Remember the governor's race? Dan Malloy lost a close one. John DeStefano somehow survived.
Newspapers are saying that DeStefano’s labor support helped to put him over the top, but it’s worth pointing out that DeStefano had the lion’s share of the unions. Malloy, on the other hand, had almost no union support—but still came within 4,000 votes of DeStefano. Republicans are arguing that this means the unions’ power is waning. It’s more likely that without such strong union support, DeStefano would have lost by 10,000 or more—so they still matter.
That doesn’t bode well for the general election. Union support matters a lot less in November than it does in Democratic primaries.
Mary Glassman’s surprising victory—the most decisive win out of all the statewide races—is probably the best thing to happen to the Democrats on Tuesday. DeStefano’s candidacy is much enhanced by her presence. How to explain it? Glassman won by a significant margin in almost every town in Connecticut. Maybe women voters were sending a message to the Democratic Party, or maybe this really was Audrey Blondin’s revenge. Then again, maybe people just didn’t like Scott Slifka. There’s probably some truth to all three, although the first may have been the biggest factor. Regardless, DeStefano/Glassman is a more viable ticket than DeStefano/Slifka.
Of course, that ticket will now have to deal with Jodi Rell (and her LG pick, what’s-his-name), who is still a popular governor after two years. Voters like Rell, and not just because she isn’t John Rowland. DeStefano will have to convince voters that the state is in the middle of all kinds of crises that Rell is doing nothing about in order to win. Luckily for Rell, that’s not actually true. Connecticut isn’t doing great—but neither are things as bad as they were in 1990. The biggest catastrophe that could have befallen the state—the closure of the Groton Sub Base—was averted in large part because of the efforts of Rell and other Republicans like Rob Simmons. There has also been significant campaign finance reform, again largely thanks to Rell. Without her support and constant pushing, I seriously doubt the Democrat-led General Assembly would have passed such a strong bill. Rell has disappointed on several fronts, to be sure, including serious property tax reform, health care and ethics. But by and large, voters think she’s doing a good job. DeStefano has been trying to convince them for two years that she’s a failure as a governor. His message has yet to catch on—and, with only three months to go and not a lot of money to play with, it may never.
Then again, Connecticut politics over the past few years has been all about the impossible coming to pass (remember Jarjura?). I’m not ruling out a DeStefano win. But he’s going to have to work hard, and his campaign will have to be a lot better for the general election than it was for the primary.