When voters decide Tuesday who will run Connecticut for the next four years, the number 18,000 will loom large in New Haven.
Or more precisely, 18,635.
That’s the victory margin Democrat Dannel P. Malloy had in New Haven four years ago when he won a second term as governor. He beat the Republican 21,926 to 3,291 here, his biggest vote pull statewide. No wonder he spent two years focused on the New Haven turnout.
On Tuesday Democrat Ned Lamont faces off against Republican Bob Stefanowski and independent “Oz” Griebel to succeed Malloy as governor. (Libertarian Rod Hanscomb and Mark Stewart Greenstein of the Amigo Constitution party are also on the ballot.) Lamont may need to come close to that magic 18,635 to win.
Polls open from 6 a.m. through 8 p.m. (Click here to find your polling place.) Voters will also vote for U.S. senator, U.S. representative, state senator, probate judge, state representative, and state comptroller, secretary of the state, treasurer, and attorney general. Two referendum questions are on the ballot as well, calling for a more deliberate process for selling state parkland and setting up a transportation “lockbox.”
New Haven has produced the largest Democratic vote for the last two gubernatorial elections. In 2010, Malloy won New Haven by 18,613—and he won the general election by a mere 3,100. Malloy spent two years before the 2014 election repeatedly visiting New Haven to solidify his vote here. The same trend has held true for other statewide elections, making a big margin of victory of New Haven, with the state’s largest Democratic Party and a respected pulling operation run by Yale’s UNITE HERE unions, essential to any Democratic victory.
Lamont hasn’t focused on New Haven the way Malloy did. But elected officials here and UNITE HERE are backing him. Polls show Lamont and Stefanowski in a virtual tie. So the turnout in New Haven could as much as any other factor decide who wins.
In their campaigns, Lamont and Stefanowski have focused on two central issues:
• Who’s more or less like Malloy or Donald Trump. Lamont calls Trump-endorsed Stefanowski a Trump stand-in; Stefanowski calls Lamont Malloy II.
• Who’s more likely to lower your taxes. Stefanowski promises to wipe out the income tax over eight years. Lamont calls that irresponsible and unrealistic, saying he’ll instead cut property taxes as well as a $250 business entity tax. Griebel says they’re both lying about being able to close a projected $4 billion two-year deficit while cutting taxes.
Poll-watchers on election night might want to watch five key New Haven wards where Malloy pulled the biggest margins in 2014 to monitor whether Lamont is matching his pace:
• Ward 7: Downtown, where Malloy won 1,302 to 170.
• Ward 10: (mostly) East Rock, where Malloy won 1,083 to 143.
• Ward 20: Newhallville, where Malloy won 1,021 to 27.
• Ward 25: Westville, where Malloy won 1,280 to 262.
• Ward 26: Upper Westville/Amity/Beverly Hills, where Malloy won 1,168 to 214.
While urban turnout will be crucial to the outcome, so will the votes of unaffiliated voters. The latest figures show Connecticut has 876,517 unaffiliated voters, 791,603 registered Democrats, and 462,948 registered Republicans.
State of the State
As in any election, the campaigns this year offer insights into the state of politics and political discourse in our state or at least test accepted notions.
• Both major-party candidates have concluded that the only way to win is to focus almost exclusively on cutting taxes. For Lamont, that has meant not emphasizing issues like, say, criminal-justice reform. (Griebel, not Lamont or Stefanowski, held a New Haven press conference on the issue.) For Stefanowski that has meant a concerted and disciplined attempt to avoid answering questions or taking stands on any issues beyond cutting taxes.
• Stefanowski has concluded that the best way to win statewide office is to shun traditional party operatives or debates or techniques like seeking free (“earned”) media. That worked remarkably well in the five-way primary, in which he was an unknown. He ditched all but one debate while airing the earliest and most effective commercials. In the general election, he has largely avoided interviews beyond those with some sympathetic outlets. (One exception: Interviews with the CT Mirror.) He has bypassed Connecticut Republican campaign networks, annoying some old-timers; Stefanowski is presumably unaware that Republicans have lost the last two gubernatorial contests and all U.S. Senate races since 1986.
• Stefanowski has also concluded that “Arthur Laffer” and “supply-side economics” are safe, advantageous terms with which to associate. Throughout his campaign, in all his releases and public IDs, he has revealed two facts about himself: He was an executive with USB and GE; and he has a tax-cutting plan he developed in conjunction with Arthur Laffer. Laffer invented the “Laffer Curve,” which purportedly demonstrates that cutting taxes on business and the wealthy magically produces more government revenues because all that freed-up money gets reinvested in the economy and creates jobs and new enterprises. Reagan’s budget director admitted back in the 1980s that his team didn’t really believe that when it cut taxes; since then economists of varying philosophical backgrounds have overwhelmingly rejected the notion. But the Laffer link has not appeared to produce any blowback to Stefanowski in 2018.
• New Haven’s Republican Party, under the direction of a new town chair, has decided that its candidates have the best chance of winning by shunning media interviews. The chair, Jeffrey Weiss, said he advised his candidates to decline (or ignore) requests for interviews because the local media is biased. The Republicans last elected a New Haven state legislator in the 20th century, a New Haven mayor in 1951. The most recent registration figures show registered Democrats outnumbering registered Republicans 28,817 to 2,456. (Another 15,699 voters are registered as unaffiliated.) All the city’s incumbent state legislators are running for reelection; click here for a story about one race in which the Republican has been visible and seeking to get his message out to a broad audience.
Click here and here for stories about the two major-party candidates for U.S. senator, Chris Murphy and Matthew Corey; and here for a story about the two candidates for U.S. representative, Rosa DeLauro and Angel Cadena.
Click on the above video to watch the interview with Angel Cadena on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven.”
Click on the above video to watch the interview with Rosa DeLauro on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven.”
Following are videos of interviews with some statewide candidates who were interviewed on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven” program.
Click on the video for an interview with Republican attorney general candidate Sue Hatfield. Click here to read a story about that interview.
Click on the play arrow for an interview with Demoratic attorney general candidate William Tong. Click here to read a story about that interview.
Click on the video to watch an interview with third-party gubernatorial candidates Rod Hanscomb (Libertarian) and Oz Griebel (Oz Griebel).
Click on the Facebook Live video for the full interview with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont. Click here to read a story about the interview.
Click on the Facebook Live video to hear a previous “Dateline New Haven” interview with Susan Bysiewicz (who first ran for governor, then lieutenant governor). Click here for a story about that interview.
Click on the above audio file of the Facebook Live video below to hear a previous interview with treasurer candidate Shawn Wooden on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven” program. Click here to read a story about that interview.
And click on the above video to watch a leading Democrat and a leading Republican duke it out about their takes on this campaign season: party State Chairs J.R. Romano and Nick Balletto.