Every other year during election season, I go to a specific corner near my home in Enfield and take pictures of the election signs that campaigns have posted there. I’ve been doing this for 12 years, now, and I’ve chronicled seven different elections.
I’ve also chronicled the subtle changes happening around me. The price of beer in the windows of the package store rises and falls. A walk light is installed on the corner, and a medical office building rises from the forest. The newspaper boxes next to the package store door go from two to one to, at last in 2016, none.
So what about the signs? Let’s briefly go through each year, and then look at what’s new (Note for print readers: check out CTNewsJunkie.com for the full gallery).
This was the year when John Kerry and George W. Bush were duking it out, but you won’t see any hint of that on the corner. Presidential signs don’t make it here much, and I’ve never figured out why. U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, is cruising to re-election over Democrat James Sullivan in a much-watched race. A single sign for former Sen. Chris Dodd appears. Former state Rep. Bill Kiner’s orange signs stand out — he was running a futile race against state Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield.
Rob Simmons’s sign dominates the corner in this picture. A few yellow signs for Democrat Joe Courtney are also visible — Courtney would defeat Simmons by less than a hundred votes. The 2nd Congressional District hasn’t been competitive since. Bill Kiner was making another strong run against Kissel, and again he fell just short. There are some signs scattered here and there with Ned Lamont’s name on them, too. Joe Lieberman’s “Joe!” signs are nowhere to be seen, nor are signs for either of the gubernatorial candidates — Gov M. Jodi Rell and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano. On his way to being wiped out by Rell, DeStefano narrowly beat the mayor of Stamford in the primary, a guy named Dan Malloy.
The correct term for a picture this bad is “potato quality,” or so says the internet. I took it with a Blackberry, my first cell phone. Sen. Kissel’s signs are visible, as is a sign for his opponent, George Colli. After losing to Kissel, Colli went on to freelance with CTNewsJunkie and LocalOnlineNews for all of one weekend before being hired by WVIT as a reporter until earlier this year. Note that there’s no sign of the presidential race between Barack Obama and John McCain here, either.
There’s finally some evidence of a gubernatorial election — Tom Foley has a few signs on the corner. Attorney General candidate Martha Dean’s strange “Freedom, Faith, Fortune” sign dominates, however. There are some Courtney signs, and a sign for Democrat David Kiner, Bill Kiner’s son, who would win his race for state representative that year. In the background, almost obscured, is a John Kissel sign.
There are fewer signs here than normal, but that’s because Hurricane Sandy was bearing down on the state when I took the picture. Pretty soon all the signs would be taken in. You can see a few of Rep. David Kiner’s signs, as well as sign for Chris Murphy — then in the middle of a successful run for an open U.S. Senate seat. There’s also a sign for a local referendum, which didn’t pass.
Joe Courtney’s big yellow sign dominates, as do David Kiner’s blue signs. There are no signs for Dan Malloy or Tom Foley, perhaps suggesting a certain lack of enthusiasm for either man. John Kissel’s signs remain; he would win yet another term that year.
And now we get to this year. Joe Courtney’s sign again dominates. Next to it, though, is Republican Carol Hall’s sign encouraging people to “vote for a positive change.” The white text on a black background and the black-and-white picture make it look oddly like an anti-smoking PSA, or something similar. Hall is running against Democrat Tony DiPace, whose signs are also here, for the seat Rep. David Kiner will be vacating at the end of the term.
For the first time ever, a presidential campaign sign appears on the corner! Unfortunately, it’s a sign for Donald Trump. Oh well.
And, of course, there’s a sign for state Sen. John Kissel, who has survived it all. I’m guessing he’ll do all right this year, too, and maybe he’ll even find himself in the majority for the first time in his career.
This little slice of local history, geared to the rhythms of democracy, is reassuring in a year like 2016. Despite all the warnings of apocalypse and doom, and despite storms, recession, wars, and worse, we’re still here.