Currently, Democrats hold 21-15 majority over Republicans in the Senate and an 87-64 majority over Republicans in the House, but that could all change today.
Republicans believe they’ve struck gold in asking voters if they feel they are better off now than they were six years ago when a Democratic governor was elected for the first time in two decades. Republican legislative leaders have played on the public’s disapproval of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. But they’ve struggled explaining how electing more Republicans to the legislature will help improve the situation.
“One party rule has gotten you one of the highest tax rates in the country and pushed jobs out of the state,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said Monday. “People are disgusted.”
She said it doesn’t matter whether voters have a Hillary Clinton or a Donald Trump sign on their front yard they are “disgusted” with what’s happening at the state level.
However, Klarides and Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said they have to make the connection for some voters between the executive and legislative branches.
They said Malloy’s approval rating, which is one of the lowest in the country, is accurate based on what they’re hearing at the doors.
Fasano said there’s still a disconnect though between how the governor is able to implement all these bad policies and the “nice, personable” Democratic lawmaker who represents their district.
“If Connecticut’s on the right track then vote for people in Democratic majority,” Fasano said..
Klarides said when you explain that Malloy wouldn’t be able to pass these bad policies if the Democratic majority in the legislature didn’t approve them, “a light goes off.”
In general, the House needs 76 votes to pass anything and Klarides’ caucus of 64 members isn’t voting for it, so someone has to be, she said.
Fasano added that when the margin between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate was much smaller, there was much more conversation between the two parties. As the Democratic majority has grown, so has the divide between the two on issues important to all state residents.
But not all voters will have a choice in who they vote for this year.
There are 22 House seats, split between 12 Democrats and 10 Republicans, that are open this year. Forty two of the 151 seats are uncontested. In the Senate, there are two senators, one Democrat and one Republican, who retired earlier this year. Four of the 36 seats in the upper chamber were not contested this year.
Republicans need to pick up 12 seats in the House and 4 in the Senate to gain control.
In 2014, Republicans were able to pick up 10 seats in the House when Republican Tom Foley, who lost for the second time to Malloy, was at the top of the ballot. In the House there were only about 34 seats that were competitive in 2014 and only six seats in the Senate.
Will the presidential candidates at the top of the ticket matter?
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, who is running uncontested, said he thinks voters understand there is a difference between the state and the federal election.
Looney said he’s hoping to hold onto the seat vacated by Sen. Andrew Maynard where former state Rep. Tim Bowles is facing off against Republican Heather Somers. He’s also hoping to pick up seats in Bristol and Westbrook. In Bristol, Sen. Henri Martin, a Republican, is facing a challenge from Michael Nicastro, a Democrat who works for the chamber of commerce. In Westbrook, Sen. Art Linares, a Republican, faces a challenge from Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman.
Looney said he doesn’t believe coattails of presidential candidates stretch past the five Democratic incumbents running for re-election to the U.S. House.
House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said his candidates have been working hard and he believes the House will be able to make up some lost ground.
Republicans would need to pick up 12 seats in the House to win the majority for the first time since 1984 when Ronald Reagan was at the top of the ticket.
Aresimowicz said Joseph de la Cruz is challenging first-term Rep. Aundre Bumgardner, R-Groton, who only won his seat by 39 votes. He also thinks they will pick up Rep. Cara Pavalock’s seat in Bristol, Pavalock is another first-term Republican in the 77th District. She’s being challenged by Democrat Laura Bartok, a former legislative and congressional aide.
Aresimowicz said they will hold onto the seat in West Haven where Rep. Lou Esposito lost a primary challenge to Michael DiMassa, and could pick up a seat in Glastonbury where Matthew Saunig is challenging Rep. Prasad Srinivasan.
Aresimowicz said voters are frustrated with the presidential candidates at the top of the ticket and have been willing to engage in discussions about the state. He said he thinks the Democratic message, which is more business-friendly, than previous years is resonating.
Klarides contends that’s because Democrats hijacked the Republicans message. She said voters shouldn’t believe the hype. She said Democrats have been “misleading” voters about their message of bipartisanship and other issues, like support for vocational technical high schools. She said Democrats can’t claim to support the vo-tech system when the budget they passed cuts $14 million from the schools.
Democrats argue that the Republican budget would be further in deficit this year, than its budget, which is $42 million in deficit, according to state Comptroller Kevin Lembo.
At the other end of the political spectrum is the Working Families Party, which has cross-endorsed 87 candidates and is running two of its own candidates this year.
Lindsay Farrell, executive director of the Working Families Party, said she doesn’t believe the Republican Party’s message will resonate with voters based on what her party is hearing at the doors.
“It’s a hard year to make predictions,” Farrell said. “Hopefully, in the races where we have made endorsements for a Democrats running against a Republican, people will see what we’ve seen with Republicans being charge of Congress and how much time and money they’ve wasted trying to take healthcare away from people.”
She said as far as the one party rule argument being made by Republicans— “just because we haven’t gotten to where we need to get to yet, doesn’t mean you want to throw the baby out with the bath water.”
She said that’s like saying I have a migraine and Advil didn’t do as well as it did last time “so let me drink some battery acid.”