As you’ve read in our DFER CT Playbooks over the last 18 months, local elections come down to tactics and execution. There is a great deal of debate in Hartford about issues that Democrats are pursuing, like minimum wage increases, school district regionalization, and tolls--to name a few. The Connecticut “Just Say NO” crowd is claiming that these policies will be disastrous for suburban residents and a political liability. These are tough issues that require legislators to listen to their constituents and understand how their districts are impacted, but the reality is that Democrats don’t lose elections over legislative debates like these ones, as long as they push for meaningful change as leaders.
Every May, Connecticut fulfills its unique tradition of holding elections in four municipalities on the first Monday of the month. These are quintessential low-turnout elections, but--because there are only four--they create a chance for party activists statewide to pay close attention, invest time, and commit resources. In Andover, there appears to be a new party in charge, as the Democratic candidate leads the Republican by 15 votes in this open contest for First Selectman. In Union, the Republican ran unopposed in his re-election as First Selectman.
But the two most competitive races are in Woodbridge and Bethany. These have always been close races because of the demographics of the communities, and they have also proven to be swing districts in the legislature. There, Beth Heller (D-Woodbridge) was seeking her first re-election as First Selectman, and Derry Gorski (D-Bethany) vied for re-election after having been first elected as First Selectman in 2003. The May 6, 2019 results showed a split decision: Democrats held on to the Chief Elected position in Woodbridge, but Derry Gorski lost by just over 50 votes.
On the whole, even though these tend to be very local elections, municipal elections have the chance of impacting the broader political climate in 2020 and in 2022. Having a Democratic chief elected official can be critical to swing legislative districts, and when statewide candidates seek local ambassadors to rally their votes in a game of turnout, a Democratic chief elected official can be invaluable. Additionally, wins in these local elections build the confidence of legislative candidates who are eyeing difficult “midterm elections”. So we need to take time to learn from these elections and make sure Democrats are suited up for the fall.