Home CT Elections: Local, State & Federal CT Maps Links Help About CT Research CT History

!!! Connecticut Local Politics has moved! Please go to http://www.ctlocalpolitics.net for new content!

Friday, March 31, 2006

Senate 1970: Threading The Needle

"I believe in God and Senator Dodd and keepin' old Castro down."
--Phil Ochs, "Draft Dodger Rag"

The 1970 election was a major turning point in Connecticut's political history: not only because of the candidates who were elected that year, but also because it marked the decline of the power of the nominating convention, and the rise of the statewide primary. I will focus on the U.S. Senate race of that year, which contains some parallels to the Senate race of 2006, but at some future point the governor's race, which produced a most unexpected result, will also be examined.

A Bitter Primary

Senator Thomas J. Dodd was a controversial figure in 1970, that much was certain. Dodd, a conservative Democrat who was best known for his high-profile role in the Nuremburg trials and his staunch opposition to communism, was first elected to the Senate in 1958 after having lost the 1956 race to Prescott Bush. He was easily re-elected in 1964, but faced charges in 1967 that he had used campaign funds raised at political testmionals for his own personal expenses. Although the Attorney General of the United States later declined to press charges against Dodd, the Senate censured him in April of 1967. This black mark on his record, coupled with his support for an increasingly unpopular war and fading health, made him an uncertain prospect at best for 1970.

Liberal Democrats began rallying around the Rev. Joe Duffey, a supporter of Eugene McCarthy's failed presidential bid and head of the antiwar group Americans for Democratic Action. Duffey also led the progressive, antiwar Caucus of Connecticut Democrats, of which a young attorney named Joe Lieberman was a founding member (Lieberman, 167). Senate Majority Leader Ed Marcus and the more conservative Stamford lawyer Al Donahue, who was backed by the state Democratic machine (Lieberman, 169), were the other Democrats in the race. Secretary of the State Ella Grasso and Mayor Richard Lee of New Haven were also mentioned as possible candidates, but Grasso decided to seek the 6th District Congressional seat and Lee retired from public life ("Dodd").

On the Republican side, attention was focused on U.S. Rep. Thomas Meskill of New Britain. However, the announcement by popular Gov. John Dempsey that he wouldn't be seeking another term prompted Meskill to seek the governor's chair instead. In early 1970, Meskill met with another U.S. Representative, Lowell Weicker of Greenwich to inform him that he was running for governor, and to encourage Weicker to run for Senate instead. According to Weicker, Meskill wanted the Greenwich Republican on the ticket because "'...We have to have a balanced ticket, in terms of philosophy and geography,'" (Weicker, 34). Weicker was a moderate-to-liberal Republican from Fairfield County, while Meskill was a conservative from New Britain. Weicker thought it over for a week, and then decided to run.

Dodd did his best to highlight the fact that he had not been prosecuted, but found little support among Connecticut Democrats. Neither Democratic Party chair John Bailey nor Gov. Dempsey publicly supported any of the candidates, but just before the convention Sen. Abe Ribicoff endorsed Duffey.

Worse, Dodd suffered a heart attack and was unable to campaign. He saw the writing on the wall and withdrew his name from contention for the Democratic nomination, although he left open the possibility of an independent run.

Donahue won the convention, but Duffey had enough delegates to force a primary in August. In late July, Dodd re-entered the campaign as an independent, causing John Bailey to remark that "...any action like this can't help but hurt the party," (Treaster, "Dodd"). Many assumed Dodd would play the role of the spoiler, and that he had little chance of victory. An interesting twist was that, according to Weicker, Nixon hatchet man Murray Chotiner offered to encourage Dodd to enter the race to improve Weicker's chances. Weicker declined, but Dodd entered the race anyway (Weicker, 36).

In August, Duffey won the Democratic primary by a wide margin over Donahue and Marcus, and the stage was set for a three-way race. In an interesting sidenote, Joe Lieberman was nominated for Ed Marcus's state senate seat.

Left, Right, Center

The campaign was really a race between Weicker and Duffey, with Dodd the variable. Two factors helped to swing the election in Weicker's direction. The first was a visit by President Nixon to Hartford and Stamford on October 12th. Nixon was well-received and helped to boost the chances of both Meskill and Weicker. There's a photo of Nixon in Hartford, in which he actually climbed out of his car and climbed up to greet construction men. It's obvious that they were thrilled to get a chance to meet the president, and they're hanging all over him in a happy mob. Nixon looks uncomfortable, as usual. If I can find that photo online, I'll post a link to it.

