In the end, it wasn’t close after all. Dan Malloy won a resounding victory over Ned Lamont, and is well-placed to run against Tom Foley in November.
A lot of ink is going to be wasted trying to figure out just what went wrong for Lamont. After all, he had a huge lead, high name recognition, the backing of many of the same activists that had so strongly supported him in 2006, and plenty of money. What could possibly derail him?
There are a lot of reasons, some more important than others. A blizzard of negative mailers at the last minute, for instance, and the surging campaign, experience and smart voter outreach of Dan Malloy, are among them.
But the size of Malloy’s win, combined with low turnout, suggests that the late summer date of the primary may have had more to do with this result than anything. Lamont’s better name recognition didn’t help when so many voters didn’t show up, and Malloy did a better job of reaching those voters who did. As town-by-town results become available (and why weren’t they on election night?), we should get a clearer picture of how this victory was won, and where.
Most Democrats should easily unite behind their nominee, despite some bad blood that developed over the past month or so. Malloy enters the general election as the Democrat with the best chance of actually winning the governorship since Bill Curry in 1994. He also enters the main event with something he’s never had before in a gubernatorial race: a lead in the polls.
McMahon defeats Simmons and Schiff
All night, Linda McMahon struggled to break 50%, even though her victory over her two rivals seemed assured. Her win suggests several things: first, that Republican voters are still not all that hot on Rob Simmons, who was far closer to Peter Schiff than to McMahon in votes; second, that a candidate like Schiff can do better than expected here in Connecticut; and third, that Republicans still have reservations about McMahon.
She’s going to have to get her base more enthusiastically behind her and put some of those nagging doubts to rest if she hopes to get close to Blumenthal and. She has plenty of money and a strong organization to help her as she readies for November, however. It’s very easy to underestimate her but, as Simmons found out, perilous. McMahon vs. Blumenthal is going to be closer and more exciting than we think, especially if Blumenthal isn’t soon roused from his current slumber.
Foley defeats Fedele and Griebel
Republican voters here shrugged and chose the guy on the top of the line. None of the candidates seemed to inspire particularly strong support, and the close results showed that.
Fedele came close, but could never quite break through against Foley’s momentum. Griebel won a respectable amount of votes, but it’s hard not to wonder what the race would have been like if he hadn’t been in it. Probably a lot less interesting.
Now Foley is the nominee, and the contrasts between him and Malloy are sharp. Foley bring his business experience and his personal fortune to bear against Malloy, although as Malloy demonstrated against Lamont, those things can easily be turned against him.
Malloy is a different opponent than either Fedele or Griebel. Malloy has been preparing for this race for years, really he’s been running for governor since the Rowland administration, and he’s finally gotten good at it. Foley happened into the governor’s race once Chris Dodd retired, and the prospects of a Republican victory in the U.S. Senate race seemed less certain. Foley will have to work very hard, and wage a much more focused, specific and enthusiastic campaign than he did in the primary if he wants to have a chance of beating Malloy.
The size of Kevin Lembo’s win was pretty staggering, and it’s hard not to think Democrats were sending a message here. Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura pushed the tolerance of Democrats by speaking at a Tea Party rally, launching ridiculous negative ads against Lembo, trying to use the court system to deny Lembo financing, and winning the endorsement of the ultraconservative Family Institute of Connecticut. Democrats overwhelmingly rejected him.
Nancy Wyman’s margin over Mary Glassman was far larger than the margin her running mate had over Ned Lamont, suggesting that adding her to the ticket was a good idea.
Martha Dean’s defeat of Ross Garber was interesting only because the race had been so dirty. Apparently the sign-stealing antics of her husband didn’t hurt her.
Janet Peckinpaugh won the right to run against Rep. Joe Courtney in the 2nd district, which is the first and possibly last time we’ll hear anything from Republicans there this year. The only other notable congressional result was Dan Debicella’s win in the 4th district. He’ll run against Jim Himes, the most vulnerable of Connecticut’s House delegation.
Overall, it was a great night for endorsed candidates, which suggests that in low-turnout, low-interest elections, the party convention’s blessing is still a useful thing. Who knew?
Chris Bigelow is the former owner/author of Connecticut Local Politics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and cats.