Election Day is nearly here, at long last! With almost every city and town in the state holding some kind of election, it’s hard to know where to turn your attention. Here is a guide to some of the races to watch on Election Night, 2019.
As it stands, Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns aren’t overwhelmingly controlled by one party or another.
The map of top-office control in Connecticut, meaning the party identification of the mayor or first select-person, shows a state that’s pretty evenly divided. There are some patterns that conform to national trends, such as the largest cities being overwhelmingly Democratic and the small towns of the interior western portion of the state, or the Republican “heartland” of Connecticut, being mostly controlled by the GOP.
After that, though, the patterns break down. The cities of New Britain, Danbury, Torrington, and Norwich have Republican mayors. Small towns like Hartland that vote for Republicans are run by a Democrat. To me, the most fascinating thing about this map is how unlike it is to the many other maps I’ve created. And it’s always been this way! Maps from 2005 and 2007 show the same almost random constellation of party control.
This is because low turnout, local issues, and campaigns that can reach nearly every voter can have an amazing effect on whether a race is winnable for members of a party that might have no luck running for state offices. Local parties could either be super competent or utter basket cases. A town leader might be very popular and well-liked despite party.
So, given all that, what’s worth watching on November 5?
There is a competitive race in Middletown between former Republican mayor Seb Giuliano and Democrat Ben Florsheim for the open seat being vacated by Democrat Dan Drew. New Haven’s mayoral drama will come to an end, as will Bridgeport’s. Hamden has a race that’s drawing a lot of passion amidst protests over a recent police shooting. And Richard Moccia, former mayor of Norwalk, is running to lead the town of Ridgefield, where he now lives.
What else is happening?
In 2017, a surprising number of towns flipped top-office control from Republican to Democrat, leading some people to speculate, incorrectly, that national politics was having an outsize influence on local races. A surprising number of those Democrats are now running unopposed, but the ones who are not may be vulnerable:
Trumbull is a pretty interesting race for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that the former first selectman, Tim Herbst, ran for governor and lost in 2018. The seat he vacated in 2017 to do so was won by a Democrat, Vickie Tesoro. She is facing Herbst’s father, Michael Herbst, in her re-election campaign. This is a high-interest, high-spending race, definitely worth the watch.
Bristol’s first-term Democratic mayor, Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, is facing a 22-year-old tax accountant this year. That might sound like an easy win for her, but Bristol is weird, and there have been young mayors in the region before.
In New Fairfield, first-term Democrat Pat Del Monaco is running for re-election against former First Selectman John Hodge. One of the major issues is a plan to fight invasive plants in Candlewood Lake — with carp. The plan seems to be working, which is pretty cool.
But every town has its own story and its own issues, so I’m sure plenty of other stories will emerge as the night goes on. I’ll see you all on the other side of Election Day.
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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