Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Shays: GOP Considering Endorsing Lieberman

Shays Will Vote for Democratic Senator, Encourages Cross-Endorsement


It's been the subject of whispered conversations among top Republican officials for the past month. Now, U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, R-4th District, has let slip the secret: GOP officials have discussed cross-endorsing Democratic Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman this fall.

In an interview today with the editorial board of The Advocate of Stamford, Shays said he intends to vote for Lieberman and is encouraging a Republican endorsement of the three-term senator. (Pazniokas)

As mentioned earlier today, Shays and Lieberman have almost identical positions on the Iraq War, as well as on other issues.

Shays is apparently not entirely alone in this, although the article notes that Republic Party officals are backing away from it. Lieberman's camp also seems a little surprised:

By Tuesday evening, spokesmen for top Republicans publicly distanced themselves from the possibility of backing Lieberman, who faces a Democratic primary over his support of President Bush and the war in Iraq.

And a spokeswoman for Lieberman, who previously had refused to rule out appearing on any but the Democratic line on the November ballot, said he would not accept a cross-endorsement.

"Would he accept the endorsement of the Republican Party? No, he is seeking the Democratic Party nomination," said Casey Aden-Wansbury, his communication director. She said no one representing Lieberman has discussed a cross-endorsement with Republicans.
"I thank Chris Shays for his support," Lieberman said, according to his staff. "But of course I am enthusiastically supporting my fellow Democrat Diane Farrell in this congressional race, as I did two years ago." (Pazniokas)


This may just be Shays saying what he thinks. It also may mean that the GOP isn't planning on running a strong candidate against Lieberman, after all.

Ned Lamont and his backers ought to be thrilled. Even the possibility of a Republican endorsement, despite Lieberman's protestations, seems to prove their point that Lieberman isn't a "real" Democrat quite neatly. The real loser here seems to be Diane Farrell, who compromised her stance on the Iraq War by endorsing Lieberman, only to find her opponent endorsing him a few days later.

Notice also that Republicans aren't aghast. It's significant that Rell didn't dismiss the idea out of hand, but was "noncomittal." I wonder what George Gallo thinks?

What's really happening, here?

It's fascinating that, despite the polarization of political parties in Washington and elsewhere in the country, that a Republican and a Democrat can have so much in common. This, plus the fact that the Senate is ultimately controlled by a loose centrist coalition (the so-called "Gang of 14," of which Lieberman is a member) suggests that there are no longer only two opposing political parties, but three major conglomerations of interests. There is the right, the left, and a resurgent center which straddles the parties. The direction of that wavering, hesitant center may very well determine the course of the nation.

Democrats in Connecticut have occupied the center for nearly forty years. For Republicans who want a piece of that center ground, a cross-endorsement wouldn't be a bad move at all. Lieberman is well-liked by independents in Connecticut, and having both Jodi Rell and Joe Lieberman on the same line could result in significant gains for the GOP. It's a thought that should make Democrats shiver.

A cross-endorsement of Lieberman probably won't happen--not this year. But the left-right-center dynamics the possibility exposes are intriguing.


Pazniokas, Mark. "Shays Endorsing Lieberman." Hartford Courant 28 February, 2006.

Shays Ready to Take On Farrell

Few congressional races in 2004 were as close as the one in the 4th District between longtime Republican Rep. Christopher Shays and Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell. In the end, Shays won 52%-48%, despite a surge for John Kerry in his district and a strong opponent.

Despite this close shave, Shays seems confident about his chances in 2006 in this article from the Stamford Advocate:

Shays, R-Bridgeport, said his voting record supports the best interests of the Fourth Congressional District.

"I feel I'm more effective today than I've ever been before," Shays said. "I have a lot of clout in my party and I think I'm needed by my district." (Ginocchio "Shays")

Actually, it always seems to me like Shays is one of the more marginalized members of Congress, but all right.

Strike Me Down, and I Shall Become More Powerful...

Shays continues with this odd line, claiming that he would actually grow more powerful should the Democrats take the house:

If Democrats win control of Congress in November, his independence from the Republican leadership will strengthen his role in the House, Shays said.

"In the end, if I'm in the minority, I'll be one of the most powerful members of Congress," he said.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., would "have to depend on me as a moderate Republican" for votes if she became Speaker of the House, he said. (Ginocchio "Shays")

It just seems like he'd be a marginal member of the opposition party.

Well, I guess I can see it. Moderates do have a certain amout of power in Washington, these days, and he might be useful as a Republican Pelosi could count on. Still, it's an odd thing to say. It almost seems like he wants the GOP to lose--except for himself, of course.

But how likely is it that he'll win another term?

Farrell, Iraq and the National Mood

This race is somewhat similar to the Simmons/Courtney race I talked about a while ago, in that there is a GOP moderate facing a Democratic opponent for the second time.

One difference is that Farrell's positions on some issues are a lot clearer than Courtney's, which makes her a much more attractive candidate. One of her signature issues is her opposition to the Iraq War, which Shays continues to support following nearly a dozen visits to the country.

Huh. Do we know any other politicans who go to Iraq a lot, then come home and say how well things are going? No?

Farrell was quick to endorse Sen. Joe Lieberman last week, despite the fact that his views on Iraq are very, very similar to Shays'.

Farrell, former first selectwoman of Westport, said that although Lieberman's Iraq position may be unpopular with many Fairfield County Democrats, she and the longtime senator have agreed on many other issues, and her endorsement was justified.

"Joe is a longtime friend and he has endorsed me and my campaign in the past," Farrell said in a telephone interview last week. "We'll have to agree to disagree on the war . . . but we agree on so many other issues" such as women's privacy rights, the Family Leave Act and fair wages.

Plus, she added, her race against Shays, R-Bridgeport, is about more than Iraq. (Ginocchio "Farrell")

That seems a little lame, considering that the Iraq War was one of the centerpieces of her 2004 campaign, and looks to be so again. Granted, she was probably placed in some sort of impossible position, but that doesn't change the fact that she's handed the Shays campaign a great line of attack, and annoyed some of her own partisans, as well.

This, plus the fact that this is not a presidential year, makes me think that Farrell is not in a good position to win in 2006. However, I will readily admit that my knowledge of Fairfield County is a bit spotty. It's the part of the state I travel to least, and therefore know the least about. Are there other factors, such as demographic shifts or a general dislike of Shays, that could swing this to Farrell?

Of course, the other thing that could swing the election her way is a national shift towards the Democrats. If that happens, Shays may find that he won't be around to help out Speaker Pelosi after all.


Ginocchio, Mark. "Farrell's action in line of fire." Stamford Advocate 26 February, 2006.

Ginocchio, Mark. "Shays confident about rematch with Farrell." Stamford Advocate 28 February, 2006.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Tax (Repeal) Season

The General Assembly has three taxes on its plate this session, and the question with each one is the same: keep eating or throw it away?

The Car Tax

Gov. Rell wants to get rid of it, while a chorus of municipal leaders and Democrats says that towns will actually lose money. Rell's tax cut proposal will get its first public hearing today.

Polls show public support for the idea, which includes using money from the state's two casinos to reimburse municipalities for the amount they would otherwise collect from the car taxes.
Several Democratic leaders, including House Speaker James A. Amann, D-Milford, have come out against the proposal as being unfair to certain taxpayers. At the same time, however, they have backed away from outright pledges to block the plan. (AP "Panel")

My guess is that the Democrats are waiting to see if public support for the tax cut remains high before moving one way or the other. We'll probably see some modified form of the car tax cut which keeps the $350 homeowners' credit, and finds some other source of revenue for towns.

The Estate Tax

If you have an estate worth $2 million or more, and death is raising the jewel-encrusted knocker on your front door, you're for the repeal of the estate tax. The idea here is to keep rich people in Connecticut, so they can spend money here.

Rell and others who support her plan say the state loses untold numbers of dollars in income taxes, spending and other money from wealthy residents who move elsewhere to avoid Connecticut's estate tax.
State Rep. Cameron Staples, D-New Haven, co-chairman of the General Assembly committee on state finances, revenue and bonding, says it would be "foolish to dig a trench for ourselves by cutting taxes dramatically when we're projecting deficits."

