WASHINGTON — With all eyes in Connecticut on the battle for governor and control of the state Senate, there is little — if anything — to see on the federal level as Democrats are expected to easily retain control of the state’s delegation to Congress.
The Connecticut State Senate race made a list of “15 elections we are watching on November 6, 2018” at Ballotpedia.org, whose founders envision it as an online encyclopedia for politics. The Senate breakdown is currently 18-18 with six “battleground districts” determining which party will take the majority.
There is no similar entry for the state’s Congressional races. Republicans it appears have long since waved the white flag of surrender — providing no more than a pittance of monetary support to the party’s Senate candidate or the five candidates for the House at a time of record-spending on the national level.
The Senate race is particularly lopsided with Senator Chris Murphy raising nearly $14.6 million, while Republican challenger Matthew Corey has raised $127,858 this election cycle. The open 5th District, where Republicans were once seen as having a chance of winning, has Democrat Jahana Hayes raising $1.6 million while Republican Manny Santos has raised $64,184.
The Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign watchdog group, projects that more than $5.2 billion will be spent this election cycle, making it the most expensive midterm election ever by a wide margin. The overall estimated cost would represent a 35-percent increase over the 2014 cycle in nominal dollars, the largest increase in at least two decades.
“The significance of this election is clear. But whether it’s a blue wave or a red wave, one thing is certain: A wave of money is surging toward Election Day, much of it coming from the wealthiest donors targeting this year’s most competitive races,” Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, said.
Democrats now control Connecticut’s two Senate and five House seats in Congress. Senator Richard Blumenthal is not up for re-election this cycle. Like the Senate and 5th District races, Democrats hold a substantial money advantage in the other House races. In the 4th District, Republican Harry Arora has raised the most among the GOP challengers at $244,715 plus a $500,000 personal loan. Republicans reported no fundraising activity in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd District contests while each of the incumbent Democrats has raised at least $1 million.
The picture is equally bleak when it comes to outside spending. Less than $100,000 has been spent and almost all of that occurred during the primary season in support of Hayes. Compare that to the more than $11 million being spent on attack ads by outside groups on the left and right in contested races in Maine’s 2nd and Virginia’s 10th districts.
Scott McLean, a professor of political science at Quinnipiac University, says the lack of financial resources for Republicans in the state’s federal elections is a strategic decision to focus efforts on the most competitive races and shift funds away from marginal and long shot seats like those in Connecticut.
“It’s a blessing in disguise that we have had as few negative ads. It’s really been isolated to the governor’s race,” he said. “Honestly, I expected to see more but clearly this is a strategic decision by national Republicans and the super PACs are following their lead.”
McLean is also not surprised that Connecticut can have no competitive races at the federal level while there is strong competition at the state level. Much of it, he says, is the way districts are drawn. The larger Congressional districts include cities and suburbs, a blend that favors Democrats. The smaller state districts create more suburban-only voting blocs that are more favorable to Republicans.
“Connecticut is purple at the state level but deep blue at the federal level,” he said.
Kyle Kondik, managing director of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said that House races are often one-sided affairs.
“Even in a year like this, a significant majority of House races all over the country are basically uncompetitive,” he said. “There’s nothing odd about a lack of competition in the House.”
Both McLean and Kondik are surprised that the open 5th District seat hasn’t generated more competition.
“Republicans should have had a chance to compete,” Kondik said, “but it doesn’t seem like their candidate has worked out.”
McLean faulted Santos for not running a strong campaign. “He didn’t get the money he needed and wasn’t able to convert a really compelling personal story into a campaign.”
While this year’s mid-terms appear to be a dud in Connecticut, McLean said there is always a chance for fireworks in the future — if history can repeat itself.
“There have been close races before,” he said, noting a few.
In 1994, Representative Sam Gejdenson barely scratched out a re-election victory defeating Republican challenger Ed Munster by 21 votes. A dozen years later, the 2nd District provided another nail biter when Democrat Joe Courtney defeated incumbent Republican Rob Simmons by just 83 votes.
Another close race came in 1996, when Representative Nancy Johnson won re-election in the 5th District by a 50 to 49 percent margin over Democratic challenger Charlotte Koskoff. Johnson lost the seat in 2006 by a 12-point margin to Democrat Chris Murphy, who had run Koskoff’s losing campaign a decade earlier.