Ann Hui Ching
With less than a week before Election Day, many state-level races in the historically blue state of Connecticut are still anyone’s game.
New pollings show split results on which gubernatorial candidate is ahead as Democrat Ned Lamont SOM ’80 and Republican Bob Stefanowski face off in the race to replace current Gov. Dannel Malloy, one of the nation’s least popular governors. He is not seeking reelection. The released results also indicate that independent candidate Oz Griebel is losing support after a surprise boost earlier in the fall. In addition to the governor’s race, the midterm elections will determine who will control the state senate for the next two years, which is currently divided evenly along party lines.
“These last few polls have shown that this race is narrowing,” said Stefanowski spokesman Kendall Marr. “We think that’s because Bob has really gotten his message out of lower taxes and a change in the policies of Dan Malloy. Voters now know that he offers that choice and that Ned Lamont and Oz Griebel offer them more of the same.”
A Sacred Heart University’s Institute of Public policy poll, conducted between Oct. 29 and Oct. 31, shows Stefanowski with a slim 2.4 percentage point lead over his more liberal counterpart. The poll indicates that Stefanowski has been gaining support over the past few weeks, since October Sacred Heart polls reported that Lamont was leading in the race.
Other polls, however, provide different results. An Oct. 30 Quinnipiac poll — which surveyed 1,201 likely voters — reported Lamont ahead of Stefanowski by roughly 4 percentage points, which falls within the poll’s margin of error. In a similar Quinnipiac poll conducted in mid-October, Lamont had a lead of 47 percent to Stefanowski’s 39 percent, with Independent candidate Oz Griebel’s support having declined from 11 percent in mid-October to 7 percent.
According to the Quinnipiac poll, women back Lamont over Stefanowski 55 to 34 percent, while men back Stefanowski over Lamont by 51 to 38 percent. Although roughly only 4 percent of voters are still undecided, about 13 percent report they may change their mind before the election.
According to Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz, the race is still a tossup in spite of Lamont’s slight lead. He compared it to the previous elections of 2014 and 2010, in which Malloy beat staunch conservative Thomas Foley by slight margins.
“This race is looking a lot like the last two elections for governor in Connecticut — a real nail-biter,” Schwartz said in a statement.
A continued decrease in support for Griebel before Election Day — which often happens to independent candidates — would likely benefit Lamont more than Stefanowski, according to Schwartz.
According to Marr, the two top issues for voters are taxes and the economy, and he attributed Stefanowski’s growing support to the strength of his platform in these areas. The election comes as the Connecticut economy has grown stagnant, and state debt has increased exponentially, in spite of the state having the second highest tax burden and the highest average income in the nation.
“The mandate for this election will most certainly be economic policy,” Marr said. “[Stefanowski is] not running on social issues. This is about the economy; that’s his platform.”
According to Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven, however, Stefanowski’s promise to abolish Connecticut’s income tax is misleading because the vast majority of the state’s tax burden stems from local property taxes — rather than income tax.
In spite of the close polls, Looney is confident in Lamont’s ability to win, as well as in the Democrats’ ability to take back control of the Connecticut state senate. Since the 2016 elections, both parties have held 18 seats, which contributed to the state’s record-setting budget impasse last year.
“I’m certainly hopeful and confident that we’ll be able to come back with a working Democratic majority,” Looney said. “It will certainly help us in enacting progressive policies to make the state more economically competitive and also to provide support for education, access to health care and an increase in the minimum wage.”
Regardless of statewide results, New Haven is likely to stay heavily blue. The city’s current seven state representatives and two state senators are all Democrats, and so are all of the members of the Board of Alders — the Elm City’s legislative body.
Looney said that the result of the election will rely heavily on voter turnout in Connecticut’s urban areas, comparing the race to the gubernatorial competition eight years ago. In that election, Malloy won New Haven by about 18,000 votes, which contributed to Malloy winning the election over Foley by approximately 6,000 votes.
At the national level, however, the polls are not as tight. Incumbent junior U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., has a lead of 56 to 41 percent among likely voters over his Republican challenger, Hartford business owner Matthew Corey.
According to Looney, increased political engagement resulting from national politics has resulted in higher voter registration, which will likely result in higher voter participation than in previous midterm elections.
“There’s a higher level of interest this year than in most nonpresidential elections,” Looney said. “I think that stems from the convulsions in society triggered by the election of Donald Trump. We’re especially seeing much higher voter registration among younger voters aged 18–25, and especially among younger women.”
Elections will be held nationwide on Nov. 6.
Nathalie Bussemaker | firstname.lastname@example.org .