The legislature's nonpartisan fiscal analysis office is forecasting deficits of hundreds of millions of dollars in the 2008, 2009, and 2010 budget years. (AP "Plan")

I agree with Staples: we should try to plan for those deficit years as best we can. This is the price of the huge transportation plans both sides want. Republicans like this tax cut a great deal, comparing us wistfully to Florida and Arizona, but it's very unlikely that our tax rates will ever be competitive with theirs. We simply have too many services, and too much aging infrastructure in need of repair.

Besides, the Democrats will never let it out of committee anyway.

Manufactring Equipment

This is the easy one.

Paying local taxes on manufacturing equipment increases the burden on Connecticut's businesses as they struggle to stay competitive, John A. Salce says.

Salce, the owner of a local precision machining job shop in Plainville, said his industry is struggling with an unfair disadvantage because competitors in many other states pay no such tax.
But many municipalities worry that eliminating the tax would increase the financial strain on them. A promise of state reimbursement is suspect, they said, because the state typically reduces its payments to towns whenever its own budget runs into red ink. (Stacom)

It's very difficult to legislate economic growth. However, this seems like one of those barriers to business that just about everyone can agree on (except towns). I have a feeling it will pass quickly.

Passing the Burden On

One of the problems with all of these tax repeal proposals is that each has the potential to hurt municipalities. The solution in at least two of the cases seems to be some sort of increase in state aid: in the case of the governor's car tax plan the state will reimburse towns out of casino money, while one of the proposals for the elimination of the manufacturing equipment tax involves the state reimbursing towns out of the surplus.

In both cases, one more power of taxation has been taken from the towns and put into the hands of the state. There may come a time when the towns don't have the power to tax at all: they just decide how to divide up the money given to them by the state.

Will that be such a bad thing, in the end? I wonder.


"Panel To Hold Hearing On Rell's Car-Tax Plan." Associated Press 27 February, 2006.

"Plan to end estate tax raising class warfare concerns." Associated Press 26 February, 2006.

Stacom, Don. "Local Tax Called Unfair." Hartford Courant 27 February, 2006.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Weekend Open Forum

Rell's being criticized for missing yet another National Governor's Association meeting. She really ought to try to go to at least one...

Rob Simmons joins those who are suddenly less sure about Iraq's future--and our future there.

State Democrats have been showing their support for striking Sikorsky workers.

What else is happening this weekend?

Friday, February 24, 2006

All Lamont, All the Time

All right, I give up. No matter where I turn there days, there sits Ned Lamont's quixotic non-campaign for Senate. I get the feeling that this race is going to consume us far more than any of the other races out there, if the explosion of media over the past few days about the upcoming primary is any indication. Some of you taking today's poll agree.

A few examples:

Denis Horgan of the Courant, whose columns I have always found very insightful, has written about the endorsement of Lieberman by almost every big-name Democrat in the state this week. The interesting part is this:

Everyone hailed Lieberman as a prince, even as nearly all disagree with him over his and President Bush's war on Iraq. (Horgan)

The personal loyalties Lieberman has spent his career building do seem to go a long way. One has to wonder if there's a breaking point, though.

A Greenwich Citizen article reports on Lamont at a Greenwich DTC meeting.

Folks crowding Lamont after he spoke included such as banker Jeffrey Blanche of Greenwich.

"I have known him for 20 years and I have liked him for 20 years and I am ready to help," he told the Greenwich Citizen. "What will you do?" Blanche was asked. He answered: "Whatever Ned tells me needs done, I'll do." Folks huddled around Lamont seemed of a like mind. Lamont appears to exude charisma. (McCormack)

Not only that, but he saying the right things.

Lamont is adamant about pulling American forces back to the periphery, and letting the Iraqis settle differences themselves. "We might keep a small reserve force in Kuwait but "let's bring the troops home," he declared, drawing a burst of applause from the crowd that packed the Meeting Room.

It was the first of many rounds of clapping punctuating his remarks. (McCormack)

As the situation in Iraq careens towards civil war, will this position become more popular?

Dan Levine reports in the Connecticut Law Tribune about the possible impact the primary could have on the governor's race.

So the central question then becomes: does increased turnout help DeStefano or Malloy?

Again, the answer isn't simple. At first blush, one would think DeStefano. Lamont will bring out antiwar Democrats. DeStefano is generally considered the more liberal of the two gubernatorial candidates, while Malloy is closer to Lieberman's pro-business agenda. A number of the moveon.org crowd backing Lamont lined up early behind DeStefano early. Also, because Occhiogrosso will be working for both Malloy and Lieberman, that will reinforce the connection between those two candidates among insiders.

But Lamont hails from Fairfield County, which Swan and Occhiogrosso agree boasts healthy antiwar sentiment. Since that's Malloy's base, higher turnout among affluent voters in Southwestern Connecticut may want to register an antiwar vote with Lamont and take a fiscally conservative stand with Malloy. (Levine).

The article also notes that both gubernatorial campaigns are pretending Lamont doesn't exist, for now.

Then there's the blogosphere. A new blog, LamontBlog, has appeared. Its sole purpose is to cover the primary, presumably from the point of view of the Lamont campaign.

My Left Nutmeg has become sort of an unofficial arm of the Lamont campaign in recent weeks. Certainly it's a prime spot for Lamont supporters to gather. ConnecticutBlog is also stridently pro-Lamont, as are other sites like the long standing Dump Joe.

There has been a glimmer of support for Lieberman on the blogs, but most of it has come from conservative sites. Even some of them seem to be lukewarm on him (quick update: Sean from CT Conservative has noted in the comments that he is not, in fact, lukewarm on Lieberman).

So that's the Senate Primary News for now. There will no doubt be a lot more to come.

I'm starting to wonder who I would support, were I a Democrat. I'm not, so it's a moot point. But I wonder. Lieberman's overly moralistic stances on everything from video games to movies and music bother me, and I'm not a fan of the war. But then again, I'm not convinced Lamont is a better alternative. His statement that we should bring the troops home ASAP seems too easy. I don't think we can do that at this point, not with the country exploding before our eyes.

Will we see more nuance out of Lamont? Maybe not. His directness may be exactly the sort of thing to rally antiwar Democrats. As for Lieberman, he may very well start floating leftwards in an effort to crowd out Lamont if he starts feeling more threatened. We'll see how the positions of both men evolve over the coming weeks.

But, as ctkeith says, I don't think we've seen anything, yet.


Horgan, Denis. "A Teeny Weeny Thing." Denis Horgan: Wanderings (Blog) http://blogs.courant.com/travel_columnists_horgan/ 24 February, 2006.

Levine, Dan. "The Two Primaries." Connecticut Law Tribune 20 February, 2006.

McCormack, Patricia. "Lamont, Darkhorse Candidate for Lieberman Seat, Magnetizes Dems." Greenwich Citizen 24 February, 2006.

New Polls

There are two new polls on the sidebar beneath the maps.

The first one is just a gauge of which races you think will be most interesting to watch this year. I may use it to direct my coverage in some way--we'll see. If you can think of other races I didn't mention, post them here.

The second poll is about possible changes to the structure of the legislature that have been mentioned before on this site. Term limits are self-explanatory, as are longer terms for legislators. A pay raise may seem like a bad idea at first, but it would allow people who either aren't independently wealthy or employed at jobs who don't mind not seeing them for six months out of the year to serve. A full-time legislature or longer sessions seem necessary after all the special sessions we have been having. Lastly, redistricting is now handled by a bipartisan commission: should it be in the hands of a third party, like retired judges? You can choose as many options as you want in this one.

As always, feel free to post answers I don't have in the polls here.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Labor Support for Lieberman

There's a new article about Lieberman's labor support worth pointing out over at CT News Junkie:

Connecticut’s Democratic Party establishment flocked to U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman’s side today at a labor endorsement rally in Hartford. Their message, unsurprisingly, called for party unity and tried to paint primary challenger Ned Lamont as an outsider, though they never mentioned Lamont by name. Significant among Lieberman’s union endorsements: UNITE-HERE, a 7,000 member left-wing union with a solid reputation for doorknocking during elections.

“I have a different stance than Joe on the war,” said Robert Proto, President of UNITE-HERE Local 35 in New Haven. “It’s clear many of our folks don’t think the direction we’re taking [in Iraq] is right, especially because we have no concrete exit plan. But our culture is to endorse folks who have stood side by side with us.” (Levine)

Lieberman stood with UNITE-HERE during strikes at Yale, and it's paying off for him. Union members may disagree with his stance on the war, but apparently loyalty matters.

Can Lamont win without labor support?

