Connecticut Republicans Rule on the Municipal Level
Connecticut following the November 2013 elections.
Democratic rule isn’t just the way of the land on the state level—all of Connecticut’s representatives in Congress are Democrats.
Connecticut’s delegation in D.C. has been all Democratic since 2006, when Rep. Chris Shays was replaced by Jim Himes. The race for the Fifth District, currently held by freshman Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, expects to be a hard-fought battle between Esty and former Republican hopeful Mark Greenberg, but that appears to be the only chance for Republicans to crack the Democratic stranglehold.
Because of this—in areas where Republicans do hold sway, Connecticut is forgotten as they have no representation.
“Republicans control the House of Representatives, but Connecticut has no voice in that majority,” Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. says. “When decisions are being made, Connecticut is the last thing on their mind. When priorities are decided upon and judgment calls are made, Connecticut gets so underrepresented.”
On a municipal level, however, it’s a different story.
When Connecticut Magazine created a map after Election Day that showed which towns in the state stayed Republican- or Democratic-led, or switched from one party to the other, it was interesting that “deep blue Connecticut” actually has more “red” (Republican-led) towns. Sixty percent of towns in Connecticut are now controlled by Republicans.
Republicans will also try to build on the successes from the last gubernatorial election when Tom Foley carried the majority of towns, winning 126 of the 169 in the state.
“I think voters trust Republicans when it comes to pocketbook issues, and they consider us good managers and good operators of their municipality. The challenge on our part is to have that trust extended to statewide elections,” says Labriola.
Why the disparity between a lack of support for Republicans on the federal level, but a majority on the municipal level? A few theories emerge.
The national brand of Republicans have far different and ordinarily much more conservative viewpoints than Connecticut Republicans, which may have trickled down to the independent voters of Connecticut who opt for Democrats rather than pulling a lever for a party they associate with John Boehner, Rand Paul or Ted Cruz. Connecticut Republicans on a state level are, for the most part, different than the stars of the national Republican party.
Party affiliation also may not be of as a big concern to voters when it comes to municipal issues.
“There really isn’t a Democratic or Republican way to fill potholes and to dispose of garbage and make decent sidewalks—it’s not the same partisan question we see on the state level,” says Quinnipiac University political science professor Scott McLean. “On the town’s level it’s this pragmatism that Democrats and Republicans can agree on a lot of issues at the local level that they wouldn’t be able to agree on at the state level.”
Labriola says Connecticut often remains steady in its voting habits. He claims different factors—including gerrymandering and the power of incumbency—keep Democrats in practice. But he’s expecting that to change.
“I think in the Land of Steady Habits, there’s some remorse over one party controlling every level of government,” Labriola says.