant if Rell refuses to take their dough.

BDRubenstein888 said...

MiKeCt,Aldon etc are very right as to the reasons for the decline of the parties...

the advent of new laws, negative press,corruption and the "bowling alone syndrone" all have helped weaken the parties.

Now the good news....each candidate forms their own organization and draws adherents based upon their issues and policies...while still working in weaker parties...

The state parties have become " cheer-leaders" for the the parties
Each State party is the official state representative of the national party and the only group legally able to call a state convention,or to select delegates to a national convention..

I would argue that the state party involvement of the selection of delegates to a national convention remains their most powerful function...and is important only when a convention is headed to a close vote.I was a delegate a few times and enjoyed the process alot...

Anonymous said...

Aldon: Are our local boards of education too incompetent to protect their own students?

Must they have yet another unfunded mandate from Hartford?

Please explain the difference if a state legislature in say Nebraska ordered every local school board to teach intelligent design.

Other the government governing least governing best, the government closest to the people governs best. And with the exception of a handful of large urban political machine towns (like New Haven) real parents make real decisions.

Who decides, Aldon? The localities listening to the people or Hartford listening to the lobbyists?

Anonymous said...

My guess is they are wooing Jim Lash, the current Greenwich First Selectman.
He is attractive and articulate. Gallo ran his last two campaigns. He beat the Dem incumbant and spent $200k of his own money.

Aldon Hynes said...

Anon(6:46) The issue of the relationship between local, state and federal powers is an important question which is closely tied to the idea that has been presented of 'the government that governs least, governs best'.

One of the ideas of federalism is that the federal system, or in the case of town versus state rules, is that the state or the federal government should get involved when the local or state government fails to live up to the principal of 'the government that governs least, governs best'.

In my mind, the idea of the government, through the local schools, joining with corporations to sell unhealthy food to students, violates this ideal of 'the government that governs least, governs best', and it is appropriate for higher jurisdictions to intervene.

Since you are so found of hypotheticals, let me return the hypothetical to you. If a school board decided that selling pot and crack at school was a good way to raise funds for the school, would you oppose the state or federal government from intervening?

Would you call the oppostion to the selling of crack and pot another unfunded mandate?

Anonymous said...

Aldon - Your hypothetical is ridiculous and not at all on point. Selling crack is illegal, a crime set out by state and federal laws. It is not a policy decision for a Board of Ed to permit it on school property. To carry your silly premise one step further, it would then be okay for school boards to allow murder on school grounds. To equate criminal acts with the legal consumption of junk foods is foolish.

The sale of junk foods at schools is another example of the state intruding on parent rights and the local control of education. It is a fight fought by lobbyists at the state level because it is far easier to win in one venue than to win at every separate school board in the state. If parents don't want their kids to eat junk food, tell them not to. Or teach them better eating habits. It reminds me of Senator Harp's ill-fated attempt to ban point and shoot video games for kids, or the state telling you long you can let your dog stay outside. The state government should stick to the real problems that face the state, not become the surrogate parent for every kid in Connecticut.