Based on past primary data, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill predicted voter turnout in Tuesday’s Republican primary will be around 25 percent.
“I think 25 percent will be the high mark,” Merrill said Monday. “I’m thinking it will be pretty quiet.”
She said it’s her impression that people weren’t paying any attention to the Republican gubernatorial contest between Sen. John McKinney and Tom Foley “until about two days ago.”
Merrill opined that the televised debate on Sunday generated some interest, “otherwise I would have said this would be a really low turnout.”
In 2010, in a three-way primary between Oz Griebel, former Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele, and Tom Foley, there were 120,171 Republican voters who cast their ballots, which is 29.7 percent of registered Republicans. During that primary, Foley defeated Fedele by more than 3,800 votes.
Merrill said since there is no statewide primary on the Democratic side this year, she’s predicting turnout in that party will be much lower.
In 2006, the first year the party primaries were held in August, turnout out on the Democratic side was about 43 percent. The contest that year featured a hotly contested race between then-U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman and Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont. Lamont defeated Lieberman, who went onto win the general election as an independent. There was also a pitched battle that year between now-Gov. Dan Malloy and former New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. DeStefano defeated Malloy to win the nomination, but he went on to lose to former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
With voter turnout predicted to be around 25 percent in this year’s Republican primary for governor between McKinney and Foley, their “get out the vote” efforts will be crucial.
On Monday afternoon, McKinney was addressing seniors at the Fairfield Senior Center before boarding a Metro-North train to New York City where he planned to talk to commuters.
Jodi Latina, a spokeswoman for McKinney’s campaign, said they are going down to get out the vote and make sure that commuters remember to vote Tuesday before boarding the train. She said McKinney as a kept a “rigorous” schedule leading up to tomorrow’s primary and his one-on-one contact with Fairfield voters is going to put him over the top.
After Sunday morning’s debate on WTNH News 8, McKinney said neither he or Foley will be able to predict the voter turnout.
“All the people looking at it agree turnout is going to be lower than it was four years ago,” McKinney said.
He said not as much money has been spent leading up to the primary this year. Last year, Foley self-funded his campaign.
“I think in the last seven to 10 days, which are the most important . . . we’ve hit our stride,” McKinney said. “We’ve gotten support from places across the state that I didn’t expect to get support from, and I feel like we’re doing everything I wanted to do at this point.”
The unexpected support came from eastern Connecticut and the 2nd Congressional District, where McKinney is less well known than in the 4th Congressional District — where his father served as a Congressman for many years.
McKinney said the support from eastern Connecticut wasn’t there two months ago, but he thinks his aggressive advertising campaign and the “specificity of our plans have helped.”
Meanwhile, Foley did not release a comprehensive schedule of public events. A campaign spokesman said he greeted voters this morning at the train station in Greenwich before doing a series of radio and television interviews. Later this afternoon he’s expected to be in West Hartford.
The convention-endorsed candidate, who lost to Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in 2010 by less than one percent, planned to campaign at polling places in Trumbull, Oxford, Southington, and Waterbury on Tuesday.
“I think people understand that I represent a change in direction and that I’m not a career politician,” Foley said Sunday after the debate. “I’m not an insider. I’m not part of the problem.”
Foley said his message has been consistent since 2010.
“I think when a career politician all of a sudden comes up with kind of a new twist on things right before an election, people are very skeptical,” Foley said. “I think people, particularly in a Republican primary, don’t like when Republicans are attacking another Republican.”
Foley said he doesn’t see McKinney’s aggressive campaign techniques, including some hard-hitting commercials, eroding his support.
Meanwhile, Merrill reminded voters Monday that they should report any problems at the polls to 1-866-733-2463 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Both the hotline and the email account will be monitored by staff from the Secretary of the State’s office and the state Elections Enforcement Commission, who will be available to assist voters with any problems.
In order to vote in Tuesday’s primary, voters will need to be registered with a party.