None of the current members of Congress from Connecticut, all Democrats, were in any danger from their Republican opponents. That doesn’t mean that their elections don’t tell us a lot about what’s on the minds of Connecticut voters, and where they may go in the future.
1st Congressional District
Rep. John Larson is the epitome of the congressman who’s been in Washington for a really, really long time. Larson, a former state senator, replaced Rep. Barbara Kennelly in 1999 after she left Congress to pursue a disastrous race for governor. He does his job, delivers for his constituents, and is well-liked and liberal enough to be safe from primaries (for now).
Larson ran about even with Joe Biden in the weirdly-shaped 1st District, at least when it came to margin of victory in the district’s towns. Larson’s opponent Mary Fay of West Hartford, who was making a bid to be a rare LGBT Republican in Congress, ran strongly in the part of the district that has nothing to do with greater Hartford: Torrington, New Hartford, Colebrook, Barkhamsted, Winchester, and Hartland. She also very narrowly edged Larson in Berlin, which ended up voting for President Trump.
But Larson won where the people were, and ran especially strong in Hartford and its core suburbs. For now, that’s why no Republican can touch him.
2nd Congressional District
Eastern Connecticut is increasingly Republican, except when it comes to Rep. Joe Courtney. Courtney has represented the 2nd District, which covers the mostly-rural eastern half of the state, since a squeaker of a win in 2006. He’s been in no danger ever since.
Courtney ran well ahead of Joe Biden in most of the district, losing only a handful of towns. Griswold went for Trump 55%-43%, but Courtney flipped the script and won the town by the same margin, 55%-43%. Clearly, there are plenty of people who split their tickets between President Trump and someone who has consistently opposed him in Congress.
Courtney’s popularity isn’t hard to figure out. He’s humble, hardworking, and has a deep understanding of and appreciation for his district. Plus, he delivers. The fact that Electric Boat just got a new contract to build even more submarines for the Navy is due in large part to his tireless advocacy.
But, should Courtney ever not be on the ballot, this district is ready to swing again.
3rd Congressional District
Rep. Rosa DeLauro has been in Congress longer than anyone else in the Connecticut delegation. The 3rd District is a safe seat with liberal New Haven at its core. With Donald Trump on the ballot, this should have been a walk for DeLauro – and it was.
But DeLauro ran behind both Joe Biden and her own numbers from 2016, even as the state turned bluer. Her vote total went down from 213,572 in 2016 to 203,123 in 2020, while Republicans saw their votes increase from Angel Cardena’s 95,786 in 2016 to Margaret Streicker’s 137,505 in 2020.
So what happened? Did DeLauro stumble somehow? Was Streicker that much better of a candidate?
Well, no. Streicker was rich, and pumped tons of cash into her campaign. It helps, but in a district like the 3rd, it can only help so much.
4th Congressional District
Rep. Jim Himes flipped the 4th District in 2008, which was the last time a Republican has held a Connecticut seat. He’s had little problem winning since, but there are some lingering traces of the old Republican stronghold here and there.
Himes’s map looks very much like the map of the presidential election in Fairfield County, in that Democrats won every town but Shelton, Monroe, and Oxford. Democratic support is increasingly strong along the Gold Coast and, increasingly, in the inland suburbs closest to New York City.
Himes did run a bit behind Joe Biden, however, especially in more recently Democratic towns like Darien and New Canaan. Biden beat Trump in Darien 61%-37%, but Himes only won it 52%-47%. The same pattern was apparent in New Canaan; Biden won 59%-39%, while Himes won 52%-47%. Himes ran behind Biden elsewhere in the district, but not by such a wide margin.
Fairfield County voters were clearly fed up with Trump, then, but some of those Biden voters were willing to entertain a Republican congressman.
5th Congressional District
The 5th District is supposed to be the easiest for Republicans to pick off, but that didn’t happen this year. Despite getting sick with COVID-19, Rep. Jahana Hayes easily won another term against Republican challenger David X. Sullivan. Her margin was the narrowest of the congressional races, but she still won by about 40,000 votes.
For a Republican to do well in this district, they need to keep margins down in the cities and run up the score in the more populated suburban areas, like the Farmington Valley and the Waterbury suburbs. Sullivan did very well in the conservative Waterbury suburbs, but, like every Republican since Nancy Johnson, came up short in the Farmington Valley.
And Hayes captured huge margins in the biggest cities. She actually ran ahead of Joe Biden in New Britain, and outpaced the president-elect percentage-wise in her hometown of Waterbury. If this is how Hayes does when she has to cope with a debilitating disease, imagine how she’ll be when she’s running on all cylinders.
There were very few ticket-splitters in this district. That’s very bad news for Republicans.
So if Republicans ever want to win a district here again, maybe they shouldn’t be counting so much on the 5th. Maybe they should hope for Joe Courtney to retire, or get swept up into the Biden administration, instead.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.