Swan denied Lieberman’s event puts pressure on his campaign to come out with their own labor endorsements, because they haven't yet announced Lamont is running.

“We understood going in that many of the institutional players in the Democratic Party and organized labor will need to stick with Joe,” Swan said. (Levine)

Lieberman's trying to make sure Lamont's campaign is stillborn. Labor provides a ready-made field organization that Democrats have used for decades to get out the vote and spread their message.

Of course, even one union endorsement (the SEIU, for example) would legitimize Lamont's campaign and raise his chances. We'll see if he can pick one up.


Levine, Dan. "Lieberman's Labor Love Fest." CT News Junkie 23 February, 2006.

Open Forum

State Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Cheshire) had a big day yesterday. The chair of the DCCC, Rahm Emanuel, paid him a visit, giving a boost to his campaign for the 5th District congressional seat. Because both Paul Vance and Bill Curry bowed out (Curry, technically, never bowed in) of the race this week, Murphy is the nominee-apparent. Emanuel and Murphy highlighted the shortcomings of the confusing new Medicare program, which Johnson helped to create, as a possible weakness for the longtime congresswoman.

Senators Dodd and Lieberman debated the Iraq War yesterday--except that apparently they didn't say much of anything. Also, I didn't see this initially (My Left Nutmeg posted this earlier), but apparently Dodd has called Ned Lamont's primary challenge "harmful," and is strongly backing Lieberman. "Harmful?" I really dislike that line of thinking. Either democracy is a good thing or it isn't. Besides, "party unity" never seems to help Democrats anyway.

There's an interesting article in the Journal-Inquirer about the timing of a ballot question about calling a constitutional convention. We'll probably get that question in 2008.

Lastly, legislative Democrats are mulling over ways to pass a contracting reform bill that the governor will sign. A hint: drop the privatization language. Really.

What else is going on today?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Lieberman, Lamont and the Polls

There are two things that we sort of know right now about the U.S. Senate race. First, Ned Lamont of Greenwich is going to run against Joe Lieberman. He'll be annoucing his run in March:

52-year-old Ned Lamont says he is on schedule to formally announce his primary challenge to Joe Lieberman by the middle of next month.

Ned Lamont now has campaign workers and will soon open headquarters in Norwalk and Meriden.

The political "blogosphere" is loaded with talk about polling numbers that show Joe Lieberman vulnerable to a challenge in a Democratic primary.

Lamont told [WTNH political correspondent Mark Davis] today there is no more doubt about his running.

"Yeah, we're a go, Mark, we've been traveling all over the state, talked to hundreds of people, thousands have come to our website and they're really encouraging us to do it, and I want to do it," says Lamont. (Davis)

Secondly, the polls are telling us nothing worthwhile about how this could eventually shake out. We beat a Rasmussen poll to death last week on this site without coming to any clear conclusions. Lieberman may be vulnerable or he may not, depending on how one interprets the poll.

A SurveyUSA poll released yesterday is no more conclusive. Daily Kos, where obsessive hatred for Lieberman is second only to hatred for Bush (isn't it?), would like us to believe that the poll shows a huge drop in Lieberman's fortunes, and that it's tied to his comments on Iraq and the emergence of Ned Lamont. Well, maybe. But it's fair to point out that the level he's at right now with all voters is pretty much exactly where he was last May, give or take a statistically meaningless point or two.

His numbers among Democrats are lower, although still above 50%. In fact, all of Lieberman's numbers are above 50%, even among self-identifying liberals (who favor him 52%-40%). That could be bad, since primary voters will tend to be more liberal. But then again, the argument could be made that even liberals approve of Lieberman by 12%.

So if the polls aren't exactly helpful, how do we know what's going on? Does enough support for a Lamont candidacy exist to make his challenge viable? Can Lamont win?

At this point, these questions can't be answered in the affirmative. However, there's no evidence that Lamont will be completely unable to win, yet, either. We'll have to wait for the convention, I fear, before we really start to have an idea of how far Lamont can go.


Davis, Mark. "Businessman gets ready to announce challenge for Lieberman's seat." WTNH-TV. 20 February, 2006.

Curry: "I have no plans to seek public office at this time."

Never mind.

Bill Curry has stated that he won't, in fact, be running for the Democratic nomination in the 5th congressional district this year, despite sending some mixed signals to Fred Lucas of the News-Times and others.

"I have no plans to seek public office at this time," he said. "But I don't feel as if I'm done with electoral politics. There's just a lot going on in my life right now that requires my attention."

Curry's denial came in response to an unusual challenge from Republican State Chairman George D. Gallo, who had insisted in a statement that the Democrat finally "come clean" about his political intentions. (Michak)

Curry's non-candidacy plus the departure of Paul Vance means that Sen. Chris Murphy, barring something unforseen, will be the nominee in a race that has already attacted national attention.

All three of the congressional seats held by Republicans in Connecticut are in play this year, according to election observers. Of those, only the 5th District isn't a rematch of an earlier race.


Michak, Don. "Curry says there'll be no rematch with Johnson in 5th Congressional race." Journal-Inquirer 22 February, 2006.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Vance Out in 5th

Paul Vance today withdrew from the 5th District congressional race:

Said Vance, “There is not enough time in the day to satisfy the desire and dedication I have to improve the lives of families in Waterbury and across the Fifth Congressional District. ... With so much work still to be done, it is not the right time for me to look to another elected position, I am ending my congressional campaign so that I can continue to help turn around Waterbury at this critical time in the city’s history.”

“I have enjoyed meeting with people throughout the 5th Congressional District and have been energized by the support that I have been given, but mostly I am blessed to have become friends with many very caring people who are concerned about the direction of our country,” said Vance.

“While Sen. Christopher Murphy and I may have disagreed over issues,” said Vance, “we both agree that we need a change in the direction of this Country and in the Fifth District of Connecticut. I will endorse and work for the Democratic nominee, and have released my committed convention delegates asking that we all come together to support the nominee.” (Paul Vance Press Release 2/21/2006)

Just who that nominee will be has become a bit murkier with rumors about Bill Curry possibly entering the race, but at this point all signs are atill pointing to Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Cheshire), who was early on the favorite of national Democrats and built a huge lead in fundraising over Vance.

No matter who the nominee is, the 5th District race is expected to generate national attention, and could end up being closer than it has in years.

As for Vance, he remains popular in his hometown of Waterbury (he was the top vote-getter in the aldermanic races in November), so it's likely we'll see him again.


Paul Vance Press Release. "Vance Withdraws From Fifth District Congressional Campaign." 21 February, 2006.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Open Forum

Quiet day, politically speaking. At least around here.

Common Cause has been pushing for changes to the campaign finance bill passed last December, such as lower thresholds for minor parties and limits on town/state committee expenditures. Sen. Chris Caruso, however, wants to keep the focus on PACs.

Sikorsky workers are on strike today following the breakdown of negotiations over a new contract. Health care is the crux, here.

Sen. Dodd wants the federal government to pay troops so they can buy better body armor.

Lastly, Gov. Rell wants to get tough on meth.

Anything else happening?

Presidents' Day

Since it is "Presidents' Day" (that is, the combining of Lincoln and Washington's birthdays into a single vague holiday), who's your favorite president? Least favorite? Most inspiring? Here's my list:


The giants:

Theodore Roosevelt: An incredible character who used the overwhelming force of his personality to do what he thought was right.

George Washington: I recently read an excellent biography of Washington, and am constantly amazed at just how much we owe him. He was a giant.

Abraham Lincoln: Probably the best example of a man who was exactly right for his time. It's very interesting to see his evolving attitudes towards slavery and, then, ex-slaves as his term progressed. I often wonder what would have happened if he had lived.

Franklin Roosevelt: He led the nation through its worst period since the Civil War, and gave people hope.


William Howard Taft: No, he wasn't that great of a president. But I am always struck by just how human a figure he was. He hated the presidency, and was glad to be rid of it in 1913. He was also absolutely crushed by Roosevelt's turn against him in 1912. He was somehow guileless, and couldn't believe that a man who was his friend could hurt him so. He was a much better chief justice than a president.

Gerald Ford: He was also a very good, decent sort of man. He was clueless in certain areas, and his choice of staffers still haunts us, but he himself was a good man.

The Worst:

Warren Harding: He was not bright, and he let his friends do all sorts of terrible things. His death was probably a mercy.

James Buchanan: He did nothing while the Civil War approached.

