When Andrew Roraback and Elizabeth Esty won their respective primaries Tuesday night, they did so by outperforming their opponents in crucial regions. The maps for both 5th Congressional District primaries make these geographical patterns clear, and might give us a clue as to how the race will develop in the general election.
Regional factors played more into this primary than the Democratic one. Sen. Andrew Roraback did extremely well in his northwest corner state senate district, often running up huge margins against his opponents. However, the farther from home he got, the less well he tended to do. His opponents were more easily able to paint him as not Republican enough in towns where the people didn’t already know him. Democratic nominee Elizabeth Esty may similarly find anti-Roraback attacks work better in, say, the Farmington Valley than in Goshen.
The GOP map also shows how the fragmentation of the anti-Roraback vote and how it cost conservatives a chance to put one of their own up against Esty. Mark Greenberg did better than a lot of people expected, placing second or outright winning in towns across the district. His support was concentrated in the Waterbury area, but he also did well in the western part of the district, where he often ran second to Roraback. Justin Bernier and Lisa Wilson-Foley fought over their home turf, the vote-rich Farmington Valley towns. However, this fragmentation shouldn’t be too much of a factor in the fall, Republicans will unite behind Roraback if they think they can actually win this seat.
The collapse of outgoing House Speaker Christopher Donovan is evident all across the district. Former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty won a convincing victory by running up the numbers against Donovan in the suburbs and staying relatively close (or, in the case of Waterbury and Danbury, winning) in the cities. Donovan won some of the traditionally more progressive areas of the district, such as the northwest corner and the two eastern cities of New Britain and Donovan’s hometown of Meriden, but almost nowhere else. This should give Donovan pause if he’s thinking of running on the Working Families Party line—strength in the cities and almost nowhere else may work for Democrats statewide (see Dan Malloy’s narrow 2010 victory) but it doesn’t work in the 5th. See the 2002 election for an example of how badly that can go.
Esty’s challenge will be to win over Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents in the cities after a nasty primary, and to make sure the coalition of voters that elected U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy in three successive elections stays together elsewhere.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.