Nation’s politics reflected in state as vote nears

Connecticut’s election for governor, General Assembly and top-of-the-ticket races is refracted through a prism of aggressive national politics in which a United States president stokes his base into a frenzy, in many cases by appealing to its fears.

Meanwhile, a challenge has risen, particularly from minorities and women among Democrats who sense that this year they can regain at least one chamber of Congress.

While Connecticut’s reputation as a blue state may be at-stake Tuesday, in fact, the state had 16 years of Republican governors prior to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s election in 2010, in the depths of the international Great Recession.

With the Connecticut Senate now tied at 18 Republicans and 18 Democrats, both parties are hoping that President Donald Trump’s national momentum, or opposition, will translate Tuesday among the state’s 857,056 unaffiliated voters, as well as the 451,869 registered Republicans and 769,414 Democrats.

The state House of Representatives’ narrow Democratic majority is also at stake, at a time when Republicans have been making steady gains every two years. In 2012, Democrats held a 98-53 majority, which has now dwindled to 79-72.

While national political observers predict re-election victories for U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, the four incumbent Democratic congressmen, as well as 5th District Democratic candidate Jahana Hayes over Republican Manny Santos, control of the House, Senate and governor’s office are highly competitive.

In the governor’s race, the campaign between Republican Bob Stefanowski and Democrat Ned Lamont can be seen as a proxy fight in the national political uproar. Stefanowski has praised Trump, who has endorsed the former corporate executive’s first run for elective office, providing campaign talking points for Lamont and state Democrats banking on the president’s unpopularity.

Stefanowski, in turn, has tried to tie Lamont to Malloy, despite the little contact they have had since the 2010 Democratic primary for governor that Malloy won. Indeed, Stefanowski’s favorite label for Lamont is “Ned Malloy,” who if elected would keep raising taxes.

Lamont calls his Republican opponent “Trumpanowski.” Lamont charges that Stefanowski’s centerpiece — a tax-cutting plan — would fail to generate economic activity and lead to huge local property tax increases, while giving massive tax breaks to Connecticut’s wealthiest.

Nationally, Trump is spending this weekend finishing up a 44-city midterm blitz, but The Associated Press reported Saturday that the America he’s seen at airport arrivals and from his armored limousine is not representative of the nation.

The AP reported that Trump mostly traveled to counties that have lower incomes, less education and are whiter that the rest of the country, according to Census Bureau data that indicates he is trying to galvanize the base he rode to victory in 2016.

The U.S. population is 73.3 percent white, but almost three-fourths of the places where the president has stumped for midterms are above that average.

In the county surrounding Council Bluffs, Iowa, 88.7 percent of the population is non-Hispanic whites. Trump told the crowd at his rally that Democrats would allow Central American gangs such as MS-13 to immigrate freely into the United States, a claim disputed by Democratic lawmakers.

“They want to turn America, these Democrats — and that’s what they want — into a giant sanctuary for criminal aliens and the MS-13 killers,” Trump said.

Nearly three-quarters of Trump’s rallies are in counties with median incomes below the national average.

While avoiding the big cities, the president has visited Tampa, Nashville, Cleveland and Houston, but also smaller spots like Elko, Nev. (population 20,078), in a county where just 18.1 percent of the adults hold a college degree, compared to 30.3 percent nationwide. Of the 43 places Trump is visiting, 28 have a below-average share of college graduates.

He’s also made stops in Mosinee, Wis. (population 4,023), and Belgrade, Mont. (population 7,874), where in 2009, Barack Obama held a town hall event to promote the Affordable Care Act, which has been in jeopardy ever since Trump took office in January 2018.

While Stefanowski has declined to say whether he would disrupt Connecticut’s version of the ACA, Connecticut Democrats have warned that a Republican takeover of the governor and General Assembly could likely result in the dismantling of Access Health CT, which has 114,000 beneficiaries.


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