Turnout reaches record highs in Constitution State

NORWALK, Conn. — Last night was a good night to be a Democrat in Connecticut.

Record turnouts, propelled by the historic nature of this year’s election, helped bring victory to the party’s candidates up and down ticket. Among the most significant wins occurred in Connecticut’s 4th Congressional District, where the Democrats claimed the last Republican House seat in the state, and in the General Assembly, where they appeared to secure what will be a veto-proof majority when the legislature reconvenes.

On the national scene, Connecticut voters predictably voted overwhelmingly for Sen. Barack Obama, who had captured 60 percent of the state’s roughly 1.5 million votes tallied at press time, compared to 39 percent for the Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona. McCain won just over 590,000 votes compared to Obama’s roughly 919,000.

Connecticut’s four incumbent Democrats in the House of Representatives — Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Rep. John Larson, Rep. Joe Courtney and Rep. Chris Murphy — were each re-elected by wide margins, with the closest race, Murphy’s, won by 20 percentage points. In the 4th Congressional District, Democratic challenger Jim Himes edged out Rep. Chris Shays by about six percentage points. Locally, New Haven Democrat Gary Holder-Winfield easily defeated Willie Greene, who ran as an Independent, in the 94th District race for state representative.

In Hartford, Democrats gained an edge on Republicans in the state Senate, gaining a veto-proof majority after winning at least 24 seats of the 36 total.

In the State House, of the 151 seats, at least 110 had been won by Democrats at press time, maintaining their super-majority. All told, Democrats now will hold a large enough majority in both chambers of the General Assembly to override any vetos Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

The high voter turnout spelled good news for Democrats, who now hold all five of the Nutmeg State’s seats in the House of Representatives.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 told the News there was “a tsunami of turnout and support for Barack Obama” in Connecticut during the election. Still, he acknowledged that it is improbable that voters will be galvanized behind a single candidate to the same degree in the near future.

“In all likelihood, we can’t expect it will continue at this level,” he said of Connecticut voter turnout. “For this moment, it is absolutely magic.”

The outpouring of Obama support helped tip the scales in favor of Himes, the victorious Democratic challenger for the last remaining congressional seat in New England held by a Republican. Less than two hours after winning his seat, Himes told the News he saw Obama’s campaign as an important force in drawing voters to the polls.

“People were craving for change,” he said. “High numbers of people were energized by Barack’s campaign.”

Indeed, more than 300,000 Connecticut residents registered to vote before the general election, according to Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz ’83. Over one-third of new voters — and four-fifths of voters that identified with a party — registered as Democrats, Bysiewicz said.

For Republicans, who suffered losses both in Connecticut and across the country last night, the defeats did not come as a complete surprise.

During his concession speech, Shays said his opponent’s campaign profited from a torrent of Obama support which he had hoped to overcome and that his efforts were frustrated by his association with Republicans.

State voters were faced with a constitutionally mandated ballot question asking whether or not they wished to hold another Constitutional Convention. Under the current constitution, adopted in 1965, this question must be asked in general elections once every 20 years.

This year the ballot question drew strong support from anti-gay marriage groups and fierce criticism from unions and groups such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union. The proposition failed by a 20 percentage-point margin.

The other, albeit less controversial, question proposed allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if they will be 18 by the date of the general election. It passed by 28 percentage points.

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