The dust has settled, the primary is done, and the general election contests are now fixed. What, if anything, did we learn?
Let’s start with the top of the ballot, the governor’s race, where two fairly surprising things happened on Tuesday night.
First, endorsed candidate Ned Lamont absolutely crushed Bridgeport Mayor and ex-con Joe Ganim. For all the talk of Ganim’s strength in the cities and Lamont not being exciting enough, the only town Ganim actually won was his own. Outside of Bridgeport, Lamont won handily. He did well in the cities, the suburbs, and the country.
So Joe Ganim, sorry, but Democrats outside Bridgeport just aren’t that into you. I feel like there was a message here: Democratic voters didn’t want someone who was guaranteed to lose to a Republican, and they also wanted to make a strong moral statement about the kind of person who should lead us. In short, Democrats voted to save their skins and to rebut the moral relativism of President Trump.
Note that none of that has anything to do with the guy who actually won, Ned Lamont. His support is still as soft and squishy as ever.
The much bigger surprise of the night was on the Republican side, where businessman Bob Stefanowski won a convincing victory over his four rivals, including endorsed candidate Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton.
Stefanowski managed his win with a measly 30 percent of the vote, which was around 42,000 votes altogether. He did it by being on TV early, embracing President Trump, being an outsider, not being Mark Boughton, and being absolutely crystal clear on what he wanted to do — cut the income tax. That’s it, but it was enough.
He also bypassed the convention entirely, and self-funded his campaign. So much for the system.
Stefanowski won all over the map, while his rivals had much more limited appeal. Boughton did well in the extreme west of the state, near his hometown of Danbury. Former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst picked up a few of the more conservative towns. Businessman David Stemerman did well in Greenwich and the greater Hartford area, while Steve Obsitnik won, well, Westport and New Canaan.
In the end Republicans selected someone who seems familiar, a rich self-funder with vague plans. I presume Tom Foley had other things to do.
Stefanowski received an endorsement Wednesday morning from another rich self-funder with poorly-thought-out ideas, President Donald Trump. Ned Lamont was quick to pounce, but Stefanowski shot right back.
Bob Trumpanowski https://t.co/C67Vym44p4
— Ned Lamont (@NedLamont) August 15, 2018
Ned Malloy https://t.co/omXczkeQ7L
— Bob Stefanowski (@bobforgovernor) August 15, 2018
I’m tired of this already.
How will it shake out? Well, Stefanowski and Lamont are fairly close to generic Republican and generic Democrat, the public doesn’t really know either one very well. In Connecticut, the generic Democrat wins every time.
On to the other races! We learned that 2016 Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes is a force to be reckoned with as she defeated former Simsbury First Selectwoman Mary Glassman for the 5th district congressional nomination. Many Democrats want younger leaders, and they want more diversity in candidates. Hayes, with her inspiring story and political savvy, is now poised to become the first Black woman elected to Congress from Connecticut. I do wonder what’s taken us so long.
Elsewhere, we learned that there’s still some gas in the old party engines after all. Endorsed candidates won pretty much every other race. Of special note was the loss of New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart in her race for lieutenant governor. Stewart, a young moderate woman with a record of success in her Democratic city, was considered a real rising star in the Republican Party, but she couldn’t get any traction. Voters chose the deeply conservative state Sen. Joe Markley instead.
If there was an anti-Markley vote within the party, it was split between Stewart and the third candidate in the race, Darien First Selectwoman Jayme Stevenson, who cast herself as the most electable moderate of the three.
At some point Stewart may realize that she’s in the wrong party.
And lastly, we learned that even with lots of candidates and open seats, people still don’t turn out for the primary. Turnout was once again pathetically low.
On to November!
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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