Which party has the bigger tent?
On the north steps of the state Capitol Thursday, Republicans running for the House of Representatives made a case for the idea that the Connecticut Republican Party, rather than the Democrats, is the more inclusive organization.
Emanuela Palmares, 33, of Danbury, is challenging 12-term incumbent Democrat Rep. Bob Godfrey. She said she’s a single mother of a child with special needs, is a partner in a small business that “feels the burden of our state’s tax and regulatory practices,” and is an immigrant from Brazil who worked to obtain her citizenship.
Palmares said the Connecticut Republican Party gives her the “freedom to be all of the above, all at once.”
The Democratic Party, which holds an 87-64 majority over Republicans in the House, disagrees and points to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his policies as proof that the party doesn’t offer that big of a tent.
But Republicans running for state office said Trump is not a factor in their local races.
Dr. William Petit, who is running against Rep. Betty Boukus, D-Plainville, said the presidential campaign “certainly muddies the water” when he’s knocking on doors and talking to voters. He said many voters are simply disgusted and have expressed that they won’t be voting.
Petit said he tries to encourage voters to comes out and vote in the state races. He explains that they don’t have to vote for every office on the ballot.
Connecticut Democratic Party Executive Director Michael Mandell said Connecticut Republicans leave no doubt that they are the party of Trump.
“The top House Republican and GOP legislators from both chambers attended the Republican National Convention as Trump delegates, and the vast majority of GOP legislators have declared their support for his hateful, divisive campaign,” Mandell said. “This attempt to change the narrative is disingenuous.”
Republican legislative leaders and candidates said they are focused on doing what’s best for Connecticut.
“We should have all the government we need, but only the government we need,” Palmares said.
Petit said the Democratic majority and Malloy, who chairs the state Bond Commission, have relied too heavily on bonding to pay for both essential and nonessential items.
“We have to stop borrowing for things that we want. We only can borrow for things we truly need because at this point we can’t afford all of those things,” Petit said.
House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said the rhetoric at the press conference “is typical GOP, leading with negativity and offering little substance, not dissimilar to the tone set by their own presidential candidate Donald Trump.”
Aresimowicz, who is in charge of the Democratic re-election efforts in the House, said Democratic candidates are bringing forward a “positive vision for Connecticut’s future.”
It’s been a long time since Republicans have been in charge of the Connecticut House. They last held the majority back in 1984 when Ronald Reagan was at the top of the ticket and the party lever was still available.
It’s been so long that South Windsor Mayor Tom Delnicki, who is running for state representative, mistakenly told House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, that he hopes she becomes the next “majority leader.” Klarides reminded him that the majority leader post would be a demotion — she would be Speaker of the House if Republicans were to pick up 12 seats in November to hold a slim 76-75 majority. Delnicki said he meant to say Speaker — it was a light moment at Thursday’s news conference.
Democrats currently hold an 87-64 majority in the House, but they saw that majority shrink by 10 seats in 2014 when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was at the top of the ticket. Already, 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans have announced they aren’t seeking re-election to the 151-member chamber.
Klarides said she’s not in the business of handicapping the election and it’s politics, so “anything can happen.”
However, she bragged that Republicans have gained 27 seats in the past three election cycles.
She also said the 10 seats they gained in 2014 came during an election when their Republican candidate for governor and every Republican congressional candidate lost. She said that means it wasn’t a “fluke. It wasn’t coattails, it wasn’t anything. People searched out our members” on the ballot to vote for them.
“It’s time to end one-party rule,” Klarides said.