In Test Run, Murphy Finds Secret Weapon
by Melissa Bailey | Aug 14, 2012 8:49 pm
Posted to: Politics, State, Campaign 2012
Chris Murphy’s best shot at winning a U.S. Senate seat this fall emerged on the streets of New Haven Tuesday. Her name is Veronica Egas.
Egas was part of a labor-backed vote-pulling army that tested itself in Tuesday’s Democratic Party primary for the Senate seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman.
Their goal wasn’t just to help Murphy defeat Susan Bysiewicz in Tuesday’s primary. Most people considered the outcome a foregone conclusion. And it was. The Associated Press declared Murphy the winner slightly before 9 p.m. He won by a roughly 2-to-1 margin statewide; he outpolled Bysiewicz by more than 3 to 1 in New Haven, though turnout was anemic.
Rather, the goal was to hone the state’s most potent urban vote-pulling operation for the main event: the general election on Nov. 8 pitting Murphy against Republican Linda McMahon—who won her own party’s primary Tuesday, the Associated Press reported also less than an hour after polls closed. McMahon is on track to spend $50 million or more to try to win the seat. Murphy will need a fearsome grassroots vote-pulling operation to counteract that money. So he has been camping out in New Haven seeking to get that operation going. He’s chosen to do so in the city that proved in the 2010 gubernatorial election that is crucial to any Democrat’s chance of winning statewide office. (Read about that here.)
Chris Murphy is “following a strategy that has been proven to work,” New Haven Board of Aldermen President Jorge Perez said at Murphy’s victory party Tuesday night—which not coincidentally took place at New Haven’s Omni Hotel. “If you’re going to win Connecticut, you’ve got to win in the big cities if you’re a Democrat.” New Haven has the largest bloc of Democrats in the state, Perez noted. Murphy declared in his victory speech that the performance of his ground operation would “guarantee” him victory in November.
He won about 5,172 New Haven votes on the machines Tuesday against Bysiewicz’s 1,543. (Another 500 or so absentee ballots hadn’t been counted.)
In the last statewide primary, the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial contest, winner Dannel Malloy captured 4,469 votes. But that was a far closer race. His opponent, Ned Lamont, who was supported by many insider Democrats, grabbed another 4,289 votes. The people working in both those 2010 campaign were pretty much all working for Murphy Tuesday, but they pulled fewer overall votes.
Meanwhile, in the 2010 general election, New Haven delivered Democrat Dannel Malloy the state’s largest municipal margin of victory, 18,613 votes, a 6 to 1 difference, with a total of 22,298 Elm City votes. That made the difference to send him to the governor’s mansion. (He won the entire state by only 5,637 votes.)
So the goal in Tuesday’s warm-up election was also to introduce Murphy to New Haven. “People just don’t know who Chris Murphy is,” reported one of his poll workers, standing outside Hillhouse High School Tuesday. “When you say, ‘Chris,’ people reply: ‘Well who is he? I’d never heard of him.’”
Most New Haven voters hardly knew him, let alone felt excited about going to vote for him. Murphy needs them to know him, and care about him, by Nov. 6.
That’s where people like Egas came in.
Egas is a 30-year-old waitress at Atticus, mother of two girls, and student at Gateway Community College. She showed up at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to 635 Whalley Ave., where a home had been converted into a campaign mini-headquarters at the edge of the Beaver Hills neighborhood. Yale union organizer Hugh Baran had just sent a dozen volunteers into the streets with “turf sheets” outlining their vote-pulling missions. Other workers crossed off names from voting lists taped to the walls.
Turnout had been low all day. Egas volunteered to knock on doors to bring out voters near her Norton Street home. She got paired with Jess Corbett (pictured), a neighbor, Yale union activist and co-chair of Ward 28 Democratic Ward Committee.
Working with a list of likely voters prepared by the Murphy campaign, the pair knocked on a Blake Street door.
Andrea Cazarin hollered from the side of the building. She beckoned Egas into the driveway.
Egas, who moved to the U.S. from her native Ecuador 10 years ago, asked if Cazarin preferred to speak in Spanish or English. Spanish, came the reply.
“Do you know Murphy, or have you heard of him?” Egas asked in Spanish.
“No,” said Cazarin, shaking her head.
Murphy is a U.S. congressman, she explained. He has fought for manufacturing jobs to stay in the U.S. He supports Obama’s healthcare plan. He fights for poor people, she said.
Egas had some experience under her belt before the conversation. A former part-time worker at the labor-affiliated Connecticut Center for a New Economy, she had some training at a civic leadership institute. And she knocked on doors on that same turf as part of a labor-backed team that helped Brian Wingate topple the president of the Board of Aldermen last fall, part of a wave of elections that enabled union-supported politicians to take control of both the city’s legislature and its Democratic Town Committee.
“Have 5 Minutes?”
Egas explained the stakes to Cazarin: The winner of Tuesday’s primary will likely face McMahon, a Republican who poured $50 million of her own money into her last Senate race.
Of the two Democrats running Tuesday, Murphy has the best shot to beat McMahon, Egas said, speaking in a calm demeanor with an easy smile.
Then Egas made her move: “Do you have five minutes to vote?”
“Yes,” Cazarin replied.
“Good—all you need is your identification,” Egas said.
Cazarin emerged with her driver’s license in hand. She started to hand it to Egas.
Egas explained that Cazarin would have to go to the voting station.
“Let’s go to the little school right over there,” Egas said.
“Oh, we’re going right now?” Cazarin said with a laugh. “I’ll have to get my son.”
She reemerged moments later with her son and climbed into Egas’s gray Mazda MPV minivan.
“He Loves New Haven” Falls Short
Egas and Corbett (at right in photo) had less luck with Sandra Taylor, another Blake Street voter. She said she had not followed the election.
Egas and Corbett explained the departure of U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, and the races to replace him.
“We think Chris Murphy has the best shot” at winning in November against McMahon, Egas said.
“He’s put his headquarters at Whalley Avenue,” Corbett added. “He recognizes how important New Haven is.”
Corbett went through a number of other issues that are important to him, such as fighting for Pell grants and keeping jobs from going overseas.
Taylor heard his arguments, but did not commit to voting for Murphy.
The vote-pullers moved on along the long road ‘til November.
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don’t be so ignorant—-mr. murphy is only interested in new haven before november, before the last leaf falls off the tree—you’ll never hear or see him for another 4yrs.
People waking up and understanding that the system does not work for your benefit. It is designed to benefit the powerful at the expense of the people, to destroy the common good by pandering to the special interest. So it’s not a surprise that people are losing interest in politics.Voting simply encourages the delusion that there is a difference between the two major parties. As long as we limit credible choices to the two-party system you get a two-party duopoly and plutocracy and then you do not have effective political competition. look at how gerrymandering has been used as a potent weapon. Gerrymandering of districts by both major parties when they have the power to accomplish it has not only protected incumbents,it has also made it nearly impossible for third party candidates that are on a huge number of ballots to be successful.I will say it again.We should adopt instant runoff voting to give independents and alternative parties a fair chance to compete.And adopting forms of proportional representation, in which both those in the majority and minority win a fair share of representation along with term limits.
Hey person telling others to not be ignorant: senate terms are 6 years, not 4.
“Hey person telling others to not be ignorant: senate terms are 6 years, not 4.”
OK now that was funny! I got a good laugh out of that. TY
Once the election is over, I don’t see how Murphy will be any different from any other 99 US Senators (save Bernie Sanders). He will be supporting the ultra-wealthy, voting for defense contractors, and throwing an occasional bone to unions (like 100 College Street), at the expense of the rest of us.