Connecticut Democrats will go to the polls today to help select a presidential nominee, but with Mass. Sen. John Kerry ’66 widely expected to win the state, Super Tuesday is not attracting much notice here.
While Kerry and his main rival for the Democratic nomination, N.C. Sen. John Edwards, are devoting their time and money to larger states like New York and California, Connecticut’s primary — with 49 delegates at stake — has earned little attention. But although state and local Democrats said they harbor no illusions about their role in the nomination process, they are excited for an opportunity to help choose a candidate who will challenge President George W. Bush ’68 in the November election.
“We’re a small state with a smaller delegation than many of the states that happen to hold their primaries on the same day,” said Leslie O’Brien, executive director of the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee. “But I think that Democrats as a whole, not just in our state, have been very tuned into this primary and are very anxious to defeat George Bush in November.”
Some Yale voters will also have an opportunity to cast their ballots in a much more local race, as Ward 22, which includes Ezra Stiles, Morse, Silliman and Timothy Dwight colleges as well as Swing Space, features a three-way race for co-chair of the ward’s Democratic Committee. Alyssa Rosenberg ’06 and Shaneane Ragin are running as a slate in Ward 22, as are former Alderwoman Mae Ola Riddick and Douglas Bethea, while Cordelia Thorpe is running alone.
But in most of New Haven and many parts of the state, the only race on the ballot will be the presidential primary, in which recent statewide polls show Kerry with a commanding lead. In addition, Kerry has also earned the endorsement of many of the state’s most prominent Democrats after Sen. Joe Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 ended his campaign last month. U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 as well as the highest ranking Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly have all thrown their weight behind Kerry.
Joe Courtney, the state coordinator for the Edwards campaign, said volunteers for Edwards were hard at work for the North Carolina senator, but he said he recognized the odds were against Edwards in Connecticut.
“I don’t think people can be delusional here about sweeping Connecticut,” said Courtney, a former state representative. “To some degree, any delegate you get in a state like this is like finding money on a street corner.”
Still, Judy Reardon, a senior adviser to the Kerry campaign directing efforts in Connecticut, said the Massachusetts senator was not taking the state for granted, even if Connecticut is not the focal point of his campaign.
“On Tuesday, there are 10 states having elections, so that forces campaigns to make tough decisions on where to deploy resources,” Reardon said, although she also noted that Kerry is the only candidate with a campaign office in Connecticut.
While the candidates make last-minute stops in more closely watched states like Georgia, Ohio and Maryland, the Kerry and Edwards campaigns have only sent surrogates to Connecticut. On Sunday, Teresa Heinz Kerry rallied supporters for her husband in Stamford and Greenwich, while Edwards’ daughter Cate visited Norwalk.
In addition to Kerry and Edwards, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and the Rev. Al Sharpton are actively campaigning for delegates on Super Tuesday, although neither has devoted significant time or energy to Connecticut. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean ’71, who spoke in New Haven last week, is no longer campaigning for president, but some of his supporters said they were still trying to send Dean delegates to the Democratic National Convention in July.
Quinnipiac University poll director Douglas Schwartz said that while Connecticut Democrats have bucked national trends in the past — voting for Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown in 1992 when he faced off against Bill Clinton LAW ’73 and for Ted Kennedy in 1980 when he ran against incumbent President Jimmy Carter — Kerry’s position in Connecticut seemed safe Tuesday.
“There’s no reason for me to think that Connecticut is going to be different from anywhere else,” Schwartz said. “The trends are all pointing to a big Kerry victory, especially since Kerry is from a neighboring state.”
In addition to the 49 delegates who will be assigned on the basis of the results tomorrow, Connecticut will send 12 “superdelegates” to the Democratic National Convention, who will be permitted to vote freely for the presidential nominee.
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