Eight candidates in New Haven currently stand unopposed for eight seats in the Connecticut State Assembly and Senate, and all of them are Democrats.
New Haven is a largely Democratic city, with its Board of Alderman entirely Democratic and 45,000 of its residents registered Democrats, compared to 2,400 registered Republicans, according to a spokesman for the New Haven Registrar of Voters. The six candidates for the Connecticut House of Representatives and the two candidates for the Connecticut Senate are Democrats with no Republican opponents.
Such uncontested races happen in both parties, Republican State Senator Rob Kane said. Four of the six Republican House of Representative candidates in the 32nd district, his district of representation, are also running unopposed.
“I would like to see everyone have an opponent. I think voters not having the opportunity to look at [their representatives’] voting records and decide whether they need to change their representatives is disappointing,” Kane said.
He added that it is easy to find uncontested Republican candidates in more suburban communities and uncontested Democratic candidates in more urban areas. The combination of the reluctance of people to run in an election that seems difficult to win and the little attention given to State Assembly races compared to national campaigns results in uncontested races, he said.
The Connecticut GOP did not return multiple requests for comment and the spokesperson for the Republican Town Committee said he could not comment due to power outages from the hurricane.
New Haven Democratic Representative Pat Dillon, who has served for almost 30 years, cited public campaign finance laws as a potential reason for the lack of Republican candidates. The public campaign finance option gives candidates significantly more money if they are facing an opponent, she said.
“The theory behind reform of public campaign finance was that it would make elections more competitive by giving challengers an opportunity to raise money against evil incumbents. It gives you more money if you have an opponent, and very little if you don’t,” Dillon said. “What this means is that if I have a Republican opponent, it’ll just probably increase the money I get and the turnout, and running a Republican candidate might not be worth that.”
State Senator Majority Leader Martin Looney said he thinks the Republican Party may not be running any candidates because they may feel that Democratic candidates would be more engaged in their campaigns if they had opponents. This might be especially true this year, he added, because of its status as a presidential election year.
Looney said he does not think the slate of unopposed candidates is necessarily a downside.
“I think the ebb and flow of the competitive process over time results in this, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a source for alarm in any given year,” Looney said.
Looney added that even though he is running unopposed this year, he is still sending out campaign mail and attending the same number of community events and forums as he would if he had an opponent.
“When you have a challenger from another party, it makes it more likely that there will be an open discussion about the role of government and other issues,” Dillon said. “I would always ask for a debate when I had an opponent because I thought it’d be good.”
Democratic Representative Gary Holder-Winfield, who called New Haven a “basically one-party town,” said the lack of public debate and discourse means voters do not get as much as they can out of the election process. He said that these debates enabled him to connect with voters and communicate his ideas about issues.
There were 784,280 registered Democrats and 431,721 registered Republicans in Connecticut as of Oct. 25, 2011, according to the state’s registration and party enrollment statistics.
Correction: Nov. 3
Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the number of registered Democrats in Connecticut.