Record voter turnout her­alds blue wave

Ste­fanowski won ru­ral, blue-col­lar vote, La­mont claimed sub­urbs, cities

The News-Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Ken Dixon and Kait­lyn Kras­selt

In a record turnout for a midterm elec­tion, ed­u­cated sub­ur­ban vot­ers com­bined with Con­necti­cut’s cities to cre­ate the blue wave that drowned Repub­li­can dreams of re­gain­ing a piece or two of state govern­ment.

The voter surge put Democrats in solid con­trol for at least the next two years.

While Repub­li­can Bob Ste­fanowski won solid sup­port in ru­ral ar­eas and blue-col­lar re­gions in­clud­ing the Nau­gatuck Val­ley, sup­port for Demo­crat Ned La­mont emerged in for­merly rock-ribbed GOP ter­ri­tory. That in­cluded the heart of Con­necti­cut’s Gold Coast in wealthy en­claves like Green­wich and Wil­ton, where vet­eran state sen­a­tors L. Scott Frantz and Toni Boucher, were the high-pro­file face of los­ing Repub­li­cans.

The econ­omy was the big­gest is­sue on the minds of Con­necti­cut vot­ers, and was by far the most talked about con­cern on the cam­paign trail. But ex­perts sug­gest that at the very least, it was op­po­si­tion to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump that ul­ti­mately drew record turnout in Con­necti­cut that led to La­mont’s vic­tory.

“The push­back against the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion played a role,” said Gayle Al­berda, po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at Fair­field Univer­sity. “Peo­ple be­ing re­ally up­set about the stuff that was hap­pen­ing at the White House and com­ing out to vote be­cause of that.”

Al­berda said there was an in­di­ca­tion the blue wave would oc­cur be­cause of the surge of new vot­ers

who reg­is­tered in Con­necti­cut since the 2016 elec­tion, a trend that ul­ti­mately tipped the scales in La­mont’s fa­vor.

Scott McLean, a pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal sci­ence at Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity agreed, stress­ing he thought the voter wave of early 2018 would trans­late to lines at the polls on Elec­tion Day.

“Trump helped de­fine the is­sues,” McLean said Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

In all, about 1.3 mil­lion of 2.1 mil­lion el­i­gi­ble vot­ers cast bal­lots, ac­cord­ing to unof­fi­cial to­tals.

Jonathan Whar­ton, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at South­ern Con­necti­cut State Univer­sity, said the en­er­gized vot­ers in Con­necti­cut’s sub­urbs — es­pe­cially Fair­field County, where Democrats had sev­eral up­sets in long­time Repub­li­can dis­tricts — played a large role in Ste­fanowski’s loss. He also cited turnout in New Haven and Ham­den as play­ing a ma­jor role in the out­come of the gover­nor’s race.

“Clearly there was an in­ter­est in New Haven of not sup­port­ing Trump, so that was def­i­nitely part of it,” Whar­ton said.

Gary L. Rose, chair­man of the De­part­ment of Govern­ment, Pol­i­tics and Global Stud­ies at Sa­cred Heart Univer­sity, be­lieves the turnout was a the re­sult of sev­eral fac­tors, in­clud­ing the high-pro­file fight for the U.S. Se­nate and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

“The way in which the con­gres­sional elec­tions were na­tion­al­ized, I think, added a level of in­ten­sity and in­ter­est, even though Con­necti­cut vot­ers knew very well the in­cum­bents would win,” Rose said. “The in­ten­sity of the gu­ber­na­to­rial con­test cer­tainly brought peo­ple to the polls. Every­one knew it was a close elec­tion. Their dif­fer­ences in tax pol­icy brought many to the polls who might not have voted.”

Plus, with the huge field of can­di­dates and the con­tentious Au­gust pri­maries, state res­i­dents had a stake in who won.

“The ads on TV that were ab­so­lutely om­nipresent through­out the cam­paign, seemed to start serv­ing as a mech­a­nism to draw peo­ple,” Rose said. “The plethora of pri­maries fa­cil­i­tated more turnout in Novem­ber, but you can’t nar­row it down to one fac­tor that brought out vot­ers.”

Carol Kaliff / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Dan­bury res­i­dents vote at Dan­bury High School on Tues­day.

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