Sunday, April 30, 2006

Gubernatorial Polls

It's almost May, which means the conventions are almost upon us. Let's do a little unscientific polling, shall we?


If the Democratic gubernatorial primary were today, who would you vote for?
John DeStefano
Dan Malloy
Free polls from Pollhost.com


If the gubernatorial election were today and the candidates were John DeStefano (D) and Jodi Rell (R), who would you vote for?
John DeStefano
Jodi Rell
Free polls from Pollhost.co

If the gubernatorial election were today and the candidates were Dan Malloy (D) and Jodi Rell (R), who would you vote for?
Dan Malloy
Jodi Rell
Free polls from Pollhost.com
This can be an open forum.

Rell Distances Herself from Sullivan

In an editorial published today in the Hartford Courant, Gov. Rell distanced herself from the growing crisis in the judicial branch of government.
The dramatic events of the past week involving the highest members of Connecticut's judicial branch of government should prompt an overhaul in the way that branch conducts its business. The time has come to subject this separate branch of government to Connecticut's historic freedom of information laws.
...
The revelations of the last week will, hopefully, provide the impetus for greater accountability and public scrutiny of court operations. These revelations involved a former chief justice, who first told me last December that he was contemplating retiring and then made it official March 15 in a letter to me. He has acknowledged that his delaying the announcement of a court ruling was to help the person I nominated as his successor.
...
Now the General Assembly's Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on these revelations. I will take no further action on a nomination for chief justice until all questions are answered. But we need more than a hearing. We need fundamental reforms to ensure that this never happens again. (Rell)
I agree, we need to shine a light on the judicial branch. It's long overdue.

But this doesn't quite get Rell off the hook. Zarella's nomination was extremely quick--happening at the exact same moment as Sullivan's retirement announcement. Rell also seemed to be in a terrible rush to get Zarella through the nomination process. Why?

At the time, the delay over Zarella seemed like a tug-of-war between the legislative and executive branches, but Justice Borden's principled revelation of Sullivan's attempt to grease the wheels changes things. Now we need to ask whether the executive branch was complicit in improperly helping Zarella's nomination along, and denying information to the legislative branch.

And we should. Access to and control of information is at the very heart of both the ruling that Sullivan had delayed and the bungled nomination process. It could absolutely be that Rell had no knowledge of what Sullivan was up to, or knowingly did anything to improperly speed Zarella's nomination along. But we should be sure of that. We should ask--and she should answer.

See also Colin McEnroe's excellent column today.

Source

Rell, M. Jodi. "GOVERNOR: It's Time To Let A Little More Light Shine On Courts." Hartford Courant 30 April, 2006.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Rell on Losing Side of Budget Compromise

Governor's Tax Repeals Scrapped

Gov. Rell and the Democratic legislature today reached a tentative agreement on the budget which leaves out most of the governor's plans:
Gov. M. Jodi Rell and Democratic legislative leaders agreed Saturday to a one-year budget that abandoned a plan to abolish Connecticut's car tax, a centerpiece of the Republican governor's proposed budget.

Rell also lost out on her proposal to phase out the state inheritance tax.

But the nearly $16.1 billion tax and spending plan, which takes effect July 1, axed some key initiatives the majority Democrats wanted, such as a $500 tax credit for low-income taxpayers and a new earned income tax credit program, Democratic leaders said.(AP)
So the governor lost two of the major proposals she unveiled in her state of the state speech, while the Democrats lost two tax credits.

Wait a minute. Did the Democrats just come out ahead of the governor on something?

See for yourselves. The budget increases the property tax credit, puts more money into the rainy day fund and the teachers' retirement fund, gives aid to cities and towns, and provides more funding for nursing homes.

Aside from the re-stocking of the rainy day fund and possibly the property tax credit increase, these are Democratic issues. The governor couldn't really get any of the things she wanted done. I don't see how this is good for her at all.

What's interesting about this is that in the past, Rell has been able to make compromises break her way. Stem cells, civil unions, public funding of campaigns and even the recent transportation bill have somehow ended up making the governor look good. She seems to dart around the edge of the General Assembly, pitching compromises at them, while fretting and fuming when they're too slow to react. This time, it seems like the Democrats actually caught up with her, and struck a deal more favorable to them.

Perhaps the Democratic leadership is finally starting to pull it together. Maybe Rell's standing with the legislature has been hurt by the Zarella scandal. Whatever the cause, it seems clear that Rell's influence over this legislature is starting to erode.

Source

"Budget deal kills Rell's prized car tax elimination plan." Associated Press 29 April, 2006.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Bush has 24% Approval Rating in CT

From the Hartford Courant:

"The number has slipped 6 or 7 points in the last six to eight weeks," said G. Terry Madonna, director of Pennsylvania's Keystone Poll, talking about trends in that bellwether state. "I don't think there's any doubt that Iraq is the main reason, but a lot of other things keep happening."

In Connecticut, nearly half the 503 people surveyed rated Bush's performance poor, while 27 percent called it "fair." Nationally, the latest Bush approval rating, compiled by Fox/Opinion Dynamics April 18 and 19, found 33 percent approved of the job Bush was doing and 57 percent disapproved.


If you're a Democrat running for office the news doesn't get any better than this. Bush's numbers can't sink much lower, and even Dems running against moderate Republicans can argue that a Democratic majority in congress is best way to stop the Bush agenda. The obvious exception to this is Joe Lieberman. I wonder how his numbers compare to Bush's at the moment. It would be interesting to do a statewide poll questioning voters about both Lieberman, Bush, and their continued support of the Iraq war.


Source
Lightman, David. "Bush Sinks To 24% In State Poll". Hartford Courant. 4/28/06

T.G.I.F. Open Forum

Thank god its Friday! Looking forward to a beautiful spring weekend.

The House passed the soda bill by a narrow 76-71 vote on Thursday. Governor Rell is expected to sign what is termed the strongest such bill of its kind in the nation.

The Senate, in almost a party line vote, passed a measure to limit the authority of the Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court to appoint judges from lower levels to decide cases.

As municipalities state-wide struggle with the effects of property revaluation, Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez threatened massive lay-offs of police officers, teachers and the closing of schools if the state did not help the city out. Surprising because, as the Hartford Courant reported this morning, City officials had been meeting quietly with state leaders to work something out. Legislators are said to be offended by Perez's outburst and I can't say that I blame them.

The US House Armed Forces Subcommittee approved an additional $400 million appropriation for submarine production on Thursday. The effort is being led by Rep. Jim Langevin of Rhode Island and Rep. Rob Simmons of CT. Senator Dodd has called it good news as well but all 3 have conceded it is still an uphill battle.

So what else is going on today?

Perez's Pique Performance Irks Lawmakers , Oshrat Caemiel, Jefferey B Cohen And Mark Pazniokas/The Hartford Courant, April 28, 2006

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Oily Open Forum

Alan Schlesinger is calling for the federal and state governments to suspend the gas tax for the summer. Well, at least he's thinking big.

He also wants to give oil companies more tax incentives to increase oil refinery capacity in the United States. Now there's an industry that's just crying out for more tax breaks!

In other gas-related news, zone pricing may soon be history in Connecticut.

Gas prices at the Mobil around the corner from me have been hovering at $2.99 for a couple of days, now. How about you?

What else is new today?

Rail Excitement

At some point in the near future, if I want to travel to Hartford and not have to pay an arm and a leg for parking downtown (or parking in Great River Park and walking across the bridge), I'll be able to drive to the Enfield train station in Thompsonville, hop on the commuter rail for what will hopefully be a reasonable fee, and ride down to Union Station.

This is very exciting.

Less exciting but still interesting is the fact that I could, once at Union Station, ride that silly busway to New Britain. Maybe I could get off in the swamp near Cedar Street in Newington. Why not? There's going to be a station there.

But that swamp will soon become much more accessible to me. And that's pretty exciting, too.

Now all I need is an easier way to get to the airport.

Lamont Hires Bill Hillsman

There's a new face at Team Lamont.



Ned Lamont's campaign for U.S. Senate has parted ways with his media consultant, Ken Swopes & Associates, and hired a political ad man known for edgier, attention-getting commercials.

