In a nationwide midterm election that was supposed to be bad news for incumbents, Connecticut Gov. John Rowland easily won a third term, and Third District Rep. Rosa DeLauro seemed to float effortlessly into her seventh.
At the polls Tuesday, Connecticut voters overwhelmingly rejected change. But that does not mean the newly re-elected politicians should happily stick with the status quo.
In the last of four debates with opponent Bill Curry, the Democratic former state comptroller who lost by a 12-point margin, Rowland asked voters to consider one question: Is Connecticut better off now than it was eight years ago?
The answer for the residents who cast ballots yesterday was “Yes.” The Republican incumbent, who went into the election a clear favorite with a tremendous cash advantage over Curry, has apparently done enough to earn himself an unprecedented four more years. True, he led the state admirably through the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. He was a boon for the suburbs, and he began long-term projects, including a major overhaul of the Hartford waterfront, which another term will give him a chance to see through.
But in his already lengthy tenure, he has regularly passed up opportunities to make dramatic improvements for the state’s cities. It is there Curry focused his attention during a right-minded but depressingly unspectacular campaign. Curry’s loss comes as no shock — even with a last minute push from former President Bill Clinton, he could not make up the roughly 15 points that separated him from Rowland throughout the race. Voters were predictably unswayed by the hallmark of his platform, a proposed $730 million statewide property tax cut. The majority were undaunted by Rowland’s lack of tax-cut promises or by his possible connection to the $220 million the state trash authority paid Enron 19 months ago.
And so Curry went the way of many Democratic candidates around the country yesterday — hampered by campaigns that lacked cohesion, they lost races to Republicans with broader support, unified platforms, and presidential cameos. But while he lost in most counties around the state, Curry received a distinct majority of the votes in New Haven.
His city-sensitive, environmentally friendly platform is one from which Rowland could take a lesson. There long has been a strained relationship between New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and Rowland, as the latter has consistently resisted tax breaks for city residents and vetoed proposals to clean up the Sooty Six, a clutch of polluting power plants on the edge of New Haven. Yesterday’s election provides for a dim hope that ties between New Haven and the policy-makers in Hartford will grow closer over the next four years.
But hopefully Rowland will take his re-election as an opportunity to pay more attention to what’s going on Connecticut’s other major city.