Andrew Johnson: Lincoln's successor, he was a spiteful man who allowed a lot of the progress Lincoln had hoped for disappear.

I'll reserve historical judgement on George W. Bush until at least a decade has passed. That seems fair.

What do you think? Any favorites? Least favorites? Post them here.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Curry Rumors Fly

Here's an interesting tidbit from Fred Lucas at the Danbury News-Times:

Bill Curry, a former state comptroller and losing gubernatorial candidate in 2002, won't deny or confirm rumors that he plans to get into a primary.

After the rumors started late last year, Curry couldn't be reached for comment on the matter for months.

Last week, he admitted to me he has intentionally avoided talking about the topic. Asked why, he only said he could talk about it in a few days. A few days passed, and he hasn't returned follow up phone calls.

The general rule of thumb is that if a politician isn't strongly considering running for something, he'll just say no.

Curry wasn't considered all that strong against Gov. John G. Rowland in 2002, but if people had known then what they know now about Rowland's corrupt activities, the result could have been different.

This would further marginalize J. Paul Vance Jr., the president of the Waterbury Board of Aldermen. That's a high office in the district's largest city. But so far, Vance hardly gets noticed in his primary challenge.

Murphy is already the chosen primary candidate of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington, so this might put Curry in an uncommon role. A former party nominee for the state's top office and former domestic policy adviser to President Clinton could run as an anti-establishment candidate in his party. (Lucas)

The Curry rumors have been around a while, and I haven't paid that much attention to them. But what if he did jump in? How would he do?

He might take the convention, and there's a chance he could win a primary against Murphy and Vance. Curry has won primaries as an upstart before, defeating the dull-as-dishwater John Larson in 1994. He could do the same to the equally colorless Murphy by appealing to liberals and the grassroots.

He'd face a serious general election battle, though. A quick look at the 2002 Gubernatorial Map shows that there was nowhere in the state where Curry did as badly as he did in the 5th District. He won one town: liberal-leaning Cornwall. That's it. Granted, that was a Republican year and Rowland was still a pretty popular governor, but it's hard to see a lot of those towns really getting behind Curry.

Then again, they wouldn't have to. If Curry could carry New Britain, Meriden, Waterbury, Danbury and a handful of other suburban towns by more than a few percentage points, he'd win. He may very well have a better shot than Murphy, who has no name recognition and would absolutely be attacked for moving into the district just last year.

Curry would have to scramble to raise money if he decided to get in, but he has so many contacts within the Democratic Party that that might not be a problem. He'd also be bucking the D.C. Democratic "establishment," such as it is, but with the track record those guys have that might be a real blessing.

He seems like he's getting ready to do something, although we'll have to wait and see what that actually is. For now, he's apparently still making up his mind.


Lucas, Fred. "Capitol Notebook." Danbury News-Times 19 February, 2006.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Weekend Open Forum

The House Democrats released their agenda Friday. Better transportation is atop it.

The Clean Up Connecticut campaign is recommending fixes for campaign finance reform. Let's hope legislators at least consider some revisions to the law this session.

The Courant warns Lamont against spending too much of his own money, as that could trigger an increase in donation sizes for Lieberman.

The Legislative Races to Watch page has been slightly updated. Some candidates actually have opponents and websites, now! Sen. Bill Finch (D-Bridgeport) has a blog which is being kept up to date, and is an interesting read.

What else is going on this weekend?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Rasmussen: Lieberman Ahead, But Numbers Shaky

Really interesting poll put out by Rasmussen today (thanks to CTBlogger for pointing it out (and posting it first!).

Lieberman, as an independent, would win in the general election against Lamont and an unnamed Republican 45% to 25% (Lamont) to 14% (GOP). That's about the same as the same poll done with Weicker replacing Lamont. Not bad for a guy with 7% name recognition. Maybe the anti-Lieberman base is bigger than the Q-poll suggests.

It's worth noting that Lieberman is under 50% in both scenarios, at least one of which will almost definitely happen.

It's also worth noting that:

Given the chatter about Lieberman, we asked Connecticut voters whether the incumbent should run for re-election as a Democrat, an Independent, or a Republican. Thirty-eight percent (38%) of the state's voters said he should run as a Democrat, 26% as an Independent, and 17% as a Republican.

The most interesting piece of data on this point is that a plurality of Democrats want Lieberman to run as a Democrat; a plurality of Republicans want him to run as a Republican; and, a plurality of those not affiliated with either major party want him to run as an Independent. (Rasmussen)

Huh. Can't see the crosstabs, so I couldn't say for certain just what these pluralities are.

It's also really worth noting that:

In this match-up, with Lieberman running as an Independent, he leads Lamont by 11 percentage points among voting Democrats. He also wins a solid plurality of Republican and unaffiliated voters against both Lamont and a generic Republican candidate. (Rasmussen)

So instead of, say, a 45% lead, as suggested by Quinnipiac... is that lead really more like 11%? "Voting Democrats" is a much better sample for the primary than all Democrats. And considering who votes in primaries... that lead could actually be down around 5%. Wow.

A much more interesting poll than yesterday's!


Poll. " Connecticut Senate: Lieberman by 20. Conducted by Rasmussen Reports, 15 February 2006.

Education, Property Taxes and Regional Cooperation

I've been thinking about a comment ChrisMC made down in the It's All About Popular comment section, during our discussion of property taxes:

Not that regionalizing services isn't a worthwhile endeavor. But get out the back of your nearest envelope and figure out in dollars what that really means. Not so much, certainly not a sea-change.

The elephant on the table (no pun) is education spending. Something like 70% of your local budget expenditures across the state. Nobody actually talks about it, because it is the third rail of municipal politics, which is to say State politics as well.

Education is, indeed, where the bulk of municipal spending goes. In my own Enfield, over $60 million of an $88 million budget went to the town's public schools in 2002. Towns seem to spend between half and 3/4 of their budget on education.


Education eats money. There's the cost of buildings, teachers, supplies, buses, lunches, administration, other staff and so on. These costs increase every year, and are made worse by the constant pressure from governments for higher test scores.

Despite the huge expenditures, though, the fact of the matter is that our school system is barely limping along. We don't have enough teachers, students are stuck in study halls instead of in elective courses, teachers often feel (correctly) that their salaries are low compared to other professions, buildings are inadequate and falling apart, textbooks are outdated, access to computers is inconsistent, school lunches are miserable... the list goes on. Worst of all, our students may be heading for college and the workforce without the skills they need to succeed.

It isn't just us. This is happening all across the country, despite the fact that more and more money is being spent on education every year, with no end in sight.

So we're stuck, for now. Regionalizing school districts--really regionalizing them--might help. Annoyingly, even the smallest towns in Connecticut seem to have their own school districts (Union, which has about 700 people, has its own K-8 school with 77 students--they go to Stafford for high school). Regional school districts only really exist at the high school (and sometimes middle school) level: local elementary schools are kept within the towns. Each town school district has its own superintendent, even if the only school within that district is an elementary school. Andover, for example, has its own board of ed and school superintendentent, despite the fact the there is exactly one school in town (middle and high school students attend Region 8 schools in Hebron). Staffing costs are a big chunk of education expenditures, so if each regional district had control of all the schools in the region, money would be saved.

It's a very small start, true. But, short of turning all educational expenses over to the state or some other sort of radical reform, small changes may be all that we're able to do, right now. It's difficult to make radical changes in education, if only because it is so crucial.

On the other hand, reducing education expenses would solve, for the most part, our property tax problems. It's worth persuing.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Open Forum

The busway is still kicking, and it's still a bad idea. Have I mentioned that it runs, for almost its entire length through Newington and New Britain, through a right-of-way currently occupied by an abandoned rail line (the rest of the way parallels the existing in-use Amtrak rails)? Have I also mentioned that the Cedar Street station, while less than a mile walk from CCSU next to sidewalk-less, heavy traffic roads, is still in the middle of a swamp next to a strip mall?

...I guess it's better than nothing. But a rail line would be better. For example, take a look at what Rhode Island is doing.

The legislature is still considering reform of eminent domain laws, but anything final is a ways away.

Apparently, it's Catholic Celebration of Marriage Week, which is as good an excuse as any for the Family Institute of Connecticut to write another blog post about gay marriage and society's impending doom. I have a lot of tolerance for groups I don't agree with and for other points of view--but not for these people, who cloak hardline dogma with psuedoscience and the illusion of reason. Fortunately, their sort of organization doesn't have the power here that they do in other parts of the country.