Bill Hillsman, whose clients have included Ralph Nader, the late Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota and that state's wrestler-turned-governor, Jesse Ventura, is the campaign's new choice.


Samples of Hillsman's work can be found on his web site. Be sure to check out his ad for Jesse Ventura. Hillsman's work always grabs your attention. It doesn't have the look or feel of traditional political spots. I can't wait to see what they come up with. It should be a nice contrast to the commercials that the Lieberman campaign is running.



Source

Pasniokas, Mark. "Lamont Goes For Edgier Ad Firm". Hartford Courant. 4/27/06

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Murphy Jumps to 10-Point Lead Following MoveOn Ad

Poll Conducted by Liberal Group Purports to Show Effect of Televsion Ads

Chris Murphy may be out to an early lead over incumbent Nancy Johnson, according to two polls comissioned by the liberal activist group MoveOn.org. The poll showing Murphy in the lead was taken following the release of a controversial MoveOn TV advertisement attacking Johnson.

The polls were first mentioned in an email sent to supporters, but no source was given. MoveOn communications director Jennifer Lindenauer said today in a phone conversation that the polls were commissioned by MoveOn, and were conducted by Voter Roll Call, a group affiliated with SurveyUSA. The poll does not seem to be publicly available on the web.

According to MoveOn, two polls were conducted to measure the effect of the ads. The first guaged support for the candidates among 400 likely 5th District voters from 3/26-3/28, and showed Johnson leading Murphy 47%-46%. The second, which also measured support for the candidates among 400 likely 5th District voters, was taken from 4/18-4/19, after the ads ran. In the later poll, Murphy led Johnson 51%-41%.

Johnson's campaign ran its own ad following the release of the MoveOn ad, and the Johnson campaign has accused Murphy of collaborating with MoveOn. The Murphy campaign denies any involvement with the group.

Lindenauer suggested that Johnson's tactic backfired. "[Johnson's ad] was so misleading that voters didn't buy it," she said.

A new round of advertisements from both MoveOn and the Johnson campaign is expected to debut shortly.

Update I know that many of you don't trust MoveOn as a source, so feel free to take this poll with a grain of salt. If nothing else, it suggests that the race is going to be very, very close.

Lamont "Appreciative" of Blogs, Bloggers

An in-depth interview with Lamont, in which he comments on his relationship with the blogs.
I’m very appreciative of the blogs. I’m coming at this race as a bit of an outsider, with not high name recognition, and who cares passionately about the issues, but when I talk to the mainstream media, it’s all about process and money and delegates. It was the blogs who said, “Hey, there are compelling issues out there, and let’s see how Lamont stands.” Whatever the blogs’ reputation, they opened the door to more serious discourse than the mainstream media did. (Golson
This is the potential of citizen-driven media. There are issues that Americans care about, and if the mainstream media won't talk about them, someone else will.

The interview is worth a read for anyone interested in the Senate race.

Source

Golson, Blair. "Ned Lamont: The Truthdig Interview." Truthdig. 25 April, 2006.

Transportation Compromise Reached

This is good news:
Democratic legislative leaders and Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced Wednesday morning they have reached a deal on a 10-year, $2.3 billion transportation package that will not raise gas taxes or require tolls.
...
It includes money for a commuter rail line between New Haven and Springfield, Mass.; a study of a commuter line from New London to Worcester, Mass.; $45 million to expand Metro-North service from Norwalk to Danbury; and money to upgrade ports in Bridgeport, New London and New Haven.
...
Lawmakers next year plan to set aside another $2.2 million to $2.4 million for other projects, including highway construction, recommended by the state Transportation Strategy Board, he said. (AP)
You know what I don't see in there? That stupid busway! Then again, it could be in there, but the article may not mention it. Well, if it isn't there, maybe they could consider putting a rail line in instead.

I'm curious to see the full details of the plan, but it sounds like it focuses on mass transit and highway construction. The idea of a Worcester-New London commuter rail is interesting: that could be useful along the Thames River, especially.

I'm not sure that there's anything really innovative, here, but it will hopefully help alleviate some of our transportation problems.

Source

"Lawmakers, Governor Reach Deal On Transportation Package." Associated Press 26 April, 2006.

Open Forum

What's happening today?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

New Haven Closer to Public Funding of Campaigns

New Haven in one step closer to being one of the first test cases of the new public funding part of campaign finance reform:
On the same day of the sentencing of key players in a state corruption scandal, the city of New Haven learned that it has permission to point to a better way to run a government and a political system. The chief of the State Elections Enforcement Commission notified the city that the commission has approved New Haven's request to take part in a pilot program to test out publicly-funded local elections.(Bass)
They'll have to submit a plan by June 1. I'm looking forward to seeing what that plan is.

Speaking of CFR, I'm still holding out hope that some needed reforms to that law will be made by the end of the session. However, the investigation into the nomination of Peter Zarella may doom those reforms until 2007. That would be an awful shame, and a crucial piece of business left undone by this legislature.

Source

Bass, Paul. "New Haven Gets Green Light To Go Clean." New Haven Independent 25 April, 2006.

DeStefano Unveils Pay Equity Plan

From the press release on DeStefano's site.


New Haven: On April 25th (National Equal Pay Day), John DeStefano - Democratic candidate for governor - donned a red tie and unveiled his plan to end wage discrimination in Connecticut. The CT NOW President Kathleen Sloan, State Rep. Toni Walker, State Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, and other supporters joined DeStefano in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford for the announcement, each wearing red to protest the fact that women remain "in the red" when it comes to their pay.


To DeStefano's credit he does actually provide some details as to how he would go about this. Usually, even with liberal politicians, equal pay for equal work is just a throwaway line in the stump speech.


The DeStefano plan offers a comprehensive plan to reduce and eventually eliminate pay inequity in Connecticut. One of the first steps would be to empower the Connecticut Pay Equity Commission - working in conjunction with the state Department of Labor and the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women -- to establish within one year a set of standards for evaluating pay equity in municipalities and in businesses and industries employing more than 50 people.

As governor, DeStefano would work with the General Assembly and attorney general to make a verifiable pay equity plan a requirement for any company bidding on state contracts. Contractors who do not show progress in eliminating pay inequities would lose the ability to bid on future state work.

In addition, the DeStefano Administration would publicly recognize the top 25 municipalities and 100 companies in terms of pay equity and create a Governor's Justice in the Workplace Award to recognize the Top 10 in each category.


It's nice to see a candidate realize that there's more to women's issues than abortion. I also appreciate that he's working with NOW rather than doing this internally. The problem is that I don't think of equal pay for equal work as just a women's issue. If Democrats really want to make progress in terms of how people are compensated for work perhaps they could broaden that debate.

If you're interested in what Equal Pay Day actually is, the official website is here. The site is focused on women, but the fact sheet contains some information on how people of color are paid in comparison to caucasians for both men and women.

What do you think of Destefano's proposal?

Source
Slap, Derek. On National Pay Equity Day, DeStefano Unveils Pay Equity Plan, DeStefano For Governor Web Site 4/25/06

Ellef and Tomasso Sentenced

Peter Ellef, former chief of staff to ex-governor John Rowland and William Tomasso, the contractor who paid Ellef to send contracts his way, were both sentenced to 2 1/2 years in federal prison followed by 3 years of probation today. They were sentenced by the same man Rowland was, Senior U.S. District Judge Peter C. Dorsey. Both were also ordered to pay a $15,000 fine.

"The sentences imposed by [Dorsey] fell short of the 37 to 46 months sought by prosecutors. Dorsey cited Ellef's military service and community activity as grounds for the lighter sentence."


In the proceedings, Dorsey said "Ellef undermined the public's trust". Well no kidding...

This ruling brings my "disgruntled"ness to a whole new level. How these 2 men can get off this easily is amazing. They conspired to essentially rob the state taxpayers (ie., me & all of you) of millions of dollars for their own gain. I guess they see Robin Hood a bit differently then I did.

I got over that...at this point, it is what it is.

Now some "sympathetic judge" decides to give them them a lighter sentence because he feels this is a "sentence that makes absolutely clear that people in power to act for the community must do so with total honesty". BULL...this is a slap on the wrist and an insult to every state resident who sends their hard earned money to Hartford every week. The punishment certainly does not fit the crime especially when we look at what Ganim and Newton received.

