Incoming Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz and a Connecticut union leader said Democratic candidates weren’t outworked in the 2016 election, as was suggested last week by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Lori Pelletier, president of the AFL-CIO, said there was an “unprecedented amount of spending by anti-worker, pro-corporate groups that often deceptively linked the governor to many of our labor-endorsed candidates, even those who were not incumbents.”
More than $1.38 million was spent on several legislative races by independent groups. The total is far less than what has been spent in previous gubernatorial election years, but the money was concentrated in smaller voting districts rather than a statewide focus. State Senate districts are about 99,000 people and state House districts are about 25,000.
Aresimowicz said every race had individual factors that led to the outcomes.
He said they had great candidates who worked really hard.
“In some races Donald Trump played more of a role than in other races, and in some races the governor’s unpopularity had implications for the race,” Aresimowicz said.
Last week following the election, Malloy told reporters that he had nothing to do with the outcome of the legislative races. And blaming outside spending by independent expenditure groups also wasn’t going to be the answer.
With the election of Donald Trump “independent expenditures are not going to go away,” Malloy said, because it’s doubtful he would nominate a Supreme Court justice to overturn Citizens United — the decision that allowed for this type of spending on elections.
“It’s quite clear we will permanently live in a post-Citizens United world,” Malloy said, suggesting that blaming election results on independent expenditures is now “an oversimplification of the issue.”
He said Democrats can blame outside spending on campaigns all they want, but candidates who lost Tuesday were outworked by their opponents, regardless of party.
Aresimowicz said his party logs the number of doors its candidates knock on and it counts the number of mailers sent to constitutes.
“Some candidates worked extremely hard,” Aresimowicz said.
In Berlin, the town Aresimowicz represents, Trump won with 53.53 percent of votes cast to Hillary Clinton’s 42.35 percent. Aresimowicz only won his own race by 497 votes.
“I survived, but I had a candidate running against me who worked very hard,” Aresimowicz said.
Pelletier said voters re-elected all five of Connecticut’s all-Democratic Congressional delegation, but they were sending a message when it came to their votes in the legislative races. The message, according to Pelletier, was that they “were opposed to the governor, helping elect candidates with agendas openly hostile to working families.”
This past year the Democrat-controlled legislature avoided tax increases and cut more than $820 million from the state budget. Malloy also used his executive authority to lay off more than 1,600 state employees.
“Criticizing losing candidates for not working hard enough is simply a way to minimize the real reasons for the election results — unprecedented outside spending, the wildly unpopular 2016 budget, and a governor whose diminishing popularity was exploited by Republican leadership and their wealthy backers,” Pelletier said.
Republican lawmakers read the election results differently.
“Voters are angry and disappointed and they feel let down by legislators and the governor,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said. “Now with a difference of four votes, they won’t be able to give their members a pass on their bad policies.”
The gains are unprecedented since the disappearance of the party lever in a presidential election year, according to Pat O’Neil, a spokesman for the House Republican caucus.
“Republican gains in a year that produced a huge voter turnout in an overwhelmingly Blue State shows that our Republican message, despite attempts by Democrats to blur the political lines and distort voting records and smear Republicans with a massive advantage in special interest money, failed,” Klarides said.