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Connecticut Democratic Municipal Gains Could Spell Trouble For Republicans In 2018

Nov 8, 2017

Governing boards of 12 cities and towns flipped to the Democratic party in Tuesday’s municipal elections. An uptick in voter engagement this year could mean trouble for the GOP in next year’s elections.

Scott McLean, a professor of political science at Quinnipiac University, said there’s a national trend at play—more Democrats are energized to vote in opposition of President Trump.

“It tells us that President’s Trump very low 36 percent job approval rating is definitely a drag on Republican tickets,” McLean said.

Then again, he said, the party that didn’t win the most recent presidential election is generally going to have a good turnout the year following.

According to the secretary of the state’s office, election turnout was around 30 percent. That preliminary number is consistent with voter turnout that has steadily increased during “off-year” elections since 2011. 

One difference this year: communities around the state saw a high level of new voter registrations, which could mean that different people are getting involved.

“There was a lot of new activity - people who had never run for office before, and won,” said Secretary of the State Denise Merrill. “And the second thing is - the number of women running. That was really - I haven’t looked at the actual data yet - but it was very striking, the number of women who have come out not only to vote but to run for office.”

Christine Stuart, editor-in-chief of CT News Junkie, said it’s rare for voter registration to be as high as it was during the 2017 municipal elections.

“The results of this election should make the Republican party very wary that it’s going to be an easy win next year,” Stuart said. “The victories in the suburbs that Democrats had last night was a big victory for the Democratic party.”

Governor Dannel Malloy said the results prove his party is energized.

“Democrats have a message about the future,” he told reporters. “I think people are concerned about what Republicans are trying to do on healthcare, both in our state and beyond our state. I’m looking forward to a very good year next year for the Democratic party.”

Malloy will not run for re-election next year, leaving an open race for the governor’s mansion.

Meanwhile, Kevin Rennie, a columnist for the Hartford Courant and a former Republican state lawmaker, said that based on these results, 2018 Republican gubernatorial candidates should steer clear of the president.

“It could affect voters who might be disposed to supporting change in Connecticut,” Rennie said. “I would not want people to mistake me for a Donald Trump supporter.”

Rennie pointed to Danbury mayor Mark Boughton and Westport tech consultant Steve Obsitnik as early names to watch on the Republican side.