Special Elections in Connecticut Hold Possible National Significance

by Jack Fowler

On February 22, Connecticut will hold a slew of special elections for the state legislature. The new Democratic governor, Dan Malloy, appointed two senators and six representatives to administration posts, and one incumbent senator, Thomas Gaffey of Meriden, resigned after pleading guilty to charges of larceny. These nine vacant seats will be filled on Tuesday.

Can Republicans run the table, or come close? If they do, will the results send a national message that despite the November elections, there is still a lot of voter angst over the economy?

Yes, and yes. Not helping Democratic chances is Governor Malloy, who released his budget this week, proposing over $1.5 billion in higher income and sales taxes — the largest increase in the history of Connecticut, already the nation’s last celebrant of Tax Freedom Day, and ranked as one of the most hostile states to businesses. Malloy also called for jacking spending by over 2 percent.

Into this milieu come the special elections and a group of conservative Republican candidates who are surprisingly (this is Connecticut, after all) viable, and anything but cannon fodder. Outgunned by 94–51 and 23–13 margins in the House and Senate, the GOP’s prospective gains on Tuesday won’t have major mathematical impacts in Hartford (although a 20–16 balance in the Senate could start to influence votes). But they could send a loud message nationwide — that the voter discontent registered last November is still alive and well.

Coulda shoulda woulda: We’ll hope for the best on Tuesday. By the way, among my favorite candidates is Len Suzio, seeking the Meriden senate seat abandoned by the Dem larcenist. Len is solid conservative — on the social issues he is a champion, and way back he was in the thick of the fight to prevent the state income tax. He could pull it off. Also worth watching: Tim Stewart, the popular New Britain mayor making a strong run for the empty senate seat there, and Bob Kolenberg, another true conservative seeking the vacant senate seat in Stamford. On the House side, two impressive conservative women — Linda Monaco in East Haven and Noreen Kokoruda in Madison/Guilford — are running very viable races.

As is often the case, victory will likely come down to GOTV operations. If Republicans who could be volunteering spend this weekend in couch-potato mode, look for Democrats to defy the Malloy tax-and-spend budget and keep CT a deep-blue state.