Strange as that may sound, more and more, that's the way it seems - at least to is in North Central CT. First, consider the make-up of the electorate in Enfield. In a town of over 45,000 residents Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1. However, even with the large margin, not all Democrats have enjoyed success in Enfield. Enfield is a town that votes very independently and you certainly have to work for each and every vote. Rob Simmons has captured Enfield the 2 times he has run since Enfield was moved from the old 5th to the new 2nd. John Rowland won Enfield by a large margin 4 years ago. We have had a Republican State Senator for over 10 years and up until 2003, the Republicans enjoyed a majority on the Town Council for almost a decade.
That being said, there are numerous reasons to think Enfield may in fact be the center of the political universe. Well at least Connecticut's.
(I decided not to get into issues of individual campaigns but rather focus on the dynamics of each race. Also, I fully admit I may be biased since I do live in Enfield.)
2nd Congressional District
Enfield is the largest town in the 2nd Congressional District and has gotten loads of attention the past 2 elections for this reason alone. Four years ago, former President Clinton stumped for Courtney in, where else, Enfield. In that same election, Simmons had both Chris Shays and Nancy Johnson, who represented Enfield for years before Rob, working on his behalf. They went so far as to do door to door campaigning. While I realize many people reading this dislike Nancy Johnson presently, she has long been an Enfield favorite by both Democrats & Republicans alike so it meant a lot to voters seeing her on their door step endorsing Simmons. With the election this year being dubbed the race which could tip the scales of Congress it's sure to be more of the same. Already we have seen Enfield in the spotlight with a fundraiser in Enfield by the Courtney campaign and one is planned next month for the Simmons campaign. The Simmons campaign has already said they will have a campaign office in Enfield and I am sure that Courtney will do the same. If you asked either candidate, "if you could get help in any town, what town would it be?", I would bet the ranch they both say Enfield. With his next election 4 years away, don't be surprised to see Chris Dodd in town to support Courtney "reclaim" the seat that Dodd once held. Beyond Dodd, I have already heard Hillary rumors for Courtney and Rudy rumors for Simmons.
7th Senatorial District
In the 7th Senatorial race there is a re-match of 2 years with incumbent John Kissel facing a challenge from Bill Kiner. Kiner lost to Kissel in what turned out to be the closest Senate campaign in the state. Same people, except this race is now targeted my BOTH the Senate Democrats and the Senate Republicans. Both are very popular district-wide but with the bulk of voters residing in Enfield it will once again be the main battlefield. Kiner has been everywhere the past 2 years as he hopes to return to the State House. He was a longtime State Rep before retiring to raise his family. To his credit, Kissel has also increased his visibility the past 2 years after his 2004 scare. This race was a relatively clean one last time and I would expect more of the same as both men stick to issues but with so much on the line, the money is sure to pour out of both campaigns into Enfield.
59th House Race
There is no incumbent running for this seat. Kind of. Rep. Steve Jarmoc announced his retirement but in almost the same breath, his wife, Karen, announced her intentions to run. My understanding is that she has secured enough delegates to run and will be on the November ballot. While a Republican has not yet announced candidacy, I am assured that it is coming soon enough. If that is the case, don't expect Karen Jarmoc, who has never run for any office, to take whoever it may be lightly. This race should have 2 active campaigns to go along with all the others.
The Tallarita(s) Factor
Enfield's Mayor, Patrick Tallarita happens to be the Treasurer for Joe Courtney's campaign. I would guess the reasoning for this is that Courtney hopes to capitalize on Tallarita's popularity. He was the highest vote getter by a wide margin in the 2005 municipal election and Courtney is hoping that his popularity will translate into a Courtney win in Enfield, and ultimately the District. Then there is the Mayor's sister, Kathleen Tallarita, the State Rep from the 58th District and the Asst. Majority Leader. Kathy has enjoyed enviable popularity since taking over for the late Fred Gelsi 10 years ago. The election 2 years ago was the first time she even had an opponent since winning the seat on her first try and no Republican has announced as of yet. She has already pledged her support to Courtney and to Dan Malloy and if she has no opponent, she is free to stump for both men. That leads me to my next point. As I posted a few weeks ago, there are still rumors swirling around that if Tallarita (the mayor) can deliver all the Enfield delegates to Malloy, and one would assume he could, that he would get the nod for Lt. Governor. If you think about it, it makes sense. Pat is a popular mayor in a large Democrat leaning town targeted by 2 other campaigns so one would think that turn-out will be higher. He has some recognition state-wide, and it even makes sense geographically. Should this happen, even more attention would shift to Enfield.
The Rell Factor
The Rell factor is important. Kissel has long been a favorite of the Governor and with his seat being targeted, I am sure she will be right there to help. The last thing she needs is for her to win but the Democrats to gain a veto majority in the Senate. Additionally, she and Simmons worked closely together to save New London's Sub Base and with her record popularity she should be able to stump for both men while campaigning for herself. Additionally, she has always been visible Enfield. When Rowland was undecided on running in 2002, she actually kicked off her not so much a campaign in Enfield two years ago she was there to help Simmons and Kissel on a couple different occasions.
Now I am sure many would make the case for their own city or town being the center of Connecticut's political universe but these races speak volumes about this cozy little community's ability to keep the politicos on there toes.