I can only hope this is the final sentence (no pun intended) in what is certainly the darkest chapter in this state's history.


Ellef, Tomasso Gets 2 1/2 Years , Jon Lender/The Hartford Courant, April 25, 2006

Ellef, Tomasso Get 2 1/2 Years , Matt Apuzzo / The Associated Press, April 25, 2006

Lamont in Hamden

Before I begin talking about Lamont speaking in Hamden last night, I want to point out that I had trouble finding parking in the combined parking lot for the Miller Library and the Hamden Senior Center. For those not familiar with Hamden, not being able to find parking on a Monday night at 7 at the Senior Center is as unlikely as seeing the Patriots play in Hartford.

Inside was packed as well; by my count, there were over 100 people there and it was standing room only in the back of the room (I included the two Lieberman staffers, one with video camera in tow, in my count).

After hearing stories about Lamont's lack of polish on the stump, I was pleasently surprised by the energy and enthusiasim (dare I say, fire) he displayed at the podium. Especially considering that this was his second of three speeches of the day. He was by no means perfect, if I was a staffer, I would do anything I could to get him to slow down - he stepped on several of his applause lines, but considering that he has only been campaigning for a couple of months, he was surprisingly good.

Right off the bat, he acknowledged that much of his support was anti-Joe and anti-war, and that he was there to explain who he was. He also acknowledged his lack of political experience and framed it as a positive: His pitch was that, as a small businessman and as an educator, if elected he would be a citizen legislator, and not as a legislator representing lobbyists and campaign contributors.

In talking about the Iraq war, he constrasted himself with Joe Lieberman by pointing out that "Staying the course is not a strategy." He said that our troops had been put into an impossible situation in the middle of a civil war and that it was time for the Iraqis to step up and take control. He also made the point, sure to appeal to people without ties to enourmous defense contracts, that the $250M per day (per day!) that is being spent in Iraq could be better use to rebuild infrastructure, rebuild schools, and on universal preschool.

In talking about energy policy, in addition to making the expected points about missed opportunities after 9/11, the Cheney/Lobbyist lovefest energy bill that many of the New England Senators (Republican and Democrat alike) voted against but Joe Lieberman voted for, and the need to make it an American mission to promote conservation and increase fuel efficiency, he also tied our energy policy directly to national security (a point The Hamden Daily News, in addition to labeling as Ned Lamont a picture of someone else, seemed to miss) in that our dependence on foreign sources of fuel makes us weaker as a country.

Note: In talking about the energy bill, Lamont said that if elected he would fight against legislation that was created in secret by lobbyists, delivered to Senators athe the last moment, and passed with no scrutiny. In doing so, he pointed out that Exxon-Mobil made record profits of $36 billion last year (yes Virginia, that is a b) and that (rough paraphrase) giving them money to incent them to drill for oil is like giving fish incentives to swim. He then cut off laughter and applause by jumping immediately into his next point.

Finally, Lamont addressed the primary race itself. He said that the CT party leadership doesn't like primaries, especially for safe seats, and he (obviously) disagreed. He made the point that CT is a progressive state that would not be losing a senator, but gaining a Democrat (applause cut off by next point...). He went on to describe himself as proud to be a Democrat and stated that, no matter the result of the primary, he would support the party in November.

During the Q&A, when asked to get specific about plans to exit Iraq (in a pretty aggresive question), he said that he would support pulling frontline troops out of harms way in the Sunni Triangle into the Shia desert immediately, but that US troops would have to remain for some time in a training/logistical/suuport role with an Iraqi and/or international face. He made the point that we need to step back before the Iraqis would step forward (and contrasted it directly with the administrations view that we would step back when the Iraqis stepped forward).

To avoid accidently writing a book instead of a blog post, here are the (brief) capsules of the answers to the more interesting questions:

- On Iran: Stop rattling sabers; use direct diplomacy and convince Russia and China to bring their pressure to bear

- On Public Transportation - rebuild infrastructure, but also provide cities with high quality education, housing, and jobs so that people will want to live there again and thus take cars of the road; increase rail use

- On Illegal Immingration/Border Security - No to the wall; Yes to employer sanctions; mostly in favor of Kennedy/McCain comprehensive approach with the caveat that guest workers should not be used to drive down wages - there are no jobs that Americans wont do for good pay and benefits (guess what he did next? If you said, waited for applause to finsih, you would be wrong)

- On Single Payer/Universal Health Care - In favor, but will have to happen in incremental steps - 1. If you work a 40hr/wk, you get insurance (will take care of 70% of 47MM uninsureds); 2. Let small business owners buy into government programs; 3. Government helps take load off of employers

- On No Child Left Behind - Its unfunded and all sticks, no carrots; Its unfair in that schools are judged on performance, but kids get to the schools already behind; Tests (and the school-pressure to prepare for them) takes away from time that kids could be learning

- On Right to Choose - Would have led the fight against the confirmation of Justice Alito; views his appointment as a fundemental shift on the court

- On a Debate - would love to debate all the time (what a surprise for an underdog!) and has offered to debate, but Lieberman declined

The evening ended with a standing ovation.

Some final thoughts: Just based on simple math, it would be difficult for Lamont to beat Lieberman (although the combination of Bush's low poll numbers in CT and Lieberman's lowered numbers among liberals make it a little easier). That said, before last night, I had thought it was an impossibility. That no longer is the case; last night, for the first time, while watching ordinary citizens crowd in to the Senior Center and while watching their enthusiastic response to the speech, I actually had the thought that he could beat Joe Lieberman.

Don't misunderstand me. This is not a prediction (Lamont fans will take heart; I have incorrectly predicted that the Knicks would be competitive for 8 years running) - he is an overwhelming underdog with a 10:1 cash disadvantage. And the structural impediments to defeating an incumbent are intense (another post for another time). But it is a possibility. And the Lieberman ads and his staffers showing up at Lamont events (with video cameras) are evidence that Lieberman and his staff have recognized the possibility and are reacting to it.

Finally, based on the stature (or lack thereof) of the possible Republican challengers and the blueness of CT as a whole, this seems to be a safe seat (assuming that no one makes this a three way race) no matter which Democrat wins the primary. So, if you are a Democrat, vote your conscience and may the best man win! And here's to hoping that we get a Democratic debate before the primary...

Zarella Withdraws Nomination

Following the revelation by State Supreme Court Justice David M. Borden that former Chief Justice William Sullivan had delayed the release of a controversial case to help his nomination, Justice Peter Zarella asked Gov. Rell to withdraw his name from nomination for Chief Justice:
Zarella said it was apparent that lawmakers would not hold a public hearing on his nomination this legislative session, which ends May 3. That would mean his nomination would not receive final action during the session.

But Zarella, a West Hartford Republican, did not rule out being a possible nominee after the session ends. (AP)

There are all sorts of questions, here, about what happens next; but what I think is most likely is the following scenario:

Rell could nominate Zarella or someone else for an interim appointment for chief justice after the legislature adjourns. The General Assembly's Judiciary Committee could then hold a public hearing and vote to confirm the nominee until January, when the full legislature returns for the 2007 session and could vote on a permanent appointment. (AP)

Whether he'll be confirmed at that hearing is debatable, as his role in Sullivan's delay is brought to light.

This nomination fight has consumed a number of needed ethics and campaign finance reforms, unfortunately. We'll see if those bills re-appear as amendments.

And we'll see whether Peter Zarella ever becomes Chief Justice.

Source

"Zarella wants Rell to withdraw his nomination for chief justice." Associated Press 25 April, 2006.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Just how organized are the CT Dems?

This Saturday, April 29th, is the first of a series of grassroots organizing efforts that the Democratic National Committee has put together. The tactic is a neighbourhood canvass help hand out 750,000 door hangers with a Democratic message, promoting real security, honest and open government, economic prosperity and the usual stuff that makes Americans proud do be Americans. Naturally, I looked to see what CT efforts were posted on the site. Only 6! So kudos to Stratford, Southbury, Westport, Waterbury (although they want to do the 5th CD) New Brittain (Plainville & Bristol), and Groton. Over on the Republican side, nothing going on except attacks on Democrats. I suppose when you've taken the federal government to the to biggest deficit, created the largest entitlement programs and forgot to staff FEMA after creating terror warning color codes, you don't need to spin a positive message about the new republicanism.


