Murphy Banks On New Haven
by Melissa Bailey | Aug 13, 2012 2:10 pm
Posted to: Campaign 2012
Chris Murphy encountered a challenge as he walked down Grand Avenue: After investing his time locking in endorsements and building a field operation in New Haven, can he convince voters to actually come to the polls on Tuesday?
His hopes of becoming a U.S. senator may rest on the answer.
Murphy hit Fair Haven as he entered the final stretch before Tuesday’s Democratic primary, when he faces Susan Bysiewicz. Both are seeking the party nomination to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman.
The winner will most probably face Republican candidate Linda McMahon in the general election.
Murphy has taken to heart a new adage in Connecticut politics: Democrats can’t win unless they win New Haven, big.
So Murphy, who represents the northwestern part of the state in U.S. Congress, has practically moved into New Haven during his Senate campaign. He swept local politicians’ endorsements; set up a campaign headquarters on Whalley Avenue; hired staff to canvass the city; and made frequent campaign stops to the city, where few people had met him before. He plans to watch primary night results not in his home district, but at New Haven’s Omni Hotel.
Tuesday will be the first test of whether his newly assembled field operation can bring results at the polls. Murphy is expected to have no problem defeating Bysiewicz. But the election is a crucial dress rehearsal: His team will be field-testing its New Haven operation for the November general election, when he’ll need all the help on the ground against a candidate expected to spend $50 million or more of her own money on the campaign.
Bysiewicz is relying on a more low-budget, “grassroots” operation without paid staff knocking on doors in New Haven Tuesday, according to her, campaign manager Jonathan Ducote. He said she appeared in New Haven “several times” last week, and considers New Haven “a very important part of the state.”
Murphy, by contrast, spent about eight hours in New Haven Friday, four days before the election, starting at the Bella Vista senior citizen complex on Eastern Drive. The towers house 4,000, including many loyal Democrats of voting age. They have become a must-see campaign stop for politicians seeking office. Murphy spent over an hour there on his debut appearance at the towers Friday.
Between shaking seniors’ hands, Murphy was asked why he chose to spend so much time in New Haven.
“You can’t win a Democratic primary in the state without winning New Haven,” he explained.
Politicians have taken note of that statement, especially in light of the 2010 election, when New Haven delivered Democat Dannel Malloy the state’s largest municipal margin of victory, 18,613 votes, a 6 to 1 difference, sending him to the governor’s mansion. (He won the entire state by only 5,637 votes.) In the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial primary, New Haven’s labor-backed operation helped Malloy beat a candidate backed by New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, earning Malloy victory in DeStefano’s backyard and helping Malloy defeat a multimillionaire candidate who, like Linda McMahon, poured much of his own money into the race.
Murphy, the party-endorsed candidate heading into Tuesday’s Senate primary, now has the support of that same labor-backed coalition, which has taken over New Haven’s Democratic Town Committee this year. Those vote-pullers now know Murphy’s name and have lined up behind him.
The voters themselves? They’re a different story. Therein lies Murphy’s Tuesday challenge.
“What Chris?” Linda Helps Answer
As he chatted up voters Friday, Murphy acknowledged that his name recognition isn’t the best in New Haven: Though he lives only 20 minutes away in Cheshire, he has never held statewide office or represented the city.
“I definitely have some work to do,” he conceded.
Fair Haven Heights Alderwoman Barbara Constantinople, who lives in Bella Vista, served as Murphy’s guide through the complex Friday.
“Did you see Chris?” she asked a janitor as they passed each other in the hall.
“What Chris?” he replied.
“Chris Murphy,” she replied. The one running for Senate.
To warm up the crowd, Murphy sent a campaign ice cream truck to the senior complex Thursday.
“Thanks for the ice cream,” called out Art Seamour, who had enjoyed a banana split on the campaign’s dime.
In a surprise twist, Seamour said he had learned of Murphy not from flyers or ice cream envoys, but from his Republican opponent’s well-endowed campaign.
Seamour said he had seen a lot of ads on television with Murphy’s face—“the ones against him,” negative ads paid for by McMahon.
Seamour said he also met Susan Bysiewicz, who visited the complex Thursday and “promised the world.” He won’t be voting for either of them Tuesday, because he’s registered as an independent, he said.
Neither Murphy nor Bysiewicz is a household name in New Haven, conceded Murphy supporter and 30-year veteran legislator state Sen. Martin Looney, who accompanied Murphy on the campaign trail Friday.