The second event was the debate between Weicker, Duffey and Dodd which took place on October 26th in New Haven. Duffey attacked Dodd for his conservative voting record, saying that Dodd had voted with Republicans 60% of the time. Dodd defended his record, although he evaded answering some questions directly (Treaster, "Weicker"). Weicker scored the most points, though, by attacking Dodd as too conservative and Duffey as too liberal. Weicker later recalled the moment he thinks swung the election for him:
Looking at Dodd, I said, "It's the Tom Dodds of this world that create the Joseph Duffeys." I was trying to establish myself as the only middle-ground candidate; portraying Dodd as out of touch and suggesting that the result of his inattention might be to put a radical in office.

Within forty-eight hours of the debate, polls showed that I had jumped out ahead (Weicker, 37).
Weicker would remain in the lead. On Election Day of 1970, he defeated Duffey by a little under 90,000 votes. Dodd, clearly the spoiler in the race, received more than 266,000 votes.

Weicker had deftly threaded the needle between left and right, and come out ahead. He would come to national attention during Watergate as one of the few Republicans to condemn Nixon, and would earn the ire of his fellow Republicans for it. Ironically, he would lose to a conservative Democrat, Joe Lieberman, in 1988.

Duffey faded back into quiet obscurity, although his group lingered on for a little while longer. His loss was a blow to the peace movement.

As for Dodd, he died of a heart attack in May of 1971. Nine years later, in 1980, his son Chris would run for the Senate and win. He is still there today.

Implications for 2006

There are a few parallels between 1970 and 2006. A more liberal, antiwar candidate is once again challenging a conservative hawk for the Democratic nomination. The possibility that Lieberman would run as an independent should he lose the nomination also exists.

However, Joe Lieberman is not nearly in so precarious a position as Tom Dodd was, and Ned Lamont doesn't have the years of exposure and the national organization that Joe Duffey had. On the Republican side, there is no one with the popularity, name recognition and moderation of Lowell Weicker except Gov. Jodi Rell, who is definitely not running, and possibly Rep. Chris Shays. Alan Schlesinger, should he run, will almost certainly try to thread the same needle Weicker did, but he will start from a much more difficult position.

This doesn't mean that Lamont and Schlesinger don't have a chance. They do. Times are different, and new variables such as the internet will come into play this season. But it's clear that Lieberman is not Tom Dodd, and that this race will be, in the end, a very different one from the 1970 campaign.


"Dodd Will Seek 3rd Senate Term." New York Times 7 Januray, 1970.

Lieberman, Joseph I. The Legacy: Connecticut Politics 1930-1980. Spoonwood Press: Hartford, 1981.

Treaster, Joseph. "Dodd To Campaign as Independent." New York Times 24 July, 1970, p. 38.

Treaster, Joseph. "Weicker Assails Two Rivals in Connecticut Senate-Race Debate." New York Times 28 October, 1970, p. 34.

Weicker, Lowell. Maverick: A Life in Politics. Little, Brown and Company: Boston, 1995.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear GC...as one who worked for Duffy that year...

You cannot compare that campaign with Lamont/Lieberman...the laws,players,population and terrain has changed dramatically...To compare both campaigns is meaningless.

Lamont/Lieberman must stand on their own and be sui generis...

I first met Bill Clinton in the Duffy campaign...he prolly is supporting Lieberman...

Lamont will have a chance in the Democratic primary ONLY if the citizens detect that his campaign is a true center/left coalition...right now this is alot of " left" but not much " center"

3/31/2006 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just so everyone knows:

The McDonald's on Rogers Street in Lowell, right across from Stadium Plaza, now has cheeseburgers for 30 cents every Tuesday from 4-7 pm. YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now if they'd only bring back the McRib...

3/31/2006 12:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with the Duffey campaign was that once he won the primary, he brought in out of state party people to run the operation and demoted the staff that passionately worked hard to help win the primary. The campaign lost the feel of a grassroots center-left movement and became a national democratic liberal campaign with even Ted Kennedy coming in to campaign for Duffey.