Though GOP officials say the party is still guided by the same
conservative principles they championed when they took over Congress,
they have recognized over the subsequent half-dozen campaigns that
enforcing such orthodoxy would prove fatal to its centrist candidates
fighting to hang on in politically competitive states and districts —
a relatively small group, but one that has been essential to the GOP
maintaining its majority by only a dozen or fewer seats.


So why aren't the local town democratic party committees working overtime to push these critical so-called moderate republicans out? Could it be that the anti-war drumbeat is monopolizing too many resources?

Playing Defense: GOP Strives for Continuing Majority in ’06, Bob Benenson | Congressional Quarterly, Apr. 24, 200

Gloomy Monday Open Forum

Blogger is being stubborn. So publishing today has been delayed.

Lieberman's been traveling around Eastern CT asking for votes. People aren't seeming that receptive to his message, which seems to be "We disagree on Iraq, but we still have a lot in common." Iraq is just too big an issue for a lot of people to let it slide, I think.

The Green Party nominated its slate this weekend. There's an article in the New Haven Advocate about what Connecticut might be like under a Green government. Hint: lots of pot.

What else is happening?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

DeStefano Website Updated

The DeStefano for CT site got an overhaul this weekend. There's a lot more content on the homepage--once you get past this front page, in which the mayor and a brigade of adorable children beg you to sign up for the DeStefano email list. The Malloy campaign had one of these for a while (sans children), but wisely discontinued it. I find it annoying, and a barrier to access.

The homepage itself looks much more professional than it did before, and there's a lot more information. The navigation is along the top, and the page itself is divided into three columns. This is pretty standard design, but it's an improvement over what was there before. They actually seem to have made the site look and feel more like Malloy's site, which is not a bad thing. They take a couple of the things that bother me about Malloy's site and improved on them. I like the three columns, and I like the color scheme.

The site isn't quite fully functional yet, since the blog and the list of endorsements aren't up. I expect they will be this week, if not later today.

The redesign seems to be part of the DeStefano campaign's efforts to reinvent itself as a competent, professional organization capable of defeating Jodi Rell. Other changes have included a new campaign manager and the release of major legislative initiatives. We'll see if it helps him regain some momentum before the convention.

Lamont (Still) on a Roll

These are good times to be Ned Lamont. Money is (sort of) pouring in, his delegate count is rising, Joe Lieberman is foundering and the favorable press keeps coming. From the Norwich Bulletin:
...[T]he petitioning drive may not be necessary. Lamont would automatically qualify as a primary challenger if he can capture 15 percent of the delegate vote at the May 20 Democratic State Convention. And based on the buzz generated statewide by this race, I wouldn't be surprised if Lamont does significantly better than that.
(Hackett)

From the Hartford Courant:
On the way out the door, Lamont is asked to autograph a political cartoon. It pictures a broadly smiling Lamont with a lapel button that says, "Ned Who?"

Lamont, who collects political cartoons, seems bemused by a request for his signature on a work caricaturing his anonymity. He smiles as he scrawls a message, then disappears into the night for a fast, perhaps last, ride in a Lexus to another town committee. The signature he leaves behind: "Ned Who."

The Lieberman campaign is spooked enough by Ned Who that it is already spending some of its $4.7 million bankroll on early television ads. Lamont seems assured of qualifying for an Aug. 8 primary, either by a petition drive or by winning 15 percent of the delegates at a nominating convention May 20.
...
The great-nephew of a socialist and great-grandson of a capitalist is unsure where he falls on the political spectrum.

"I'm never quite sure if I am left of center, or others have just moved to the right," Lamont said.

Dwight Eisenhower never would have favored a unilateral invasion of a foreign land, and Ronald Reagan was the president who appointed O'Connor, whose retirement is so lamented by the left, he said.

"So," he asked, "what does that make me?" (Pazniokas)

Formidible.

Someone someday will write a story about two well-off Greenwich families who reacted differently to the decline of northeastern influence in the GOP: the Lamonts and the Bushes. Both started out in the same place, as northeastern moderate Republicans. But while Prescott Bush's son George moved his family west and his politics to the right, the Lamont family moved left and out of the Republican Party entirely.

It's a compelling story. Heck, isn't it Lowell Weicker's story? It's no wonder that Weicker and Weicker's crowd have supported Lamont.

Joe Lieberman, in the meantime, can't seem to catch a break. His new commercials seem to be leading political observers to the conclusion that he's spooked: which by all accounts he is. From the Washington Post:
But, Lieberman's decision to go up with ads defending his stance on the war illustrates the effect that Lamont's candidacy -- and the unrest among the state's liberal voters it symbolizes -- has had on the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee. Lieberman was greeted with boos during a party gathering last month, and did himself no favors recently when he refused to rule out a bid as an independent if he lost in the Aug. 8 primary.Murray)

Lieberman's campaign is trying its best to appeal to voters' common sense and reason. One of their ads says the following:
"I already know that some of you feel passionately against my position on Iraq."

"I respect your views, and while we probably won't change each others minds, I hope we can still have a dialogue and find common ground on all the issues where we do agree." (Senator)
How rational. How reasonable! Right? Right?

But this election year is shaping up to be anything but reasonable and rational. Voters are angry and frustrated with their leaders, both Republican and Democrat, and they seem ready for a change in the status quo in Washington.

Still, Lamont needs to be careful. The media has a record of building up candidates, then tearing them down. The press coverage won't stay so rosy forever.

For now, though, everything seems to be going his way.

Sources

Hackett, Ray. Column: Lamont effort to beat Lieberman is gaining surprising strength." Norwich Bulletin 23 April, 2006.

Murray, Shailagh and Chris Cillizza. "With Ethics in Question, GOP Seeks Answers." Washington Post 23 April, 2006.

Pazniokas, Mark. Out Of The Political Shadows." Hartford Courant 23 April, 2006.

"Senator Lieberman Begins Television Advertising Campaign." Press Release. Friends of Joe Lieberman. 20 April, 2006.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Friday, April 21, 2006

High Fructose Corn Syrup Madness!

A look at the front page of the Harford Courant, April 21, 2026.

Senate Passes Sweetened Beverage Control Act
The soda industry lost their latest battle against state control and regulation of the sweetened beverage market today. The Senate bill, passed 22-10, would put drinks such as soda and sports drinks in the same category as alcohol and tobacco. Key components of the bill include the ban of soda sales through vending machines and the criminalizing of possession of such beverages if a minor. It is already illegal to sell soft drinks to a minor, or to misrepresent your age in order to purchase soft drinks.

A similar House bill, which included the creating of a Soft Drink License law that would create restrictions similar to those of the sale of alcohol, failed last year amidst intense debate.
Senate President Pro Tem Anthony Soprano, D-Waterbury, has been the chief proponent of the bill in this legislative session.

"Connecticut children are buying over five million soft drinks a year from vending machines," said Sen. Soprano. "How can we ensure our children lead healthy lives if we don't ensure it is slightly more inconveinent for teenagers to get their hands on these dangerous products."

Governer N. Jordan Fisher has said he will probably sign the bill as it is now. Governer's Fisher's was re-elected in a landslide last year, with many people approving of his signing of the ban on violent videogames, but his ratings have plummeted after a teenage student shot three of his classmates with an AK-47 before killing himself. The Governer hopes to appear tough on teenage miscreants with the signing of this bill.

"The fact of the matter is, the lobby of people with way too much time on their hands is one of the strongest out there," said political analyst Professor George O'Malley. "Parents aren't the driving force behind this bill, its busybodies. Let's face it, old maids vote in higher numbers than any other demographic."

Trinity Flat Broke
Trinity College will eliminate janitorial staff, cut the Economics Department, and even close the student lunchroom in order to fix a financial squeeze caused by years of overspending, President Carl C. Carlson said today.

The college's endowment has almost been completely wiped out for costly projects such as a new community social center and the financing of a Major League football stadium. "The state wasn't going to shell out to get the Pats in town, so we kinda took things into our own hands," said President Carlson.