Murphy is the party-endorsed candidate and a three-term member of U.S. Congress, Looney noted, but he’s not very well known “because he’s not been a Congressman of this area.”
Bysiewicz has the advantage of winning three statewide elections, but to a “lower-profile office,” secretary of the state, Looney observed.
“I don’t think anyone has particular name advantage,” said Mayor DeStefano, who’s supporting Murphy.
Low Turnout Predicted
In part because of low name-recognition, Murphy and Bysiewicz face the challenge of getting voters to care about a race in the middle of August, with no one else on the ballot to bring people to the polls.
Except for in a sliver of New Haven that votes in a contested West Haven state legislature race, New Haven Democrats will have only one race to vote in Tuesday: Murphy vs. Bysiewicz. There’s no governor’s race this year and no New Haven state legislators face either primary or Republican competitors.
Republicans are expecting a quiet day Tuesday because registered Republicans make up less than 5 percent of the voting population in New Haven.
On Friday, Murphy said “we hope to meet or exceed” the 25 percent statewide voter turnout from the 2010 primary. Turnout that year in New Haven was 21 percent.
One way to predict turnout is to look at the number of absentee ballots voters have requested. As of Friday, the city had sent out 755 absentee ballots to Democrats, according to the city/town clerk’s office.
Looney called 755 “respectable, but not a high number.”
There isn’t a good year to compare that to, because 2010 had a robust gubernatorial race to bring more voters to the polls, 2008 had a presidential primary, and in 2006 Mayor DeStefano was running for governor.
This time around, “there’s not a compelling local issue” on primary day, said Mayor DeStefano.
“I see this being a low turnout,” he said.
DeStefano and Looney disagreed with politicians’ perennial claims that it’s hard to get voters to come out to an August primary.
At Bella Vista, Alderwoman Constantinople said Murphy’s visit Friday was important because “a lot of people didn’t know about the election.”
It was hard to know from looking around Bella Vista how many voters would show up Tuesday.
“It Wouldn’t Be True”
Like many seniors who fled into the Victoria Room in face of rain, Dolores “Dee” Capone (pictured) donned a bright red Chris Murphy sticker.
However, when questioned, she revealed she did not plan to vote for Murphy, or for anyone at all.
“I’ve never voted in my life,” she said. “I don’t follow politics,” she said, so “it wouldn’t be a true vote.”
She was asked how she got her Murphy sticker.
“He just stuck it on me,” she said.
Murphy’s second campaign stop Friday, on Fair Haven’s Grand Avenue, gave a hint at the operation he has assembled to work on election day.
Several paid staffers, including Jayuan Carter, a Dixwell Democratic ward co-chair who is serving as field director in New Haven, passed out literature as Murphy traveled door to door.
Alderwoman Migdalia Castro said she has lined up 20 workers for election day, four of whom will be paid.
Hill Alderwoman Jackie James, a veteran electioneer and head of the Democratic Town Committee, said she is working as a volunteer to coordinate both paid Murphy staff and other volunteers.
Murphy said his campaign will send people out door-knocking and dropping literature in New Haven in shifts all weekend, as well as all day Monday and Tuesday. His campaign has set up a headquarters in a rented space at 123 Whalley Ave.
“Chris seems to have a good field operation,” noted DeStefano. In a low-turnout election, he said, that operation will be “a valuable tool and will help pull voters.”
Bysiewicz has not rented office space in New Haven and has no paid staff knocking on doors, according to campaign manager Ducote.
“We’re just taking a real grassroots approach to this. We’re working out of people’s living rooms and relying on neighbor-to-neighbor” interactions to get out the word, he said.
Murphy has a roughly 2 to 1 financial advantage: He had raised $5.5 million and spent $3 million as of July 25; Bysiewicz raised $2.3 million and spent $1.6 million by that date, according to the CT Mirror.
Alderwoman Constantinople said she’ll have a half-dozen people working for Chris Murphy at Bella Vista on Tuesday.
Murphy’s team met with mixed results on Grand Avenue, where the Congressman visited businesses and stopped passersby.
Severiano Burgos, whose Grand Avenue barbershop, El Jibaro, has become a regular stop on the campaign trail, welcomed Murphy and his entourage.
Burgos previously vowed to support McMahon when she visited him in 2010.
He said Friday he will support Murphy—“he’s the only one who came today.”
When Murphy left, he put down a campaign leaflet and got back to cutting hair. Asked if he would vote on Tuesday, he said no, confusing Murphy for a local candidate.
“I don’t live in New Haven,” he said.
Murphy spent over five minutes talking to Paula Santiago Rodriguez about supportive housing. He gave her campaign literature.
