City sees few close elections

City residents will only be voting in races with heavily-favored incumbents Tuesday, but elsewhere in the state, the results of two of Connecticut’s Congressional elections are more closely contested.

In the Congressional races on New Haven ballots, U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro are expected to win by large margins against their Republican challengers. But elsewhere in Connecticut, Congressional campaigns in the 2nd and 4th Congressional Districts are being closely watched as incumbent Republicans face strong opposition from Democratic challengers.

Dodd leads Republican challenger Jack Orchulli by a 66 to 27 percent margin, according to a newly-released poll by Research 2000.

DeLauro is being challenged by Republican Richter Elser ’81, who also opposed DeLauro in 2002.

DeLauro, who has been endorsed by New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., said she is focused on key issues like jobs and education. She said she wants to reform the tax code to remove incentives for outsourcing in order to protect Connecticut’s manufacturing base, and she advocates allowing families to deduct some education costs from their taxes to increase higher education opportunities.

“What for me is the core and center of this job is advocacy,” DeLauro said. “I view the election as a contract to represent the voters’ needs.”

Elser, who lost to DeLauro by a margin of nearly 40 percent in 2002, said he will be doing radio call-ins and touring polling places today and tomorrow, focusing on the campaign issues of families, jobs and taxes. He said he has a better plan for job creation because DeLauro’s position relies too heavily on social programs.

“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think I could win,” Elser said.

In a local election, Ward 2 Alderwoman Joyce Chen ’01, a Green, has challenged popular incumbent state Rep. Toni Walker, a Democrat.

Chen’s critics have questioned her motives for running against Walker, who is seen as one of the most liberal members of the state legislature. Chen, who upset an incumbent Democrat to win her seat in the Board of Aldermen, said that unlike Walker, she is independent of “party bosses.” Chen criticized Walker’s decision not to support some of her constituents against DeStefano when he decided to bulldoze 124 affordable housing units in Walker’s district in order to build a school.

“I think the bottom line is that there are a lot of initiatives she has not taken up over the years,” Chen said. “And there were a number of cases in which she had an opportunity to intervene for the community.”

Walker did not respond to calls last week.

DeStefano said he will be showing his support for Walker in her district on Election Day.

“She’s done an outstanding job in the general assembly,” DeStefano said. “She’s stood up on progressive issues like campaign finance reform, health care for kids, and tax relief for the city. No one works harder, and she absolutely deserves reelection.”

In the 2nd Congressional District, which covers the eastern part of the state, U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons is engaged in a heated race against Democratic challenger Jim Sullivan. The latest poll of the race, conducted by Research 2000, puts Simmons three points ahead.

The race has turned bitter over allegations by Sullivan’s campaign that Simmons has been using deceptive negative advertising. One TV ad criticizes Sullivan’s position on prescription drugs because he has a family member who owns stock in a pharmaceutical company.

“Our opponent’s been whining about what he calls personal and negative attacks, which is nonsense,” said Pat O’Neil, Simmons’ press secretary. “We’re pointing out that what little record he has is not really consequential.”

Sullivan’s campaign has argued that Simmons has been too closely tied with President George W. Bush ’68 on issues such as the war in Iraq, prescription drugs, the economy, and outsourcing.

“These are areas where Mr. Simmons has voted with Bush 100 percent of the time,” said Michael Winters, Sullivan’s communications director. “In the last four years, George Bush and Rob Simmons have led this country in the wrong direction.”

A similar race is underway in the 4th Congressional District, representing southwestern Connecticut, where Democrat Diane Farrell is challenging U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays. Farrell, who is five points behind Shays according to the latest University of Connecticut poll, is launching a “media blitz” in the final days of the campaign, Heather Siano, Farrell’s press secretary, said.

DeStefano has endorsed Sullivan and Farrell.

UConn pollster Ken Dautrich said that in order for either Farrell or Sullivan to pull off an upset victory, undecided voters would have to decide heavily in favor of them, and young voters would have to turn out in large numbers.

“It’s fairly close, but there’s only about three or four days to go,” Dautrich said. “A number of things would have to line up in order to make this a very close election.”

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