As it became clear in the wee hours of Wednesday morning that another Democratic sweep of Connecticut’s statewide and congressional offices was inevitable, I asked myself a variation of Albert Einstein’s now-famous quote about insanity: How can Republicans in our state think that the same strategy that has failed them multiple times will work if they simply deploy it over and over again?
By 9 a.m., the wreckage was evident – strewn as it was from Greenwich to Thompson and most points in between. Democrats swept all six constitutional offices, as Gov. Ned Lamont led the way with a more-than-12-point thumping of GOP challenger Bob Stefanowski. The night was so disastrous for Stefanowski that he even lost his own hometown of Madison by 14 points.
But it didn’t end there. Democrats maintained their substantial majorities in both houses of the General Assembly. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal won a third term by landslide proportions against Leora Levy, the feckless Trump-endorsed fundraiser and socialite who is easily one of the worst GOP candidates for statewide office in recent memory. Adding insult to injury, the one policy question on the ballot opposed by many state Republicans, a constitutional amendment to allow for early voting, passed by nearly 20 points.
The one bright spot appeared to be the race in the 5th district, the least Democratic congressional district in Connecticut, where GOP challenger George Logan was locked in virtual dead heat with incumbent Democrat Jahana Hayes.
“We’re closely monitoring the vote count, but given the results reported by the Secretary of State, we’re confident that after all the votes are counted we believe George Logan will be the next Congressman from Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District,” Logan campaign senior advisor Liz Kurantowicz said Wednesday afternoon.
As of Wednesday afternoon, neither candidate had claimed victory outright and, with Hayes leading by only a slim margin, the possibility of a recount loomed large. But after the resolution of a technical snafu in Salisbury related to the recent redistricting changes made to the election management system, the town belatedly announced the results of the 5th district race. The extra votes proved decisive, as Hayes picked up nearly 2,000 additional votes, obviating the need for a recount.
“The inclusion of these vote totals brings the margin of victory for Representative Hayes to 1,842 votes. This total exceeds any statutory margin of victory that would necessitate a recount,” Theodore Bromley, director of elections for the Office of Secretary of the State, said in an email Wednesday evening. “As such, with the inclusion of Salisbury’s vote totals, there is no statutory requirement for a recount in the 5th Congressional District.”
If there was any doubt about the wisdom of Einstein’s axiom, it was dispelled by Stefanowski’s performance yesterday. Four years ago, he came within three points of denying Lamont a first term as governor. This morning, it became clear that he would lose the rematch by as much as 12 points. As my colleague Susan Jane Bigelow put it:
As I wrote back in July, twice in the last decade, Republicans ran a wealthy businessman, Tom Foley, with no experience as a candidate for public office against Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and twice they lost. Twice they ran a wealthy businesswoman, Linda McMahon, against each of our Democratic US senators and she lost both times.
Why would anyone think Stefanowski’s rematch with Lamont would be any different? I can only guess wealthy business people were selected in the last several electoral cycles because the Connecticut Republican Party has always had trouble raising money, and the three aforementioned candidates were capable of funding their own campaigns.
I thought earlier this year that Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Boughton, then the mayor of Danbury, would have made a much more formidable challenger to Lamont. But GOP convention-goers felt otherwise. For that, Lamont supporters everywhere give you their eternal thanks.
It has gotten very expensive to run for governor, even in small-state Connecticut. Including political action committee spending from outside groups, $43 million alone was spent trying to influence voters in this year’s gubernatorial campaign. The also-wealthy Lamont outspent Stefanowski by a nearly 2-1 margin in the self-funding department.
Despite having several seemingly potent issues to use against Democrats (inflation and crime, for example), it appears that Connecticut Republicans are up against some unfavorable trends. Two come to mind off the top of my head. The national Republican brand has been badly damaged by Donald Trump and the poisonous cult of personality he has inspired. It does, however, strike me as unfair to tar all Connecticut GOPers with such infamy, but such is the nature of politics.
Trump’s electoral carnage includes the stinging defeat last night of several congressional and gubernatorial candidates he had endorsed, while his presumptive rival for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whom Trump had recently mocked as “Ron DeSanctimonious,” won re-election by a whopping 20 points. In the next election cycle, Connecticut Republicans would do well to thank the former president for his service and get behind DeSantis. He’s Trump without all the baggage.
Then we have the problem of people leaving Connecticut and the sorting of the national population trends along political lines. According to the 2020 census, five of Connecticut’s eight counties lost population over the previous 10 years, with much of the outmigration going to more conservative states, even as Connecticut’s overall population held steady because of immigration. Since the pandemic, tens of thousands moved in from progressive environments such as the greater New York City region.
According to a Forbes analysis of census data, Democratic-controlled states lost a combined 4 million residents between 2010 and 2019. Where did they go? A 2019 study by U-Haul reported that the top five states to see the greatest influx of new residents include the Republican-led states of Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Ohio and Arizona.
If anecdotal evidence is any indicator, more “Leftugees,” as Forbes has branded them, could be fleeing Connecticut. I’ve encountered on social media several Republicans in the state who are so despondent that they say they’re thinking of leaving.
At this rate, in 50 years or so we’ll all be sorted by state or county, according to our political beliefs. That will be boring. Diversity of thought is something I cherish. An entire generation whose only exposure to those with other beliefs is on Twitter, is a generation intellectually impoverished.