For nearly two decades, the caps of Connecticut’s political landscape have been largely frozen in place. The Governor’s office was held by one of the two names on 1994’s Republican lawn signs and the two U.S. Senate races have been safely controlled by their longstanding occupants. With so much stability for so long, it is amazing to consider that all of it has changed in the space of three weeks.
After sixteen years of Republicans occupying the Governor’s office of an otherwise very Democratic state, the Rowland-Rell legacy ended with a whimper as Governor Dannel Malloy was sworn in as the first Democratic Governor in a generation.
The change at the top of state government quickly caused more changes in the General Assembly. Governor Malloy appointed six state legislators to various posts within his administration, forcing special elections at the end of February that will replace those long-serving legislators with more new faces.
As if the swearing in of a Democratic Governor wasn’t a hallmark on its own, the same day saw perennial Senator-in-waiting Richard Blumenthal finally became a United States Senator. The man who was ubiquitous as Attorney General has become a ubiquitous US Senator. While it is likely that Mr. Blumenthal will hold the Senate seat as long as he wants it, it seems equally likely that the 65 year old Blumenthal won’t be there for decades as Mr. Dodd or Mr. Lieberman have done.
The trifecta was completed this week as U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman announced his intent not to seek re-election in 2012. His ardent support for the War in Iraq made him a pariah to liberals and his 2008 support of his friend John McCain’s Presidential bid turned him into an untouchable in the eyes of many Democrats. There are probably more Democrats cheering his announcement than lamenting it.
Mr. Dodd’s 30 years of service as Senator made him the longest serving Senator in history and upon completion of his term, Mr. Lieberman’s 24 years will put him fourth on the all-time list. While Mr. Blumenthal’s unique position gave him unchallenged access to the Democratic nomination in 2010, 2012 promises to be a free-for-all. The Lieberman announcement, coming one day after former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz announced her candidacy for the Senate, has set off a scramble among current and former officeholders that will further shake up the political landscape.
In reviewing Connecticut’s political history it quickly becomes clear that recent years have seen the same people in government serving for much longer terms than has been the case in the past. After such a long stretch of stability and in combination with the state’s desperate need for innovative problem solving, these changes are healthy for our democracy and beneficial for our state.
Heath W. Fahle served as the Executive Director of the Connecticut Republican Party from 2007-2009. Contact Heath about this article by visiting www.heathwfahle.com