What else is going on?

Quick Note: I've been seeing an uptick in racist and sexist language around here by one or two anonymous commenters. This person should be aware that any further blatently racist or sexist remarks will be deleted.

Q-Poll: Lieberman Far Ahead of Lamont

Rell Still Popular, DeStefano and Malloy Lose Ground

Voters in Connecticut support the status quo, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released this morning.

The poll confirms what we already know about the governor's race: people like Jodi Rell, and they have no idea who her challengers are. She would defeat DeStefano 70%-16%, and Malloy 70%-15%. Both DeStefano and Malloy, embarassingly, would win only 28% and 29% of Democratic votes cast--a clear majority of Democrats would support Rell in both cases. DeStefano and Malloy are actually losing ground against Rell from a poll released last month.

The only consolation--and it's a bitter one--is that neither man is well known, yet: 59% haven't heard enough about DeStefano to form an opinion, while 83% haven't heard enough about Malloy. These numbers won't really start to change until the convention. DeStefano is still ahead of Malloy 38%-19% for the nomination, by the way.

Voters support the governor's plan to repeal the car tax 52%-31%.

Ned Who?

Sen. Joe Lieberman is in good shape as people don't seem to be inclined to support a Lowell Weicker bid against him, and no one has any idea who his potential primary challenger is. The hyping of Lamont has primarily been an internet phenomenon--lest we start getting swelled heads and thinking that blogs influence elections in a big way, the result of a month of hype on big national blogs as well as liberal Democratic blogs in state is that 93% of people apparently have no idea who he is. Lieberman would defeat him 68%-13%. The silver lining for Lamont is that 25% of Democrats say that the war would be "the most important single issue" for them in a primary vote, while 60% say it would be as important as other issues. 80% of Democrats believe that going to war was the wrong thing to do.


The governor's race isn't worth paying much attention to, right now. Voters certainly aren't. They also show little sign of abandoning Jodi Rell, whose tax cut plan they sort of like. The first job of a challenger is to convince the voters that the incumbent doesn't deserve re-election. DeStefano and Malloy have a steep hill to climb there.

Ned Lamont's position is lousy, to start, but it's not all bad. 25% of Democrats, who almost universally are against the war, will be in his corner. As for getting the rest, he needs to become more knowledgable about other issues, and that he needs to differentiate himself from Lieberman on more than just the war. However, his position on the war, combined with Lieberman's stubborn support of an unpopular war being waged by an unpopular Administration (31% approval rating), does give Lamont something to stand on.

The situation isn't hopeless for the challengers in either race. The name recognition problems will be overcome. It's early, and by the time the election rolls around, people who are voting will know who the candidates are. Once again, the Democratic convention in May will be a great help, there.

As always, it's good to see the poll for yourselves and to draw your own conclusions.


Poll. Quinnipiac Poll-Connecticut. Conducted by Quinnipiac University Feb. 9-14, 2006.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

It's All About Popular

Once again, Jodi Rell is the most popular governor in America, according to a SurveyUSA poll taken February 10-13. In fact, her popularity soared to its highest peak in more than a year.

Two reasons why: first, Rowland got out of jail. Whenever he's in the news, people remember how glad they are to be rid of him. Rell got a similar bounce last April when Rowland was sentenced.

Second, people may be reacting to her proposal to eliminate the car tax. It isn't a well-liked tax (if there is such a thing), and while Democrats and some municipal leaders fret and fume about it, the general public seems pretty happy with the idea.

As the election year progresses, it's looking more and more likely that Rell's numbers combined with her actions will translate into an overwhelming electoral victory. Not even a fundraising scandal has been able to bring down Rell's popularity.

Opposition for its own sake

This can lead Democrats to a difficult place, in which they acquire strange bedfellows. Witness House Speaker Jim Amman speaking about the proposed repeal of the car tax in Cromwell yesterday:

Noting his strong opposition as a young legislator to a similar proposal by Democratic state Sen. James Maloney of Danbury in 1994, Amann said his views have not changed. Maloney's plan was signed into law by then-Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr., but was repealed the next year after John G. Rowland succeeded Weicker.

"This is Gov. Rell's resurrection of the Maloney baloney tax," Amann said, using a term popularized by Rowland when he pushed for repeal. (Keating)

Okay, then. "Maloney baloney tax?" Technically, it was more of a Maloney baloney tax ax, right? It's also unclear how a plan that would refund to towns 100% of the money that they should have received from the car tax would lose towns money. I'm not sure that even the towns know what will happen if the tax is repealed, at this point.

Worse, Democrats are starting to look like hypocrites, because they're the ones who have been pushing for property tax reform. A better plan--or even a mildly acceptable alternative--has not been forthcoming from the majority. Rell has been very good at co-opting the issues of her opposition and making them her own. Bill Clinton knew how to do this, also--and it drove Republicans just as crazy.

So all Democrats can do at this moment is oppose the plan on dozens of different, unsteady grounfs, and side with jittery municipal officals who are concerned about losing control over one of their revenue streams. This is a lousy position to reform property taxes from.

The sad fact of the matter is that property tax reform will necessarily be a painful thing. There is no way to alleviate property taxes--and municipalities' over-reliance on them--without infringing on local control. Whether that infringement comes in the form of Gov. Rell's modest tax reshuffling, regionalization of services or some sort of other state tax increase depends on how serious the legislature is about getting the job done.

Right now the Democratic leadership doesn't seem serious about property tax reform at all, while Gov. Rell does. It doesn't matter whether the tax is actually some sort of giveaway to the rich (it isn't) or that it doesn't really do anything to help out towns (it won't); what matters is that once again, she's managed to look like a bold, pragmatic reformer while the legislative leadership seems about as proactive as sand turtles.

Is it any wonder, then, why Rell is so popular?


Keating, Christopher. "Amann Takes Aim At Rell's Tax Plan." Hartford Courant 15 February, 2006.

Poll. SurveyUSA Approval Ratings for All 50 Governors as of 2/14/06. Conducted by SurveyUSA Feb. 10-13, 2006.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Heads up, the DeStefano campaign is planning a "major announcement" with Lt. Gov. Kevin Sullivan tomorrow at noon in the Legislative Office Building. It's either a boring, run-of-the-mill endorsement, or they're announcing he'll be DeStefano's running mate.

Update: Never mind. The DeStefano campaign does like to build up the suspense... then spring something ordinary on us.

Open Forum

Rowland's back in town. He says he won't be running for future public office.

Gov. Rell is meeting with city mayors today about urban youth violence. Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy released a youth development initiative ahead of the meeting. New Haven Mayor John DeStefano will release his later today, following the meeting.

Speaking of, apparently Malloy supports the estate tax cut, while DeStefano doesn't. Huh. It's almost as if voters will have something to go by.

And this happened a couple of days ago, but remember the contracting reform bill from last year? The one that the governor vetoed twice because of anti-privatization language? The Democrats have apparently learned their lesson, and will remove the language, allowing the bill to finally pass and be signed.

What else is happening today?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Candidate Profiles: Derek Donnelly

Democrat for State Representative--61st House District

(part of an occasional series)

Before my meeting with Democratic 61st House District candidate Derek Donnelly (left), I spent some time wondering what, exactly, a man who ran for State Representative at 25—especially one challenging a longtime incumbent—would be like. Donnelly, when he appeared, didn’t disappoint: he’s a big, gregarious guy with a seemingly limitless supply of energy and drive.

Donnelly has been around politics all his life. His mother is a deputy registrar of voters in Suffield, and his father is on the zoning board. He didn’t get on his current political path until college, however. He was a member of the VROTC, and was looking to officially join up when he fell sick during a trip to London. He decided to wait a semester, after which he was told that they had run out of commissions (something, he tells me, that doesn’t happen today). After that, he says, his sense of duty prompted him to look for other ways to serve his country. This eventually led him to politics where, as a student at James Madison University in Virginia, he interned on Capitol Hill, volunteered for Mark Warner, worked for former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and then ran an unsuccessful but engaging municipal campaign in his college town. After Donnelly graduated college in 2002, he began going to UCONN Law School part time, and working for other politicians. He eventually ended up working for Joe Lieberman’s presidential campaign, and then for Eddie Perez in Hartford as a legislative aide.

