Susan Bigelow head shot

Connecticut’s off-year municipal elections go in cycles: sometimes Democrats do well, sometimes Republicans do well, and sometimes it’s a wash. This year it was the Republicans who did better, generally speaking.

Republicans picked up top offices in Ashford, Bethlehem, Bolton, Bristol, Bridgewater, Brookfield, Burlington, Colchester, Colebrook, East Granby, East Haddam, Griswold, Killingworth, North Stonington, Salem, and Windsor Locks. These are a cross-section of the kinds of towns Connecticut has; urban, suburban, and rural. Republicans also held on to the mayor’s office in Danbury and New Britain, both thought to be very competitive races.

In general, Republicans did very well in open-seat races, winning all but a handful of the nearly two dozen first selectman or mayoral seats without an incumbent running. 

So why did this happen? Is this some kind of harbinger of doom for Democrats for next year? Is it because President Biden’s approval rating is slipping? 

Probably not. Most local elections are, well, local. They don’t have a lot to do with big national trends; they’re much more about what’s happening in the town. And that’s the way it should be. This year was different because national and local politics are getting harder and harder to separate out, but not enough to make the local election map look like a presidential election map, or even a governor’s election map. 

For instance, it’s not like New Britain or Norwich are going to vote for Republicans in state and national elections, but both have longstanding Republican mayors. People can and do split tickets, and the electorate for municipal elections is very different from the electorate for state and national ones. 

And sometimes, bringing national politics into local races can backfire, big time. Guilford soundly rejected a board of education slate that spun far-right nonsense about critical race theory being taught to kids.

Democrats shouldn’t lose heart, though. They did win a couple of big races, most notably in Stamford where state Rep. Caroline Simmons defeated former baseball star Bobby Valentine to become the city’s next mayor. They also flipped control of town councils in Avon, Tolland, and Enfield, and took the first selectman’s office from Republicans in Roxbury. That’s something.

Also, local elections aren’t very reliable predictors for state elections. The state’s economic situation, the pandemic, and the way President Biden is perceived will matter an awful lot more than who won Simsbury.

That said … it would be wise for Democrats to look over these results carefully, just in case.

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

Susan Bigelow

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.