Special Advertisement
Paid for by the Coca-Cola Company:

The Coca-Cola Company supports a single, consistent public health message on the role of the consumption of soft drinks in the development of disease. (As required by the ruling in State of Connecticut vs. Coca-Cola)

Soft Drinkers are far more likely to develop serious diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, premature aging, and Stunted Growth Disorder.

There is no such thing as a "safe" soft drink. Soft drinks labeled "diet" or other low calorie beverages should not be assumed to be better for health.

The Coca-Cola Company agrees with the overwhelming political consensus that self-righteous crusading gets you the votes.


This bill is just plain silly. High Schoolers, Eighteen year olds, can't buy a soda at school?

The general trend, however, of imposing state restriction and rules on the raising of teenagers concerns me. Driving curfews, going after parents who let kids drink in a private home... its not telling parents how to raise their kids, its persecuting parents and children who don't toe the line.

President Hu Jintao at Yale

Rell, DeStefano Won't Attend

One of the most powerful men in the world will be speaking at Yale, today. The mayor of New Haven and the governor of Connecticut will not be in attendance, according to the Yale Daily News:
Yale President Richard Levin said Wednesday that he extended DeStefano an invitation to hear Hu's speech in Sprague Hall, but DeStefano's spokesman said he could not clear his schedule for Hu's appearance. Neither could Rell, according to her spokesman, so she deputized the commission of the state's Department of Economic and Community Development to greet the president ceremonially. (Mishkin)
Hu's visit has been about the trade deficit and opening the Chinese market ever wider, not about China's rather dismal human rights record. In fact, American leaders seem increasingly willing to overlook Chinese human rights abuses in the face of China's growing economic and political clout. Levin believes that free trade will eventually lead to democratization:
[Levin] said Western investment and open markets would encourage China to improve its human rights record and allow more freedoms. (AP)
Either that, or it will encourage China to think that it can do whatever it pleases, so long as Western businesses are happy. A free market doesn't necessarily lead to a free country: ask the Russians, who seem to be sliding back towards authoritarianism under Vladimir Putin. And the Chinese Communist Party shows no signs of relaxing its grip on power, which it has held since 1949.

In any event, Rell and DeStefano could have cleared a few hours from their schedules to meet with this man, couldn't they?

Or was this a deliberate snub?

Sources

"Chinese President Hu to cap U.S. tour with Yale speech." Associated Press 21 April, 2006.

Mishkin, Sarah. "DeStefano, Rell will not see speech." Yale Daily News 21 April, 2006.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Lots of News Open Forum

Lieberman's poll numbers are down, and getting dangerously close to 50% approval among Democrats. Analysis at My Left Nutmeg.

A memorial service was held for William Sloane Coffin.

Campaign finance reform, er, reform is being held up by the Zarella mess.

Rell is offering to fully fund the teachers' retirement fund. Excellent! If the governor is offering huge concessions to Democrats (for which she will take credit), it must be April.

Scroll down for lots of other great posts!

What else is happening today?

Lieberman's First TV Spots

From an E-mail message/press release sent via the Friends of Lieberman list.

HARTFORD- Senator Lieberman's campaign will begin airing its first two commercials of the 2006 Senate re-election campaign today. The commercials will run statewide.


The ads can be viewed here on the front page of Joe's campaign site. Look for them on the far right side of the page.

I'm surprised at the tone of these ads, especially the second. Joe's practically begging Democrats to vote with him, rather than asserting his place as the incumbent. I lost count of how many times he's in the same frame with smiling children. Lieberman also politely hugged a random woman while reminding us that he's pro-choice which was just... patronizing.

The message of the ads is supposed to be that Joe Lieberman is a go-to guy who's working hard for Connecticut. He knows that the war is a divisive issue but hopes that we can look past that and find some common ground. Perhaps I'm biased but I don't think the ads are effective.

Source Smith, Sean. SENATOR LIEBERMAN BEGINS TELEVISION ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN 4/20/06

Enfield - Center of the Political Universe?

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.

An Afternoon With Joe Courtney

Yesterday afternoon, the UConn Law School community was treated to lunch with 2nd District Democratic Congressional Candidate Joe Courtney (Uconn Law '78).

As I noted previously (scroll down), Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Report named (subscription required) Rob Simmons one of the "10 Most Endangered House Incumbents" in Roll Call, The Cook Political Report called the race a toss up, and the Washington Post called the race one of the five races that will determine control of the House.

Add to that positive fundraising results and dismal approval ratings for the President, and we have ourselves a race!

First, the fundraising. Courtney has reported that he outraised Rep. Simmons in the first quarter of '06, $274,688.77 to $222,500 (est.). From Courtney's website:

Courtney's campaign has now raised $806,645.63 since it began last March. This total is over three times Courtney's fundraising at this point in the 2002 cycle, and nearly equal to the amount 2004 candidate Jim Sullivan raised on his October 2004 filing.


Simmons will be facing a much better funded opponent than he has seen in the last two cycles. Expect both the DNC/DSCC and the RNC/RSCC to dump cash into this race in the coming months.

Simmons will also be struggling under the weight of President Bush's staggering job approval ratings in CT. As Courtney noted yesterday, CT-2 had the largest margin of victory for Kerry over Bush in '04 that is represented by a Republican congressman (54%-44%). From that natural disadvantage, Simmons will also have to contend with the President's numbers: 27/69 in CT and 26/71 in CT excluding Fairfield, Hartford, and New Haven Counties (Approve/Disapprove).

And don't believe for a second that Joe Courtney will miss the opportunity to try to take advantage of this landscape. At numerous times yesterday he referred to Simmons as an "enabler" of the Republican agenda and noted his unwillingness to vote independently of the wishes of President and the Republican Party. Courtney also argued that the most important vote for a House member is the first vote: the vote to decide the House leadership; the vote that sets the agenda. Expect Courtney to paint Simmons' vote as one that fostered the "culture of corruption" symbolized by Tom DeLay, Denny Hastert, and John Boehner.

Joe Courtney previewed the main points that he will be making on the stump this fall. If you live in CT-2, you will be hearing about:

1. Medicare Prescription Drug Plan - Simmons voted in favor.

2. Energy Policy - Simmons voted for the plan, which includes a floating LNG platform off the coast of his district.

3. The war in Iraq - I think we have already discussed this issue enough on this blog; suffice it to say, you will be hearing about it again.

Courtney is an engaging speaker and the crowd at the law school was receptive to his speech. He seems to have honed his message to the three points mentioned above and delivers each complete with withering contrast between himself and Rob Simmons.

Joe Courtney has put together all of the pieces of an effective upset: resonant message, cash on hand, favorable demographics, and an unpopular President in the party of the incumbent. The deciding factor may be how much of anti-Republican tide is present in the fall.

UPDATE: Sources:

Rothenberg, Stuart, "RothenbergĂ‚’s 10 Most Endangered House Incumbents", Roll Call, 2/16/06.

Michak, Don, "2nd District race seen as a toss-up", Journal-Inquirer, 2/11/06.

Cillizza, Chris, "The 2006 Horse Race", The Fix, The Washington Post, 2/6/06.

No Author, "Campaign 2006: Key Races", The Washington Post, 2/6/06.

"Courtney Outraises Simmons", Courtney Campaign Press Release, Undated (4/06).

CT 2004 Presidential Election Results By Congressional District, Connecticut Secretary of State.

Results of SurveyUSA News Poll #8798.

"Simmons Plays Shell Game with Long Island Sound", Courtney Campaign Press Release, Undated (4/05).

Roll Call Vote #669.

Roll Call Vote #145.

Introduction: disgruntled_republican

I will be putting up my first post later today but wanted to get the introduction out of the way first. I am a lifelong resident of Enfield. I have had a fascination with politics as far back as I can remember. Actually thinking about it, the only thing I can remember further back is playing with my toys. It is that fascination that has allowed me to have been a Town Councilman in Enfield (although I haven't been since 2003); allowed me to serve as Campaign Manager for a successful State Senate campaign; allowed me to serve as the regional campaign coordinator for a successful Congressional Campaign and ultimately, be invited to be a contributor here. As a Republican, I will be reporting and offering my views from the "right" here on Connecticut Local Politics. Although I would call myself more of a moderate socially, I am very conservative fiscally. Aside from politics I am very active in my community. I serve on the Board of Directors to 2 non-profit organizations and volunteer my time as a Planning and Zoning Commissioner.