He was encouraged to get involved locally, which led him back to Suffield, where he has been active in Democratic politics. In 2003, he began to be mentioned in conversations about the 61st House seat, held by Republican Ruth C. Fahrbach and encompassing all of Suffield, and parts of East Granby and Windsor. He recalls that the conversations centered on the fact that “…it stinks that no one runs against Fahrbach,” which up to that point had been essentially true. Fahrbach has held her seat since 1980, but has rarely had a serious challenger. Donnelly decided against running in 2004, mainly because he “wanted to gain more perspective,” and he wanted to graduate law school first (he’ll do that this spring). Fahrbach won in 2004 without a Democratic opponent (a Working Families candidate won 9% of the vote). Donnelly decided he was ready for 2006, and has been planning his run, with the support of the Suffield Democratic Town Committee, since last August. He formed an exploratory committee, which has so far raised over $9,000 (remarkable considering the average State Rep. challenger in 2004 raised only $6,000 total), and is planning on forming a campaign committee this week. He will officially announce his candidacy in April.

Donnelly isn’t daunted by running in a heavily Republican district, and strongly believes that he can win. For one thing, he says, Suffield (where the majority of the district is) has changed a lot in recent years. The population has exploded, and younger families who might be more receptive to a Democratic candidacy are moving in. As proof, he cites the race for first selectman in 2005, which the Democratic candidate lost by only 150 votes (Donnelly himself was elected an alternate for the board of finance). He also points to Windsor, which trends Democratic, and the fact that the portion of East Granby in his district is very small—he’ll be able to meet almost everyone there. He says that the campaign will be a lot of hard work, but he believes that he’ll win in the end.

Donnelly takes a pragmatic approach to issues. He says he’ll work for property tax reform if elected, and believes that the elimination of the car tax as proposed by the governor is a “good start.” He believes that regionalization of some services, such as human resources boards, can also help towns to save money, thereby lessening the tax burden on citizens. He says he doesn’t want to see an end to municipal control, but that cooperation between towns will help keep taxes at manageable levels. He also very much favors reforming the probate court system, a “pre-1965” institution in which he sees a lot of conflicts of interest and inefficiency. The Connecticut state government, he says with a smile, has a lot of problems with efficiency. He believes that campaign finance reform is also a good start, but that loopholes need to be done away with.

He stresses the fact that, as a first-year legislator, he won’t be able to fix everything. He also understands the reluctance of the legislature to make big changes, and says that he will focus on “small steps to change, if we’re not going to do big things.”

Perhaps Donnelly’s biggest issue is Fahrbach herself, and what she represents. Fahrbach, he says, is “ineffective.” She “doesn’t introduce bills,” or at least doesn’t see the few bills she does introduce passed. She is, he says, famous for knitting on the House floor. He cites the fact that Fahrbach is on the powerful appropriations committee, but that Suffield, the major town in her district, is 168th out of 169 towns in municipal aid. “Suffield,” he says, “Doesn’t have a legislator who is there.”

Donnelly is planning an aggressive, youth-oriented campaign. He has gone to colleges to talk with students there and recruit volunteers, and is planning on establishing a significant web presence. His main site will be interesting and interactive, he promises, and he will make use of a campaign blog to give campaign updates and answer questions. He will also explore nontraditional tools such as MySpace and Friendster to reach out to younger voters. He wants to take cues from the success of Howard Dean, and establish an email list. He is planning on having his website up by March.

Derek Donnelly is an energetic, focused and extremely knowledgeable young man who seems determined to succeed in his race. It’s refreshing.

Donnelly’s website will be at www.electdonnelly.com and he can be contacted at electdonnelly[at]gmail.com.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


...Some days, I really hate working Sundays. Oh, well. More than a foot of snow out there. Getting home should be an adventure.

Post snow stories here, if you've got 'em.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Simmons in Trouble?

Rob Simmons has been downgraded. The influential Cook Political Report is now calling the 2nd District a "toss-up," according to the Journal Inquirer.

The Cook Political Report, an independent nonpartisan newsletter whose subscribers include lawmakers, lobbyists, trade groups, labor unions, and political action
committees, last week ranked the rematch between the three-term Republican from Stonington, Rep. Robert R. Simmons, and Vernon Democrat Joseph D. Courtney, as one that could go either way.
"Much of Simmons' future depends on the national mood," the newspaper said. "If it is anti-Republican, he will struggle to win." (Michak)

So, it is true? Is Simmons in trouble? Could his race actually go either way?

Sadly for Democrats, no. The race will be close, again, but, based on the current situation, Simmons is going to win. Here's why:

The Incumbent Rule

All things being equal, voters tend to favor the incumbent. Remember that. Things are pretty equal, right now. It's still Simmons's race to lose. It was Sam Gejedenson's race to lose in 2000--and he got careless and let Simmons steal it away. Simmons is much smarter than Sam was: Courtney will not sneak up on him.

National swing

The conventional wisdom is that this is going to be a Democratic year. For that to happen, however, Democrats need to give voters a compelling and easy-to-understand vision for what they would do if elected. This is how Republicans won in 1994: they capitalized on the fact that people were sick of the Democrats, and offered a simple, gripping alternative: less taxes, smaller government, end the welfare state. Pow!

People may vote against Republicans, but they show no signs of voting for Democrats, yet. Democrats are missing the second piece, and show no signs of developing it. Unless Democrats pick up the slack, the national swing won't be as large as they hope.

What are you for, again?

Courtney's platform is especially nebulous. His issues page has only a few hints about what he might do in Congress. Here are a few examples:

Joe Courtney will make protecting Social Security his top priority. He'll oppose any plan that jeopardizes the Social Security Trust Fund, or privatizes the system to put seniors' retirement savings into the unpredictable stock market. (Courtney)

Great, but it isn't enough to be against what the opposition is doing. Not in this close of a race. Here's another:

Joe Courtney has a consistent pro-worker record. During his tenure in the state legislature, he supported Connecticut's family and medical leave law, an increase in the minimum wage, and an increase in compensation benefits for workers who had been injured on the job. In his bid for Congress, he has already received the strong support of several labor organizations, including the Connecticut AFL-CIO, which endorsed him by a vote of 311-0.(Courtney)

That's a great statement, and labor support will help (somewhat). But so what? It's all good, down-to-earth stuff, but there's nothing that's innovative, bold or eye-catching. Granted, Simmons is exactly the same way. But, in order to win, Courtney has to clearly be the superior candidate with the superior ideas.

Two Words:

Sub base.

Simmons won because he pledged to save the sub base. The base, thanks in part to the efforts of the congressional delegation, is saved. While a lot of people may ask "What have you done for me lately?", many more will remember that up to 30,000 jobs were saved, just like Rob Simmons promised. If a Democratic year starts to tip the balance towards Courtney, the sub base swings it right back to Simmons.

It doesn't help that Courtney is from Vernon, far away from those who would be affected by the base closure.

War in the Trenches

Since the campaign isn't going to be about big ideas, it will instead devolve into a slugfest. Any campaign involving Rob Simmons is going to be amazingly dirty--indeed, 2000, 2002 and 2004 were not fun times to have an answering machine in the 2nd District. Every day in October, someone would leave a message telling me why one of the candidates was a terrible, horrible person, and why I ought to vote against them.

Simmons was much better at it. He thrives in the trenches, and never hesitates to sling mud. Courtney will try to sling mud right back, of course, but Simmons, again, has the edge.

Is Hope Lost for Courtney?

No. Not at all! It's still very close, and Courtney can make up a lot of ground later on in the year. But he can't run the race he ran in 2002. He needs to clearly define himself, if he can. He could, for example, sign on to some sort of national campaign finance reform. He could pledge to bring the reforms done in Connecticut to Washington. That would define him in a way that has yet to be done, and might compel people to vote for him instead of against Simmons.

If Democrats can better define themselves in a positive way all across the country, then Courtney's chances take a big leap forward, as well.

But, for now, Simmons still has the upper hand, if only ever so slightly.


Michak, Don. " 2nd District race seen as a toss-up." Journal-Inquirer 11 February, 2006.

Courtney for Congress: Issues. http://www.joecourtney.com/issues.php. 11 February, 2006.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Weekend Open Forum

...Because the other one was full.

The New Haven Independent says that some Democrats aren't going for the estate tax cut. Actually, most Democrats won't go for it. Really, the estate tax cut isn't going to pass this session--if ever.

