Well, 2013 is nearly over, and I don’t imagine many people will be sorry to see it go. The new year awaits, shiny and full of possibility — so let’s get down to some predictions for what may happen over the next 12 months. Add yours in the comments!
Governor’s Race — The big political story of the next year is going to be the governor’s race, of course. There aren’t any other big-ticket races, and none of the congressional campaigns look remotely competitive (more on that later).
The Republicans have a shot at recapturing the governorship, so expect the competition for the nomination between 2010 GOP standard-bearer Tom Foley and several others, including Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, and State Sen. Toni Boucher, to heat up this spring.
There was a moment in the fall when I was pretty sure Foley had torpedoed his own campaign, but he’s been remarkably quiet and disciplined since making a bunch of wild and generally laughable accusations all over state news media. If he keeps his head down and doesn’t do anything unhinged, he’s going to be in good shape. I think Republicans will prefer to remember how he nearly won in 2010 instead of how he stumbled at the beginning of his campaign, and make him the nominee.
No matter who the Republicans nominate, though, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will be in for a fight. He won’t get a formal challenge from the left, but they’re not happy with him. The right hates him, and the middle is leaning away from him.
I still think Malloy has the advantage. First, if Foley does win the nomination, he’ll be looking at a second round against an incumbent governor. Anybody remember when Bill Curry tried that? Second, the economy is ever so slowly improving. Unemployment is going down, and the clouds are finally starting to lift. Lastly, nobody on the GOP side is really all that compelling as an alternative.
In the end Malloy will win a second term by more than anyone expected.
Congressional Races — So the big question here is whether Republicans can win any seats in New England. I doubt it: Connecticut will remain safe Democratic territory.
The 1st and 3rd districts are locked down for the Democrats, and Rep. Joe Courtney in the 2nd doesn’t actually have an announced opponent yet — and there’s no way any Republican could build the money and organization needed to compete in the time remaining.
The 4th and 5th districts might be a little more interesting, but with no national wave building it’s hard to see either Rep. Jim Himes or Rep. Elizabeth Esty losing. Himes should be able to hold off another challenge by former state Sen. Dan Debicella, who was the 2010 GOP nominee. Of the five, Esty is the most vulnerable, but without a moderate nominee Republicans won’t be able to defeat her. Currently, Mark Greenberg is the highest-profile Republican in the race.
Balance of the Legislature — Conservatives expecting a big anti-Malloy wave are going to be disappointed. Republicans will probably pick up a few seats here and there, picking off Dems who may have won during Democratic surges over the last decade, but not much more than that.
Legislative Session — A couple of big items remain on the legislative agenda. The most compelling will probably be the revival of the car tax phase-out, which Speaker Brendan Sharkey has said he will look at again. Without any resolution of lost revenue from municipalities, though, it won’t get much traction.
The budget will continue to be a pressing issue since we’re looking at a big deficit over the next few years. Don’t expect any big fixes in this election year.
Big Issues — So what will we be talking about next year? Economics, definitely, but I think energy is going to start being a very big topic as utilities prepare to raise rates. Obamacare will be a quiet, underrated success, especially in states like Connecticut where it has been embraced.
Transportation is going to be a big topic as the New Britain-Hartford Busway (CT Fastrak) nears completion and work ramps up on the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail line. The future of Connecticut’s relationship with the MTA also may be up in the air after several Metro-North disasters brought some legislative attention.
Connecticut’s cities will be a focus as more and more economic activity and energy shifts to urban areas. New Haven and Stamford already have a lot going on; can Hartford and Bridgeport be far behind? But we’ll also be talking about whether education reform is working in these cities.
I actually think it’s going to be a somewhat decent year after a run of bad ones. What do you think?
Happy Holidays, and have a Happy New Year!
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.