Schol­ars still de­bate the legacy of the Great War, but one thing is in­dis­putable: We live to­day with its con­se­quences, good, bad and un­re­solved.

The Day - - FRONT PAGE - PAUL CHOINIERE p.choiniere@the­day.com

On an Elec­tion Day that saw Repub­li­cans get crushed in the state, in­clud­ing see­ing an 18-18 Se­nate split turn to 24-12 Demo­cratic dom­i­nance, state Sen. Heather Somers emerged from the smok­ing wreck­age with a stronger po­si­tion in the party.

And she wasted no time point­ing that out.

On Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon I con­ducted a phone in­ter­view with Somers, who told me she hadn’t slept since elec­tion night. The bench for can­di­dates to run for ma­jor of­fice in coming years is get­ting thin on the Repub­li­can side, what with all these losses. I wanted to toss around with Somers my thought that, hav­ing proved she could win on a los­ing night, her pro­file in the party must be on the rise. She was way ahead of me. Her cam­paign al­ready had been busy put­ting to­gether num­bers to make the case that Repub­li­cans, with their near-death ex­pe­ri­ence, should see the fu­ture and it is named Somers.

The 52-year-old sen­a­tor, still full of en­ergy, out­lined for me the head­winds she had faced in win­ning re-elec­tion to a sec­ond term in the 18th Dis­trict, with data to back it up. I hung up won­der­ing if I had just heard the start of the 2022 gu­ber­na­to­rial cam­paign.

In­deed, about an hour later a news re­lease from the cam­paign ar­rived in my in­box.

“Amid an oth­er­wise dis­mal night for Con­necti­cut Repub­li­cans, Sen­a­tor Heather Somers won a con­vinc­ing vic­tory in a quin­tes­sen­tial swing dis­trict ... that bucked a Demo­cratic sweep of tight con­tests and of­fered the GOP a roadmap for win­ning in the state,” it read.

The re­lease noted that Somers did bet­ter on elec­tion night than Repub­li­can can­di­dates in eight Se­nate districts that had less for­mi­da­ble voter reg­is­tra­tion num­bers than she faced.

Of course that could ei­ther be read, “Somers crushed it” or “Boy, the rest of you Repub­li­cans are losers.” This look-at-me ap­proach will re­in­force the opin­ion of some in the party hi­er­ar­chy that Somers can be rather po­lit­i­cally self-serv­ing.

But you know what? I don’t think she cares. She worked hard, she won, they lost and the party faith­ful are sick of los­ing. So, tough if your feel­ings are hurt.

To drive the point home, the Somers’ cam­paign pro­vided the num­bers. In the 26th Dis­trict, Sen. Toni Boucher lost in an area with roughly equal Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic regis­tra­tions. Repub­li­can Sen. Mike McLach­lan lost in the 24th Dis­trict where Democrats held a 12 per­cent reg­is­tra­tion ad­van­tage, not as steep as what Somers faced. What is wrong with you peo­ple?

Somers, the cam­paign noted (gloated?), won de­spite a nearly 16 per­cent dis­ad­van­tage, in­clud­ing about 23 per­cent more reg­is­tered Democrats in the eight-town dis­trict’s largest towns: Gro­ton and Ston­ing­ton.

The num­bers are a bit de­ceiv­ing. Two dis­trict towns, Gris­wold and Plain­field, re­spec­tively show 13 per­cent and 20 per­cent Demo­cratic reg­is­tra­tion ad­van­tages. In re­al­ity, they are con­ser­va­tive towns that went with Don­ald Trump in 2016. Their reg­is­tra­tion num­bers are more a prod­uct of their work­ing-class, mill vil­lage pasts than a re­flec­tion of cur­rent sen­ti­ment.

Still, Somers’ win was im­pres­sive. She kept her losses low in Gro­ton and Ston­ing­ton and won else­where, tak­ing the elec­tion by 3,000 votes, 10 per­cent­age points. She faced a strong can­di­date in Bob Statchen, a law pro­fes­sor and Air Force vet­eran. Op­po­si­tion groups were or­ga­nized. And they were en­er­gized by dis­dain for Trump.

Somers had an ef­fec­tive first term in of­fice. It’s why she won this news­pa­per’s en­dorse­ment. And the sen­a­tor ef­fec­tively ran on that record. Her ground game was a good one, un­like too many other Repub­li­can cam­paigns.

Somers is emerg­ing as a force in the party. And she’s not go­ing to let any­one forget it. Paul Choiniere is the ed­i­to­rial page ed­i­tor.

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