Speaking of tax cuts, the Courant today explored the governor's plan to eliminate the car tax--and finds that it may not be all it's cracked up to be. The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities is also unhappy, although they've stopped short of dismissing the entire plan. I wonder if it would be better received if it wasn't going to trade the $350 homeowners' credit for the car tax cut? Is there a better way?

John Rowland released this statement about his release today. Amazing to think that if he hadn't been caught, he'd be winding down his third term right now, and no one would particularly care about Jodi Rell.

DeStefano/Sullivan? ...Nah.

Please check out the Researching Connecticut post below. Also note that there is a link to that post on the menu at the top right, as well. I hope people make use of it.

What else is going on?

Researching Connecticut

From time to time, I have posted information in the comment sections about how to conduct research, and where the best places are to find information online. However, I believe that we could still use a single page where all of the relevant information about researching Connecticut politics and history could be quickly and easily found. This will be that page: I'll link to it on the menu at the upper right when it's posted. You can add in your own research suggestions or research questions in the comment section.

Newspaper and other source links. A list of all the news sources in Connecticut.


ICONN.org is an excellent site that's too often ignored by us. Why should you care?

Two reasons. AP Photo Archive and a backfile of the Hartford Courant. Oh, yes. Well, InfoTrac OneFile is nice for general research, too, although they could use some spaces between their words.

Go to ICONN.org and enter your library card number. All Connecticut residents with a library card have access to this material. If you're a Connecticut resident: why don't you have a library card? Go get one. Now!

Once you're logged in, you'll see To search for information, you could use what is known as a "federated search" tool, which is the search box at the top of the page. This will search all of the ICONN databases. This is sort of useful, but won't allow you to see your results right away. I suggest going into a specific database. For this exercise, let's go into the Hartford Courant's recent archive. This is something that Lexis-Nexis doesn't have, by the way. Only ICONN has access to it.

Click on either "Select ICONN Resources" or "Link to Individual Databases." Either will get you where you want to go. Either way, you will see a list of databases. Find and click on "Hartford Courant." Don't click on "Hartford Courant-Historical," which searches the Courant from 1764-1922 (that is darn cool, but not relevant to most of us). You'll see a ProQuest seach interface with three search boxes, linked by Boolean terms like AND, OR and NOT, and a dropdown menu of fields you can search within, such as document title, author, document text, etc.

Below, you will see a menu for "Date Range." You may want to specify a specific date range, or keep things current. Select what you feel is useful for you.

Type your keywords into the search fields. Connect your keywords with Boolean connecting words like "AND" and "OR." For those of you who haven't used these, here's all you need to know: the word "AND" between two keywords tells the database to return records with both terms in the field you select, while the word "OR" tells the database to return records with either of the terms. Don't ever use "NOT." Trust me, you'll miss important things if you do. If you want to find an exact phrase, put quotes around it. This is just like Google.

Some examples: If you wanted to find articles about Jodi Rell, type "Jodi Rell" (note the quotes) into the search box. If you wanted to find articles that mentioned both DeStefano and Malloy, type DeStefano AND Malloy into the search box. If you wanted to find articles that mentioned either Ned Lamont or Lowell Weicker, you could type Lamont OR Weicker into the search box. If you limited the date to the past few months, you'd probably find what you were looking for with that last search.

The rest of ICONN is a great deal of fun to explore, especially AP Photo Archive. This is an amazingly fun database with pictures that are uploaded to the AP from all over the world. Really cool: check it out. And, if you happen to be sitting in the General Assembly, remember how useful ICONN is when it comes time to think about library funding.

(Note: Some of you may see slightly different things on ICONN, depending on your public library)


CT Heritage: This is a site run by the Connecticut Humanities Council, and is an archive of interesting historical information. The Connecticut Politics and Government: A Profile page is a good place to start any sort of political research. Unfortunately, the site only has information up through 1984, but it can be useful for analyzing historical political trends.

Connecticut State Library's Resources by subject page: This page is a list of subjects that the CT State Library has organized. It's very useful. For example, clicking on the "Public Policy" link will take you to a nice list of public policy links, most having to do with Connecticut.

The Secretary of the State's Office: I know. It's a nasty site, but it's still sometimes difficult to find useful election information here. It can be slow and hard to navigate, but it's still the only source of information for detailed election information.
A very nice page, however, is the TOWNS, CITIES AND BOROUGHS page, which is a list of information about every town in Connecticut. It's mostly up to date and accurate.

These are just some of the great sites that are out there. You can always suggest more in the comments.


Remember this when posting articles: don't quote the whole thing! That's plagiarism. We can post selections, as long as a link is provided to the original. I often feel this isn't always enough, and like to cite my sources anyway. Please make every effort to give credit where credit is due.

By the way, I don't mind if you quote me and don't give credit. However, a lot of other people do. So be careful!

Citing Sources

Do try to provide at least a link to whatever you're referencing. I cite most newspaper sources in full (providing author, title, source, date of publication--I use a slightly simplified MLA format) because I'm thinking about people looking at this site three months or more from now. Most of the links to newspaper articles have expired. I want to provide a way for people to find the original article, if they want (by, say, using ICONN!). Just something to think about.

I hope that this information is useful. There's a lot of information to gather out there, and the better informed we are, the smarter we're all going to sound. Please put suggestions, questions and anything else about research in the comments.

Rowland On the Loose!

It's February 10th. Do you know where your former governors are?

Former Gov. John G. Rowland, the once popular three-term governor who was driven from office by scandal, was released from a federal prison camp Friday after serving more than 10 months on a corruption charge.

Rowland, 48, was released at 5:20 a.m. from Loretto Federal Correctional Institution in western Pennsylvania, said Ruth Bracken, a prison spokeswoman.

He has three days to report to Connecticut probation officers, who will fit him with an electronic ankle bracelet and place him under house arrest for four months. He also must perform 300 hours of community service. (AP)

In the meantime, Ernest Newton is still staring at five years. Huh.

Rowland isn't done, yet--I'm sure of it. He is apparently a reformed Christian, now, and has been rumored to be working on some sort of horrible book about his experiences. I have a strange feeling that he'll try to run for public office again, someday--or at least get his own TV show.

For now, if you see him picking up trash in parks, be sure to tell him about campaign finance reform, civil unions, and an 74% approval rating for his successor. That should be fun.


"Former Connecticut governor released from federal prison." Associated Press 10 February, 2006.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Open Forum

There are a lot of people out there--Democrats and others--who are unimpressed by Gov. Rell's State of the State yesterday: including the Courant editorial board.

There may be another Democrat in the race to suceed Sen. Chris Murphy in the 16th Senatorial District: Southington councilman David Zoni.

The First Selectman of Westbrook is in trouble for extortion and coercion. He was arrested Tuesday, but is back at work today. What is it with this state?

I think some supporters are getting a little antsy about the apparent lack of action on Ned Lamont's part, despite the fact that the entire staff of CCAG is now working for his campaign. (Update: Tom Swan informs me that he is, in fact, the only member of CCAG to have joined the Lamont campaign. Record righted.)

Don't forget to vote in the State of the State polls on the sidebar below the maps!

What else is going on?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

State of the State II

We've already had a pretty thorough discussion about the governor's signature proposal for the upcoming session-the elimination of municipal property taxes paid on cars. I still think it's a good idea, and I hope the legislature considers it with an open mind.

That said, let's look at some of the other big proposals:

Department of Business and Employment

Ah, a new department, risen from the ashes of Peter Ellef's DECD. The big question is whether or not it will actually be functional. The DECD wasn't.

Business Tax Credits

Rell proposed two new business tax credits:

The first is the Job Creation Tax Credit. A company that creates 50 or more new jobs will be eligible for a tax credit based on the estimated withholding tax paid by the new employees. This provides an incentive to create jobs and ties it to a new source of revenue for the state.

The other is the Displaced Worker Tax Credit. A company will be able to take a credit against their corporate tax for hiring laid-off workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. The skilled workers at Stop & Shop, U.S. Repeating Arms and Electric Boat, among others, deserve our best efforts to help them find new, well-paying jobs right here in Connecticut.

I usually don't like tax giveaways to corporations. It often feels like we're in a bidding war with other states to see how low we can make our taxes for corporations. It's a war a high-service state like CT can't win. However, these credits are directly tied to hiring practices, and make it easier for companies to hire more workers. This is good. If we're going to give companies tax breaks, let's do it right.