3/31/2006 12:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One major difference between the Duffey campaign and the Lamont campaign is the incredible staff and tech-savy volunteers that Lamont has been able to attract.
There is little doubt among political watchers that Lieberman is going down in August, the question is, will Lieberman pull a Tom Dodd on us and give us Paul Streitz??

3/31/2006 01:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"incredible staff" for lamont?

are those the guys who helped rappaport get crushed by larson in a primary?

3/31/2006 01:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

more like the guys who put Sen. Meyer in office

3/31/2006 01:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lamont's staff is not nearly as media competent as whiny Sean Smith.

3/31/2006 02:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If we're speaking in terms of Meyer/Lamont the term is not "staff" rather "goons"

3/31/2006 02:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

everyone knows that jodi rell put meyer in office bc she wanted aniskovish out. was not the work of some kind of brilliant campaign staff. however it was funny to see rick melita leading ned around last night passing by the chairs with the non-union bug pencils.

3/31/2006 02:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i saw the over-weight staff of Lamont...not one of them has ever run a state-wide campaign or has any experience in a senior state-wide race.

Technical support doesnt win races...convincing voters that you have the right policy positions does...

3/31/2006 02:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is a senior state-wide race?

3/31/2006 02:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I SAW that Melita ( 350 pounds) has been designated field manager...will he be the one getting the cheeseburgs,chips,fries and coke for the office feedings?

Tell me what statewide race he has run the field before?

3/31/2006 02:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Franks said...


You didn't offer a view on the result of Lamont primary loss, does Weicker enter as an independent? This possibility has to offer a closer parallel to the 1970 race.

3/31/2006 02:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Melita said...

I'm 375. Not 350. But I can still squeeze into that pruple T-shirt.
Holy shit...30 cent burgers!!!

3/31/2006 02:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thats funny..the same people you call overweight are going to smoke Joe in a ground game in August.

3/31/2006 02:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thats funny..the same people you call overweight are going to smoke Joe in a ground game in August.

3/31/2006 02:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a "senior statewide race means the constiutional officers...or senators...not one of Lamonts folks have any prior experience managing or in a senior role in a prior statewide race and it shows...

Having Jim dean sit at the head of the Lamont table is stupid...Lamont already has the left...what about the center?

He should have had a mainstream politician sit at the head of his table...

3/31/2006 02:38:00 PM  
Anonymous melita said...

Yea, we're gonna smoke Joe with some Applewood Hickory flavor. Then feast. And for desert....30 cent burgers

3/31/2006 02:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon 2:37 the only thing your smoking is dope...

3/31/2006 02:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Joe Duffey still in Connecticut?

3/31/2006 02:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't wait to see the polls after the state convention showing Lieberman trailing Lamont among likely voters!!!!

3/31/2006 02:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Great Santini said...

Nice summary, GC. Let's face it, a vote for Lamont isn't a vote against Joe Lieberman. It's a vote against George Bush and a vote for Bush's impeachment. Hate politics rarely works - - I believe the Democratic Party will be much worse off if it turns out Joe.

3/31/2006 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger ctkeith said...

Dam you Malita,

You got me by 10 lbs.Does that mean I have to buy those Burgers AGAIN?

3/31/2006 10:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon 2:45 joe duffy married ann wexler his campain manager and they moved to DC where she became a lobbyist and eventually he got a mid leval job with clinton...they both live in dc

3/31/2006 11:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Get a hold of your blog, please. Can you start taking down the personal invective aimed at campaign staffers?

And the guy who posted as "Melita" deserves to be banned. I've never known a blog where usurping someone's identity wasn't a bannable offense.

3/31/2006 11:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never known blog where participants actively request the "banning" of another. Occupational hazard for us "bloggers". If you ignore it, it'll probably go away. Your fueling the fire/

3/31/2006 11:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey P-Rick....if you can't take heat, keep your arse out the burgers.

And good for you, fat chicks need love too.

3/31/2006 11:42:00 PM  
Blogger Genghis Conn said...

Remember that whole "civility" thing?

3/31/2006 11:48:00 PM  
Anonymous LamontdonatedtoLieberman said...

