Well, the 2011 municipal elections are in the books. I’ve been busy searching for signs, portents and trends in the results, but there aren’t a lot to be found. Maybe the story of this election was just how unremarkable it was. Both parties generally won where they’re supposed to; Democrats in the cities and some of the older suburbs, Republicans in the small towns. There were few upsets or surprises. I’m reminded of the election of 2007, which was similar in being a mixed bag for the parties without any clear trends.
But we can still take some useful points away from Tuesday’s elections, so without further ado, here’s the winners and losers roundup!
Small/Medium City Democrats – In 2005, the big story was Republicans kicking out entrenched Democrats in Connecticut’s small to medium-sized cities, such as Torrington, Middletown, New Britain and Norwalk among others. Some of those gains were reversed this week as New Britain, Manchester and Middletown returned to the Democratic fold. And if you don’t think most Democrats are excited about booting Michael Jarjura from office in Waterbury, you haven’t been paying attention.
Incumbents – That said, election nights are usually a good night for incumbents, and 2011’s election was no different. About two dozen towns changed hands between the parties out of nearly 160 towns in play. Where was the anti-incumbent sentiment we’ve been told to watch out for? At the town level, anyway, it’s not really present. There’s also the distinct possibility that the lingering crisis of the recent storm and endless blackout helped keep some incumbents in office, but more on that later.
Gov. Malloy – This man never slows down. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman popped up at Democratic victory parties across the state on Tuesday night. Malloy clearly relishes his role as head of the Democratic party far more than former Gov. M. Jodi Rell did as head of the Republicans, and the sort of party-building he was engaged in this election season should help him establish strong links to towns and make the Democrats stronger. He also helped sell the idea that Democrats won the night, despite some evidence suggesting it was a wash.
Working Families Party – Love them or hate them, there is no political party quite like the WFP in Connecticut, and they had a good night Tuesday. They won all three minority council seats in Hartford, shutting the moribund Republicans out completely, and helped rack up votes for cross-endorsed Democrats in several other cities and towns.
Post-Outage Morale – Can I just say how excellent it was to walk into the high school and vote after a week and a half of blackout and crisis? It felt wonderfully normal. There were some questions about whether elections should be delayed in some towns, but I’m glad they were held.
Chris Healy’s Legacy – The GOP under Chris Healy was notable for a few things, specifically an ability to win municipal elections in smaller cities, special election wins, and a strong social media presence. Republican social media, such as the @ctgop Twitter account and their blog The Everyday Republican were crucial for up-to-the-minute information in years past. However, Democrats are starting to take back those cities, Republicans did rotten in recent special elections, and the official Republican presence on social media has faded. I checked in on their Twitter account on election night only to see a bunch of updates about what Chairman Labriola was doing. Zzzzz. How about some election results, or some big wins on Democrats’ turf?
Turnout – Due to the storm cleanup and lingering power outages, voters stayed home in droves. Turnout was lower than in previous years, especially in towns hit hard by the storm. The low turnout is another reason why it’s so hard to draw any larger conclusions from this election.
Storm-fueled anger – That said, there was speculation that voters angry at how the epic botching of the storm cleanup by CL&P would show up and take their frustrations out on elected officials. This didn’t happen. If anything, effective town responses may have helped local incumbents in places like Simsbury and Enfield.
Blogs – There used to be a network of town-focused blogs and other websites keeping track of elections. Now, Twitter, Facebook and a very few other online news sources are the go-to places for immediate election results. I like the constant flow of information on Twitter, but something seems missing.
That’s what I’ve got for Election 2011. What do you think? Let us know who you think the winners and losers were in the comments!
Susan Bigelow is the former owner of CTLocalPolitics and an author. She lives in Enfield with her wife and cats.