Estate Tax Elimination

Gov. Rell would also like to rid us of the estate tax:

I am seeking an immediate elimination of the so-called cliffs and a doubling of the amount of an estate that is exempt from the estate tax. I am proposing that the estate tax be phased [out] completely.

The state raked in over $130 million from the estate tax last year. 5% of an estate seems to go to the state.

I have no problem with that. I don't quite buy the line that we're driving rich people away, and that's a ton of revenue to give up. How is she going to pay for her big-ticket tax cuts and transportation plan if that revunue is lost? It should stay. Common sense.

Utility Tax Cut

While we're cutting taxes...

To help consumers, I am proposing a 25% across-the-board cut in the state’s public utilities tax beginning this July. This change will lower everyone’s electric and gas bills, saving businesses and consumers an estimated $45 million next fiscal year.

Everyone was a little stunned by the huge CL&P rate increase this year, so this seems like a way to calm everyone down.

I know it's a popular tax cut for an election year, but... how are we going to pay for it?

Department of Energy

A new Department of Energy would develop a state-wide energy policy, conduct market analysis, promote energy efficiency and new technologies, participate in proceedings before federal agencies and act as a liaison between state and local governments.

I'm ambivalent about this new department. I could see how it might come up with some innovative solutions, but then again... it could just sit there.

The Surplus

I am committed to retiring state debt and increasing our Rainy Day Fund. To that end, I am dedicating $85.5 million of the surplus to pre-funding two outstanding debt payments payable in 2008 and 2009.

Further, I am proposing that $335 million of the surplus be deposited into the state’s Rainy Day Fund. This represents the largest single deposit ever made and will provide us with a highest-ever balance of $940 million.

I like the idea of socking away a good portion of this money into the Rainy Day Fund (instead of, say, sending out $50 refund checks like Rowland did in 1998) and paying down the debt. What about the state teachers' retirement fund? This is a pressing obligation that should be dealt with--not ignored.


As part of my budget initiative, I am proposing to build on last year’s progress by adding another $344 million in additional transportation improvements over the next several years.

My commitment includes: Commuter Rail Service between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield, including connections between the rail lines and Bradley International Airport; $50 million for the 9.4 mile New Britain Busway that will serve twelve stations in New Britain, Newington, West Hartford and Hartford; rail station and parking improvements on the New Haven Line and Shore Line East; facility and service improvements on the New Haven Line’s Danbury, New Canaan and Waterbury branch lines; rehabilitation of forty locomotive pulled passenger coaches used on the branch lines; and improved transit connections between rail stations and employment centers.

Good. Fine. What, no Route 11? Oh, well. We should just rename the unfinished part of that corridor the Thomas J. Meskill Memorial Hiking Trail and Wilderness Preserve, for all the pavement it will ever see.


There's a lot to like here, but not too much that's particularly new or surprising (save the elimination of the car tax). I'm a bit concerned with how we're going to pay for a lot of Rell's tax cuts or credits. There was, as Dan Malloy noted, no mention of health care, although the governor has proposed a modest increase for nursing homes.

The big fight this year, then, will be over taxes. We saw that few of the governor's party stood with her on campaign finance reform. This year, they will doubtless all stand with her on her tax proposals. The Democrats could be fractured enough to pass a signifant portion of them, including the elimination of the car tax.

Rell gave a strong speech, and has placed herself in even better position for the campaign season. We'll see how much actually gets done by May.

Two polls about the State of the State will be up shortly. Vote!

Text of speech

Proposed Midterm Budget Adjustments

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

State of the State

The State of the State address will be delivered Wednesday at noon. If you aren't near a TV, you can watch the speech on the web via CT-N. Gov. Rell is expected to outline her transportation and economic initiatives. Legislative Democrats have already beat her to the punch, proposing massive transportation improvements that will take new taxes, tolls, or both to fund.

I'll be on the road during the speech, too far north to catch WTIC or other Connecticut radio stations, so I'll have to catch up when I return. Commentary about the speech and the start of the legislative session can go here.

Update 2:30pm: The big focus is on Rell's startling proposal to eliminate municipal property tax on cars. Here's the relevant text from the speech:

Under my plan, beginning this July you will no longer have to write a check for your car taxes. It will be a thing of the past, and the real property tax relief that so many have been talking about for so long will finally become a reality.

Direct property tax relief, with money actually put in the wallets of taxpayers. Not indirect property tax relief that is little more than spending relief for elected officials.
How we can afford to do this?

We will intercept the $435 million we collect each year in casino revenue along with another $61 million in General Fund revenue to ensure municipalities will not lose local revenue as a result of the elimination of the property tax on automobiles. The balance of my Casino Assistance Revenue or CAR grant will come from eliminating the $350 property tax credit that some taxpayers received.
If you are a Bridgeport resident who owns a 2003 Four-Door Taurus Wagon, you are paying $309 in annual property taxes. The same exact car carries a tax of $103 in New Canaan. So, a taxpayer in Bridgeport pays a tax bill that is 3 times higher than a taxpayer in New Canaan.

I like the idea. It will benefit more people than the current homeowners' tax credit, and it does away with a disparity between cities and wealthier towns.

Rell: Streamline Economic Development Agencies

Gov. Rell is calling for the reorganization and centralization of economic development services, including the appointment of an economic development director to oversee all of the agencies involved.

"Connecticut business needs a single focal point, and that will be my office," Rell said Monday. "For too long, businesses already in Connecticut and those contemplating moving here have received mixed messages from the maze of agencies working on economic development policy. That will end." (Keating)

The Department of Economic and Community Development is on the list to be restructured, as are several other agencies.

Democrats aren't impressed. Dan Malloy, in a campaign press release, said "Governor Rell, the political candidate in an election year, is now putting forth a campaign strategy for jobs," (Malloy) while rival John DeStefano said "This is another in a series of Jodi Rell’s election-year epiphanies. Reorganizing state agencies is something she could have done a year ago," (DeStefano).

Indeed, it does seem like a small move, especially compared with the massive (and expensive) plans DeStefano unveiled last week. Rell is expected to outline further economic plans in her State of the State tomorrow, but I doubt we'll hear anything that's really innovative or bold.

Still, there is not yet a sense of economic crisis in the state. One may develop as the year progresses, but I doubt it. The economic leakage is too slow to attract much notice.

It would be nice to see the legislative leadership pick up the slack on jobs and development, and it looks like this year they're seriously considering taking it under advisement. We'll see if they can manage anything new or creative during the short session.

In the meantime, jobs, wealth and people continue to trickle south.


DeStefano for Connecticut press release: "Statement by Mayor John DeStefano on Governor Rell’s Announcement of Economic Plan." 6 February, 2006.

Keating, Christopher. "Rell Takes On The Economy." Hartford Courant 7 February, 2006.

Malloy for Governor press release: "Malloy Reacts to Governor Rell's Economic Development Press Release." 6 February, 2006.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Moody Won't Be Charged

According to an AP article just released, gubernatorial chief-of-staff Lisa Moody is off the hook:

Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano said criminal prosecution of Lisa Moody is not warranted.
He said no criminal statutes bar the governor's chief of staff or her commissioners from campaigning on state property and said the use of state time was too minimal to warrant a larceny charge. Such a charge would have required an intent to defraud the state.
Morano said no criminal charges against anyone will be filed in the case. (AP)

So that's that. I believe that an ethics investigation is still ongoing, although I could be wrong about that.


"Moody Did Not Violate Law." Associated Press 6 February, 2006.

Open Forum

Senate Republicans and Democrats, as well as House Democrats, are expected to lay out their legislative agendas for the upcoming short session today. At issue will be what, exactly, to do with the surplus, as well as competing transportation plans and economic initiatives. There's a lot to get done in a very, very short twelve-week session. It's past time to consider expanding the length of the session or making the legislature full-time.

The Lamont campaign seems to be aquiring personnel. I'm amazed at how slowly the Lamont campaign is forming. This should have been done last month. If Lamont announces in early to mid-March, as I've been hearing, he'll have only six weeks or less before the convention.

Tolls are under consideration again, but this time only for Fairfield County. Well, one more reason to never travel through there, unless it's on a train.

New London's mayor is proposing a compromise that would allow four of the remaining six Kelo plaintiffs to stay in their homes for the rest of their lives. The plaintiffs would be tenants, however, and not actually own the homes.

What else is happening today?