The problem with the Lamont staff at the JJB was the same problem that Dean's volunteers had in New Hampshire. They all looked like Hippies, social misfits or wierdos and the rest of us didn't take them seriously or were nervous because they talked to us for way to long and made us feel uncomfortable.

oh and btw- aniskovich was abandoned by rell and the R's becauase they saw him as a threat. There was no way that Transfer-Senator Meyer couldn't have won...so don't take too much credit Deaniacs.

3/31/2006 11:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Plant Reality said...

Wake up call from Planet Reality:

* Lieberman will crush Lamont like a bug

* Rell will crush DeStefano like a bug

* The extreme left wing will remain as irrelevant as they have been since 1971

* Howard Dean is an asshole, and the yeeeeeeearghh thing proved it, in case it somehow got past you a couple years ago

* Most Republicans aren't that wowed by GWB either, but we'd sure rather have him than AlGore or Gutless Kerry instead

Just so you know

4/01/2006 12:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, impressive going this late. What a party we are! Hey Gehngis, where'd that last repost come from ("lamontdonatedtolieberman")? Can't find it on here.

4/01/2006 12:18:00 AM  
Anonymous bluecoat said...

On the Most Republicans aren't that wowed by GWB either comment - Apparently that's more true than it sounds: Rick Torres, chairman of the Bridgeport Republican Town Committee, said he hasn't been invited to the speech.

"I don't know why he's coming. People are generally running from him," said Torres, who owns a market in Black Rock and is a former GOP candidate for mayor. "This was not organized by a political organization in the state."
as reported in today's front page CT Post here

Torres, a former Democrat who was handpicked by Shays to challenge Fabrizi for Mayor last time around, wasn't real happy about Shays' endorsement of Lieberman either.

4/01/2006 10:47:00 AM  
Anonymous mod.dem.like.jfk said...

Lamot drops out of Senate race!

See courant.com!

4/01/2006 11:19:00 AM  
Anonymous mod.dem.like.jfk said...

April Fools!

4/01/2006 11:20:00 AM  
Anonymous bluecoat said...

Boos show Joe’s hold on Dems is shaky is the headline from today's NHR take on Thursday night's dinner reported here

4/01/2006 11:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

GC, does lieberman's opposition to a complete/immediate troop withdrawal qualify him as a "conservative hawk"?

4/01/2006 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a very real chance that we could have a complete sweep in Congressional races and knock out Shays, Simmons and Johnson. The tide is turning and empty rhetoric is being exposed.

4/01/2006 12:53:00 PM  
Anonymous MikeCT said...

The Lieberman campaign is off the a great start with their message development - offline and online!

Offline: Criticizing Bush is unpatriotic, criticizing Lieberman is personal. Joe hasn't had a conversation with Connecticut residents in a long time.
Online: Lamont supporters look funny, they're icky, and they eat hamburgers.

Keep it up, Joe! You and your infantile crew of volunteers should completely run aground any day now.

4/01/2006 01:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there's also the chance a meteor strike will end civilization prior to November

4/01/2006 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger Don Pesci said...


"I believe in God and Senator Dodd and keepin' old Castro down."
--Phil Ochs, "Draft Dodger Rag"

In the context of the times, Ochs' song is instructive. It's generally forgotten -- and never mentioned in discussions of the Dodd (pere/Duffy/Weicker race that Duffey was the anti-Vietnam war dove. Dodd, unlike his son, was an agressive anti Castroite and anti-communist. Weicker was a raging war hawk, and a conservative. Only later did his world view develop those amazing twists and turns for which he became famous. His pro-war message was one of the reasons Weicker was able to prevail in the race.

4/02/2006 08:04:00 AM  
Blogger Genghis Conn said...

Very true, Don. In fact, during the first and only debate in October, another of Weicker's memorable lines was that "a nice warm jail cell" awaited draft dodgers. If I had to guess, I'd say a higher number of conservatives voted for him in that election than in any of his subsequent contests--especially post-Watergate.

4/02/2006 08:53:00 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

very informative considering the new climate.

-The American Moderate Party

8/09/2006 07:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Billie Dickey said...

The ONLY SIMILARITY between Christopher Dodd and his courageous, principled, loyal-to-freedom-and-America-Father, the Hon.Thomas J. Dodd, is their membership in the US Senate.

8/09/2006 01:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where i can find the good translator?
Online or software. Please help.

12/19/2006 03:12:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home