Whether or not the outcome was exactly what we had hoped for, I think we can all share a sigh of relief that all the hyperbole is over. Never in the history of midterm political contests in our state has such an obscene amount of money been expended on an election—not even on a national election. Our mailboxes have overflowed with campaign flyers. (Linda’s alone were far greater than all other candidates combined!)
This election may also have set a new record in the number of gate signs. Even candidates opposed to such clutter were forced to place signs in self-defense. Nor will we miss the barrage of TV and radio ads with candidates from both parties telling us how they will solve unemployment, balance the budget and put us on the path to economic recovery often without raising taxes or cutting services—and, of course, why their adversaries would do just the opposite. For all of this, voter turnout at 62 percent was no greater than it was in previous midterm elections.
If this November’s election proved anything, it is that large amounts of money won’t guarantee victory—not here and not in California. Perhaps this is truer today than ever. With the country mired in a deep and pervasive recession, the hundreds of millions spent on political campaigns is a turnoff, especially for those out of work or whose livelihood is threatened. In defense of Linda McMahon and Tom Foley, it can be said that as relatively unknown Republican newcomers in a heavily Democratic state, they needed to spend a lot just to build
name recognition and to swing independents to their side. Yet, in the case of McMahon, who lost so decisively to Richard Blumenthal, we must question the decision of the Republican State Committee to endorse McMahon with her millions over Rob Simmons with his superior political credentials.
Simmons represented Connecticut’s 2nd Congressional District for four terms, during which he was credited with saving the New London submarine base from deactivation. His years of service on the CIA qualified him to serve on the Armed Forces Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee, and, unlike Blumenthal, he fought in Vietnam for nearly two years, earning two bronze stars. During the Obama Democratic sweep in 2008, after a forced recount Simmons lost by a mere eighty-three votes out of a quarter million cast. We are left wondering whether he would have been able to defeat the popular and politically experienced Blumenthal. We suspect Rob Simmons is still wondering the same thing.
Freshman U.S. representative Jim Himes faced a concerted effort by Republican challenger Dan Debicella to unseat him. Fending off Debicella’s accusations that he consistently voted with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Himes insisted that he has voted across the aisle more than any congressman in New England. Debicella’s strong party support was not enough to overcome Himes’s personal appeal, especially among unaffiliated voters, bolstered, ironically, by his pledge to follow in the footsteps of Chris Shays in asserting his independence from his party in voting on specific issues.
Surprising also was the narrowness of Dan Malloy’s margin of victory over Tom Foley in the governorship race. True, Connecticut has a record of electing Republican governors and Democratic legislators, but Foley was hardly a house-hold name before the campaign was launched, while Malloy enjoyed a solid reputation as Stamford’s popular mayor and architect of the city’s rejuvenation.
Given the critical fiscal problems of the state of Connecticut and its looming $2 billion deficit, we don’t envy anyone who occupies the governor’s mansion. Once more the governor will face a difficult veto-proof Democratic majority that has anything but a reputation for farsightedness or accommodation. It will take someone with great personal charm and persuasiveness to deal with the recalcitrant members of that body and to convince them to act in the best interest of Connecticut’s future. We believe Dan Malloy is the right person for the job. Hopefully, with the Democrats in sole possession of both the legislature and the administration, the kind of legislation needed to stem the exodus of business and individual wealth from our state can be enacted.
It is encouraging that so many candidates for state and national office are from Fairfield County, and especially Greenwich, which has long been called upon to bank-roll Hartford’s profligate spending. To no one’s surprise, Scott Frantz breezed through the campaign haze to easily reclaim his seat in the state senate where he will continue to be a prime advocate for fiscal sanity. We should also be proud to have Livvy Floren, Fred Camillo and Lile Gibbons continuing to represent us in the house. They have managed to work hands across the aisle with the supermajority, which is critical in the face of our fiscal crisis. Meanwhile, for all our sakes we wish Dan Malloy and his legislative body the greatest success in righting our ship of state.