Anyway, enough about me. I look forward to offering up some thought provoking topics and having open debate with you all.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Manchester Supports Lieberman

Manchester's Democratic Town Committee passed a resolution chastising Sen. Joe Lieberman for his support of the Iraq War earlier this year, but apparently they're not entirely willing to line up behind his rival, Ned Lamont:
While many members of the Democratic Town Committee still have uncommitted support for the four party hopefuls running for governor and U.S. senator, the majority back Stamford Mayor Dannel P. Malloy and incumbent Joseph I. Lieberman, according to informal votes taken Tuesday.
...
Cummings said that while he's uncommitted in the race for governor, he does support Lieberman's reelection - despite a resolution the town committee passed nearly unanimously this year that chastised the senator for his support of the Bush policy in Iraq.
...
Still, when it comes to backing Lamont, Cummings said he's not willing to risk losing a Democratic seat in the Senate based solely on principle: "I'm willing to be Joe Hypocrite all over the place ... because of the greater good."(Phillips)
This is the first good news I've heard for Lieberman in a while. Cummings's sort of reasoning--that he doesn't want to risk the seat--could be very damaging to Lamont.

Source

Phillips, Kimberly. "Manchester Democrats favor Malloy, Lieberman." Journal-Inquirer 19 April, 2006.

Draft Blumenthal?

What's this? Found it as a referring link today.

Kind of an interesting idea. I can't see him running against Joe (or in any other race that would be even marginally competitive)... but if he did, he'd be a force to be reckoned with.

The tagline "A Real Democrat. A Real Chance" implies that this person doesn't give Lamont much of a shot to win either the primary or the general. By August, though, Lamont will have overcome his name recognition problem. He may very well have other problems, but the voters will know who he is.

Update: Never mind. Apparently this is an old site, not a new one. No bearing on Lamont at all. Sorry!

Updated Update: I was correct the first time, as demonstrated in the comments. This is a new site.

Speaking of Lamont and site stats, I'm getting a ton of hits from the Lamont "news" page. That site must be getting incredible traffic. I'm going to watch the Lamont site closely--no major campaign since Dean has been this closely tied to the web.

Since I'm having random Senate race thoughts, I heard a new Lieberman radio ad today about Lieberman helping a worker keep his job. Didn't identify the place he worked, I don't think... any info?

The Zarella War

I have to admit, I haven't been paying too much attention to the fight over Justice Peter Zarella's nomination to become Chief Justice of the CT Supreme Court. Apparently it's boiling down to yet another tug-of-war between the Executive and Legislative branches of the government. There's a fine dusting of partisanship on this problem, too, but so far the fight seems to be more about procedure and respect than ideology or party.
Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell and a Democratic leader of the legislature's Judiciary Committee swapped charges of partisan politics in connection with the nomination of Justice Peter T. Zarella to become chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

Rell sent committee leaders a letter accusing them of showing "incredible disrespect" by not yet holding a public hearing on the nomination, which was submitted March 24. The panel canceled a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

But Sen. Andrew J. McDonald, D-Stamford, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, fired back that Rell bears responsibility for the delay by not keeping lawmakers apprised of her plans to nominate Zarella. McDonald also said the panel still is waiting for crucial background information on Zarella, and warned that lawmakers "will not be rushed" into acting without taking due diligence. (Phaneuf)
Rell has always been firm about keeping the powers and privileges of the Executive away from legislative encroachment. In fact, that was one of the main reasons for her veto of the contract bill, and, in fact, for most of her vetoes so far. On the other hand, leaders in the legislature think she is trying to ram Zarella through without giving them a chance to properly consider the matter.

As for whether or not Zarella should be the next chief justice... Who knows?

Source

Phaneuf, Keith. "Chief justice nomination erupts into partisan feud." Journal-Inquirer 19 April, 2006.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Schlesinger Looks to Capitalize on Dem Discord

Alan Schlesinger declared his candidacy for the U.S. Senate yesterday, becoming the second Republican to do so. Jack Orchulli is reportedly also considering a run. Schlesinger's bid made the front page of the Courant today.

Schlesinger is banking on a three-way race between Lieberman, Lamont and himself, with Lamont and Liberman splitting the Democrats. He says he's inspired by the 1970 Senate race, in which Lowell Weicker defeated the conservative Tom Dodd and the liberal Joe Duffey.
"When Mr. Lamont hits Joe Lieberman from the left regarding his stands on foreign affairs and my candidacy hits him from the right on fiscal and budgetary matters," Schlesinger said, "I think he is going to be squeezed into a center which is center-left, and he will not have enough to maintain his Senate seat." (Keating)
I don't know if that's a plausible scenario... but in this race, anything could happen. Colin McEnroe and Paul Bass were talking on the radio yesterday about how this race was impossible to call, and they're right. A Schlesinger victory, while pretty farfetched, isn't out of the question if he plays his cards right.

Right now he's sort of doing that, although there are a few rough spots. Here are some of his positions, from his website:
Alan has a plan for a Guaranteed Social Security that would not allow the so-called "trust fund" to be diverted to other expenditures.
...
Alan advocates a Seasonal Employee Visa as a way of stemming the tide of Illegal Immigration into our country.
...
In addition, Alan's proposal would mandate English proficiency within 5 years. Any violation would lead to denied re-entry and the illegal immigrant would be subjected to felony criminal charges.
...
He plans to reinstitute the Sen. Proxmire "Golden Fleece Award" as a way of drawing attention to the wasteful pork-barrel spending that dominates both parties in Congress. His goal will be to eliminate the federal deficit by 2010.
...
Alan has remained steadfast in his determination to reform and bring fairness to the federal tax code. The elimination of the complexities and special interest tax loopholes are at the center of Alan's tax code reform goals. As an example, we need to change the absurdity of not allowing a deduction for net yearly capital losses of over $3,000 while allowing capital gains on residential real estate of up to $500,0000 to go completely untaxed! (Alan's Political Ideas)
Okay. Social Security and tax reform are pretty moderate, so far, which is good for him. The more moderate he seems, the more chance he'll have of picking up independent voters who have soured on Lieberman.

The defict hawk act leads to a lot of questions, such as whether he'd be willing to call his own party's leadership on their gross spending habits. His "Golden Fleece" award and pledge to fix the deficit makes him sound like a pre-1994 Republican instead of a member of a party which turned a budget surplus into a yawning black hole.

His position on immigration is close to President Bush's, except for the idea of requiring English language proficiency. A felony to not speak English within five years? Am I reading that right? That seems a little extreme.

Perhaps Schlesinger's biggest misreading of the public mood thus far, however, is this statement:
"I am one Republican who does not run away from the president," said Schlesinger, adding that he would welcome a chance to campaign in Connecticut with Bush.(Keating)

...I'm not so sure that's a good idea. But hey, it'll give all those protestors something to do in October.

Still, Alan Schlesinger is probably the most electable of the Republican candidates, and will probably be the nominee coming out of the convention next month. Better, he says he's going to sink $500,000 of his own money into the campaign.

He may be the best chance the Republicans have had to take a Senate seat since 1988. Not that that's saying much.

Sources

Keating, Christopher. "Inspired By A True Story." Hartford Courant 18 April, 2006.

"Alan's Political Ideas." Alan Schlesinger for Senate: http://www.schlesinger2006.com/index-3.html, 18 April, 2006.

Quick Open Forum

Posting by team members is off to a great start! Be sure to read these posts:

Introduction & Changes in Torrington by Quinn
Malloy Cyber-Reaches Out to Delegates by Gabe
Energy Games and Is fundraising the only gubernatorial issue? by turfgrrl
My First Post and Fairfield Train Station by CGG

More coming, I'm sure.

A development that deserves mentioning is the new and innovative uses of video going on over at ConnecticutBLOG. Check out Colin McEnroe falling asleep as Joe Lieberman talks! Very amusing. Still, comedy value aside, both ConnecticutBLOG and My Left Nutmeg, to a lesser extent, are going to Lamont events and posting video from them. This is another new wrinkle in the relationship between campaigns and blogs: inspire the right people, get free video posted on the web. Very interesting.