After he walked away, she said she remained on the fence: “I’ve gotta go online and check” out the candidates, she said.
She gave a skeptical review of the Congressman.
“You gonna come out here a week before the election?” she said. “He needs to come out here a little more often.”
Tags: Chris Murphy, Linda McMahon, Susan Bysiewicz
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It’s good to see that people are skeptical, considering that none of the candidates from either party have a proposal that would do anything to address the “opportunity gap” in any meaningful way - even though the vast majority of the American public want that.
Unemployment among young minority males is over 50%, and about 90% of wealth is held by a tiny minority at the top - though Republicans are slightly worse, none of the candidates will do anything about these things.
My latino brothers and sisters.Just as we african americans have Judas Goat leaders,You have Latino Judas Goat Leaders who are selling you out.You must get the spirit of Jose Coll y Cuchi and Pedro Albizu Campos to form a Latino Nationalist Party.In fact The Puerto Rican Nationalist Party was founded on September 17, 1922 by Jose Coll y Cuchi and Pedro Albizu Campos.You must break a way from the White control male Democratic and Repulican Parties.
De Oppresjo Liber.
voters beware———what has mr. murphy done for new haven————if you can’t think of anything then you know who to vote for!!
It’s a little early to ask the question: What has Congressman Murphy done for New Haven? He isn’t our elected official, so it’s not yet in his job description to “do” anything for us. He currently serves the 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
He is running for U.S. Senate. After he wins the general election in November, he will represent us in New Haven. And this is good for young people, workers, women and families in our city.
I think it is a positive sign that Chris Murphy has campaign HQs in New Haven and it’s clear he’s trying to get to know the Elm City. As the campaign continues, I hope he reminds voters of his ongoing work to keep tax regulations fair for the working class, support funding for housing, and protect women’s rights and our access to healthcare. We need senators like Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal.
Vote tomorrow and vote in November!
And a bit of realistic cynicism to close: The best way to ensure that politicians “do” things for you is to vote. When they see we can turnout voters, they are more willing to work on our behalf.
voters beware————if you don’t know that Mr. Murphy is not currently representing New Haven and you do not even know who your congressperson is, please don’t vote.
Please DON’T vote for Chris Murphy. He is the only Connecticut member of the House of Representatives who has not co-sponsored the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (HR 2966). I don’t understand why; his constituents don’t eat horses.
I have tried to contact his office about this and I have been ignored. He says in his TV ad that he never gets tired of listening, but that has not been my experience.
Typical of individuals running for office to go to lower income areas at the last minute. As if we somehow become starstruck and cannot think of the issues at hand and make a responsible decision. I haven’t seen Chris Murphy walking down Liberty Street yet. Call me when ANY of the candidates dares to stop by. I’d given them a cup of coffee and a piece of my mind.
I think that our people are so uninformed that they will vote the way they are told, not just in the lower income areas NHinfo. (because many in my area are susan supporters many are not voting at all this go around) But lets also remember the yale students…. far more uninformed than the financially challenged community. New to the city, many are new to the state and trust what they are told. And maybe they take the extra step and do a little research on line. But they are all lamb being lead.
I was going to reply to stuckinNH, but Leslie Blatteau said it rather well. Thanks.
Elm City Voter, because he likes French food, dogs, or is a woodworker who uses traditional glues? What about cordovan shoes? I don’t know. I agree with your observation about talking a lot about listening. At the East Rock CMT meeting, he spent more time saying he liked listening, than listening.
I should like to vote for the other Chris, but that WWE whack job is sure to win the primary, so come November…
I look forward to voting for Murphy. I like his positions, I like his attitude and I like his interest in New Haven. Bysiewicz just wants to hold an office for the sake of holding an office, Murphy wants the office so he can govern. The people who are whining about Murphy’s “last-minute” visits to New Haven need to read the article: he has been here relentlessly since he began campaigning for office. Why would someone campaign here any earlier if he only ever represented another part of the state? As for McMahon, any person who is not part of the 1% would be out of their mind to vote for her. Her interests and positions are clear-cut, and they are not in the favor of any city, let alone one with poor people like NewHaven.
posted by: Jones Gore on August 14, 2012 11:49am
Yeah many of the comments show the ignorance that people have as far as who represent them here in New Haven.
Having said that I looked of Murphy’s voting record and had sponsored some good bills.
I saw at least two lawn signs on Mitchell Library property today, on the Whalley Avenue property line, which read, “I’m a supporter of CHRIS MURPHY.”
That is not a violation?