If you are using Internet Explorer, this page may not be displaying correctly. Specifically, the navbar Blogger slaps on the top of the page may be a bit jumbled. I have no idea why--it works fine in Firefox. I'm working on it...

What else is happening?

Introduction & Changes in Torrington

As this is my first posting, I'll present a brief background that might serve to explain the direction and focus my future postings will have. I am a Torrington native, and have lived recently in Watertown, Avon, and Hartford. I currently attend Trinity College. I am involved with the Republican Party and its campaigns in the state, but my ideology leans towards Libertarian.

I'd like to occasionally spotlight a few interesting local political matters in Litchfield County, starting today with recent news out of Torrington. The 22-year-old Mayor there was elected last year after former Mayor Owen Quinn (distant relation) suffered from a series of minor scandals (including a DWI and losing his temper with a war veteran firefighter within earshot of a reporter). The Waterbury Republican-American reported today that Mayor Ryan Bingham is causing a small shake-up in city hall, as he fired long-time city attorney Albert G. Vasko.
"It was kind of surprising," Vasko said of being approached by the mayor. "I enjoyed serving the city of Torrington. (Parker)"


Mr. Vasko was a Torrington native and held the post for 16 years. That means Mr. Bingham was in elementary school when Vasko first took the job. Its noteworthy that the new Mayor isn't afraid to make changes to a bureaucracy that has been around far longer than his professional career.

The mayor also announced he has picked Ernestine Y. Weaver of East Hartford to replace Vasko. Weaver has been working as the director of development for the New Britain-based Central Connecticut Association for Retarded Citizens. Bingham's mother, Rep. Anne Ruwet, R-Torrington, is the CCARC executive director. (Parker)


His choice of replacement is interesting. It will only increase the questions raised about the nepotism and favortism in Torrington politics. This replacement would seem to indicate that Mayor Bingham isn't going to be held back by his lack of experience; on the other hand, it could indicate that he is going to allow himself to be controlled by his more well-heeled parents. An unusual situation, to be sure.

Source:
Parker, Chris. "Torrington's city attorney ousted by mayor" Waterbury Republican-American 18 April, 2006.

Malloy Cyber-Reaches Out to Delegates (Updated)

As this is my first post, I will take a few lines to (briefly) introduce myself:

I am a transplant to Connecticut from New York about 6 years ago and, as a confessed political junkie, I quickly got up to speed on local politics. I live in the New Haven area and have spent time working in Fairfield County and now Study in Hartford.

I have a master's degree in political science focused on electoral politics and process and am currently in my first year of law school. As a result, my posting will be light until the semester ends (May 22) and every once in a great while, I may subject you to a post on electoral process.

I am a registered Democrat and will coming at you from a left perspective. As such, while I will be doing original reporting as well, please feel free to consider anything I write as editorial comment. I make no claims as to my objectivity.

Without further ado:

Gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy (Democratic Mayor of Stamford) has issued a press release announcing the creation of a website "dedicated exclusively for delegates to the Democratic State Convention on May 20."

Disclosure: I have met both candidates at forums at the law school and found them both to be engaging, but I have not yet decided how I will vote in the primary.

From the press release (updated for link):
Dubbed the Convention Survival Guide, it is devoted entirely to the needs of Democratic Convention delegates and helps them navigate the challenging and sometimes confusing State Convention process.

"Political conventions are exciting, but they can also be confusing and stressful," said Malloy. "If there is a way to lessen the stress, improve communications and have a little fun along the way, then that's what we're going to do."

The site offers several useful features -- general logistical help, venue and staff contact information, links to other related websites, tips and advice for surviving the event, and a printable Convention scorecard to help track the day's voting. The site even boasts a Convention countdown clock to remind delegates of the fast-approaching event.


First of all, it is fantastic to see a politician actually use the internet, much less use it in a new and creative way. If this doesn't secure him a single additional convention vote, it will be worth the effort for the benefit it brings to the convention-goers and for any goodwill it engenders with any delegates that are otherwise committed, but who will be called upon in the general election should Malloy win the primary.

That said, this is an interesting strategy with respect to the Lamont delegates (and other delegates who are undecided) who do not necessarily have a horse in the gubernatorial primary. It seems that both candidates are (understandably) shy about criticizing a sitting Democratic Senator; I would imagine that both are also plotting ways to lure Lamont delegates, who may not be primarily interested in the gubernatorial race, into their camps. Given their reluctance to criticize Senator Lieberman, both candidates will have to be creative in fashioning their appeal to the Lamont delegates. Consider this Malloy's first attempt to bring undecided delegates (of all stripes) in to the fold.

At the very least, this delegate-portal, assuming it is publicized and used (and valuable), will introduce Malloy to delegates who may have been following the Senate primary, but not paying much attention to the race for the gubernatorial nomination. At best, it could convince undecided delegates that Malloy has the organization and the creativity to be the best bet to unseat (what polling indicates is) an overwhelming favorite in November.

I have not yet seen the delegate-only site, so I am not sure how valuable it is. I have a call in to the campaign requesting access; I will update this post when and if I get a chance to poke around and see what they have to offer.

UPDATE: I have looked around the site. It's at an early stage, but I would judge it to be both as useful as it could possibly be and not really all that useful at the same time. It is impossible (or at least it should be) to fault the Malloy campaign for the lack of information regarding the convention that is currently available.

Also, they have venue information before the venue is even set in stone! The Malloy team is clearly providing every scrap of information that they can.

That said, the delegate scorecard is, well, cool (remember you are reading a vote-counting junkie). As is the continuously running countdown (as opposed to a static countdown that only refreshes as the page refreshes).

The site includes some light-hearted touches like Trivia (which, for people who are politically involved enough to be delegates to a Democratic convention, was a little on the easy side), Fun Facts, Survival Tips (why is "Where comfortable shoes" a survival tip for absolutely everything?), and quotes from delegates.

Most importantly, it has contact information for the various Malloy Campaign Representatives - this is a helpful site, but is also intended to win some votes. In sum, based on what little I have seen (this site and their blog), this campaign is leveraging the power of the internet very well.

Note: For anyone in the Hartford area, the UCONN Law School Democrats will be hosting 2nd District Congressional Candidate Joe Courtney tomorrow at 12:30. The 2nd District race has been identified as a "toss up" by The Cook Political report, one of the "five races that will determine the control of the House next year” by the Washington Post, and incumbent Republican Rob Simmons has been called one of the “10 Most Endangered House Incumbents" by Stuart Rothenberg in Roll Call. I will blog about the event sometime tomorrow afternoon. If you come by, say Hi - I will be the one typing furiously.

Sources:

Wade, Julia, Dan Malloy for Governor Launches First Delegate-Only Website. Dan Malloy Campaign Press Release, April 17, 2005.

Courtney, Joe, Untitled. Joe Courtney Campaign Email Update, Undated (February, 2006).

Monday, April 17, 2006

Energy Games

Sometimes you just have to wonder if the problem with legislatures is that people with financial backgrounds don't run for office. Last week, for example, the House Republicans hurriedly brought up a proposal that promoted electricity rate tax cuts. Note, not rate relief which is a real issue, but the tax that the state takes in. Now why would the House Republicans do this at this time. Basically, to create an election issue. But while creating an election issue is all part of politics, the real overwhelming problem is that our CT based electric companies are in a serious bind. Fuel costs are soaring, and because the rates they can charge is regulated, there is a squeeze being placed on those companies. And the squeeze is that they can sell their electricity to other markets, now that the grid can move electricity to where more profits are avaialble. Which makes me wonder if CT is not being set up for a manufactured California style energy crisis. CL & P has in the last two years hiked rates 10% and 22%. Fuel costs have doubled during the same time. If you were CL & P, where would you want to sell your electricity?

Meanwhile the House Republicans blame the House Dems for tabling the electric rate tax cut proposal, and then talk about their grand "energy proposal." If you want to cut tax rates, do it in the budget bill. But more importantly, why give up state revenue on energy consumption when the only thing that can drive down the costs of energy is less consumption. Why aren't energy tax revenues being set aside for alternative energy generation projects or energy consumption reduction projects? Today there are parts of Connecticut that are seeing gasoline break the $3/gallon barrier. Rising fuel costs are not going away. Why aren't our elected officials focusing on the real problem instead of manufacturing one?

Junk Policy

The Democrats just can't let the junk food ban go. From Dan Malloy:
Governor Rell missed her opportunity to sign the ban on sales of soda and junk food in our schools last year when it was first passed -- and now she has shown a complete lack of the leadership necessary to get it through the legislature this year. Our kids deserve better.

That's why I am once again announcing my support for the proposal to ban the sales of soda and junk food in our schools -- and I am calling on the state legislature to pass this ban, and on Governor Rell to finally sign it.

We must never put corporate profit and the influence of lobbyists ahead of the health of our kids.

Our kids have already waited long enough for us to act. (Malloy)
The junk food ban bugs me. It isn't just that it's another instance of the nanny state rearing its head, but that it's a breathtaking cop-out.

Even if we take the junk food ban at face value, most schools don't allow sales from vending machines until after school hours are over. That means that, at best, we'll be protecting kids from Frito-Lay and Dr. Pepper after school, not during--when they can bring anything they like to lunch, study hall or class, not to mention what they eat at home. So it's a small, timid little ban that won't actually have much of an effect on kids' health at all.

But that's not the problem.

Some Democrats, Malloy and DeStefano included, have accused Governor Rell of dealing with big problems with "a press release and a band-aid," or, in effect, promising to do something but not actually fixing the problem. That's what the junk food ban is. It's a great press release: the Democrats seem to be protecting kids from big corporate goons, while promoting healthy lifestyles. Perfect. What could be better?

As it turns out, just about everything. A ban on junk food won't help kids be healthier: at best it will deny them the opportunity to buy snacks that their parents probably buy for them anyway. Also, schools are cutting down on gym classes. It's hard to find work as a physical education teacher, these days. Gym costs too much, so it gets cut back. Score one for the white hats.

The junk food ban also won't keep kids away from exposure to corporate sponsorship. In schools alone, team uniforms increasingly bear corporate logos (Nike and Reebok, for example), as do scoreboards, and companies sponsor educational films, activities and, worst of all, fundraisers. If you want new band uniforms, sell a hundred Crunch bars each, or a dozen subscriptions to third-rate magazines. Great. The problem is, schools need the money, so they turn to where the money is.

Out of school, kids see and hear advertising everywhere they go. TV, movies, radio, internet, walls, buses... everywhere. A ban on junk food is supposed to help?

If Democrats are serious about healthier kids, they could:
  • Mandate more physical education and recess time during the day. Even in elementary schools, recess time has been cut back

  • Improve school lunches, which are still putrid. When I was a teacher, you could get a heaping, steaming mound of grade-Z chicken nuggets for $2.00 or so. There were probably 30 of them. It was wretched.

  • Promote healthy living for everyone by making recreational facilities clean, affordable, fully staffed and accessable to everyone

  • Look at ways to combine services, streamline costs and rewrite the tax code to make it possible to pay for a healthier, less corporate school experience


Do that, and you start to actually address the real problems. Dan Malloy, John DeStefano and other Democratic leaders ought to think hard about whether they'd rather apply the band aid and walk away, or get to work curing the patient.

Source

"Malloy: Our Kids' Health Should Come First." Malloy for Governor. Press Release, 17 April, 2006.

The Joy of Top Nav

I've been playing with CSS again. There are now top navigation buttons instead of a small sidebar menu. They are a lovely shade of blue. I will add at least one more button (to an "About" page) soon. I also did this to highlight contributors' names on the sidebar.

So... what do you think?

What do you think of the top nav buttons?
Gah!
I like it
What? What are you talking about?
Please... please don't make any more changes...
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com


This can be an open forum.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Art of Rell

Passing nearly unnoticed this week was yet another poll showing Gov. Jodi Rell with absurdly high approval ratings, all across the board. While her high marks are always something to gawk at, the fact that she has sustained them for nearly two years is more remarkable yet. Connecticut has rarely had a governor so popular. John Rowland was, for a brief moment, just as popular as Rell during the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, but his pre-scandal ratings usually hovered in the 60s somewhere. Lowell Weicker wasn't well-liked at all--he never managed to get out of the 50s, and didn't break 50% after the income tax passed. Even Bill O'Neill, who was governor during the boom years of the 1980s, never saw popularity like this. His highest rating was 63%, in 1987.

For Weicker, O'Neill and Rowland, popularity seemed to be tied to how people felt about government and the state in general. In the mid 1980s, the economy was pretty good, and the state seemed like a decent place to live. So people liked Bill O'Neill, electing him in 1982 and 1986. However, when the late 1980s brought economic downturn and O'Neill was forced to raise taxes, voters turned on him and his ratings shot down.

Weicker never managed to have a sustained stretch of anything resembling popularity, although his willingness to force through and sign the income tax probably saved the state from financial oblivion.

John Rowland wasn't initially a particularly popular governor--his ratings were in the 50s for a very long time--until the boom years of the late 1990s boosted him into the 60s. He was most popular after September 11th, with a December 2001 rating of 74%, although his popularity sank back into the 60s for the 2002 election.

None of these three men can match Rell. That's odd, considering the economy is so-so, property taxes are high and transportation is a nightmare. So what's happening? Why is Rell so popular? Why do so many people from all over the political spectrum like her, despite what seems to be adverse circumstances?

One: Governor Everywoman

Rell, as suggested by this cartoon which ran today in the Courant, is adept at finding the middle ground and camping out there. Rowland was too ideologically conservative for a lot of people, but Rell doesn't fit that label. Civil unions? Public financing of campaigns? Stem cell research? These issues, all of which came from the landmark 2005 session, would never have made it past Rowland's desk.

Rell's ideas aren't radical. She doesn't seem ideological at all, in fact, and that's a big part of her appeal. She's Governor Everywoman: straightforward, thoughtful, honest and willing to compromise for the good of the whole. In an age where politicians all seem slick, fake, corrupt and blinded by power or ideology, that image is golden.

She probably doesn't deserve it. Rell is actually a skilled political player who is very, very good at keeping Democrats and even her own party off-balance to achieve her aims. Also, some Republicans grumble that she's too willing to sell them out to look good.

Two: Governor NotJohn

This has been the biggest reason given by Democrats for Rell's popularity, and there's a lot to it. Rell has been very good at distancing herself from Rowland in both policy and personality, and it's been a breath of fresh air for the state.

Rell's forceful backing of campaign finance reform in the face of what looked like Democratic apathy helped to turn around all the reform credentials the Democrats had amassed from the Rowland scandal. By the end of 2005, Rell seemed like the reformer, while the Democrats seemed like they were blocking the way.

Rell's uncanny ability to float above both Rowland's and her own administration has helped her to come out of every rough patch unscathed. Rowland scandals? Sorry, didn't know. Moody? Garfield? Never heard of them. Every scandal in the Rowland administration seemed to stick to the governor--not so in the Rell administration. She's teflon.

Three: Governor Grandma

She's just so likable. Remember the story about the kid who crashed into the governor's car? Do you remember what she did? Here's the quote:
Rell "got out of the car and went over and hugged the young lady and said, basically, `They are just cars and cars can be replaced. We're all fine,'" Wiltse said. (Pazniokas)
Wow. Can you imagine Lowell Weicker doing that? Or John Rowland?

That, and the fact that she doesn't live in the governor's mansion but in her family home in Brookfield, is a breast cancer survivor, dropped out of college to get married in the 1960s and, as the newspapers have been reminding us, is now a grandmother, makes her seem human. Normal. You want to root for her. Other governors and political figures seem to exist in a plane above our own. Rell doesn't. People liked Ella Grasso for the same reason: she seemed unpretentious and genuine.

It's easy for politics watchers and others to dismiss Rell as all artifice, and to point to her thin record on the economy and health care as reasons why Connecticut can't afford for her to stay on until 2011.

But what if it isn't all smoke and mirrors? What if you peeled away the layers of image and found pretty much the same woman? What if she really does deserve that high approval rating, even just a little bit?

What then?


Source
Pazniokas, Mark. "How Not To Meet a Governor..." Hartford Courant 22 February, 2006. B3.