GOP hopes tight governor race leads to House wins

Tom Foley announces his candidacy for the Republican nomination for governor, Jan. 29, 2014. (WTNH / Joe Sferrazza)
Tom Foley announces his candidacy for the Republican nomination for governor, Jan. 29, 2014. (WTNH / Joe Sferrazza)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut Republicans are hoping a close gubernatorial race will translate into congressional victories in November.

When Democrats won all five congressional seats in 2012, President Barack Obama was at the top of the ticket and helped to draw party faithful to the polls.

This year, all eyes are on a rematch between incumbent Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Republican businessman Tom Foley.

“Two years later, we feel we’re very confident that Tom Foley is gaining traction, has the right message and solutions to turn around Connecticut’s moribund economy,” state GOP Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. said. “And from that, the potential is there for collateral benefit as you go down the ballot.”

As in past years, the 4th and 5th Congressional Districts in western Connecticut are seen as the GOP’s best chance of breaking the Democratic lock on state congressional districts.

The National Republican Campaign Committee recently designated 4th District candidate Dan Debicella and 5th District candidate Mark Greenberg as “young guns.” It’s a signal, Labriola said, that the national GOP sees strong potential for picking up both seats. The 4th District is held by three-term U.S. Rep. Jim Himes while the 5th is held by freshman U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty. Both are seeking re-election.

Devon Puglia, a spokesman for the Connecticut Democratic Party, dismissed the “young gun” label as frivolous.

“It’s merely a headline-generating ploy aimed at avoiding real issues and meaningful discussion about the future,” he said. “Congressional Republicans don’t want to talk specifics because they know Connecticut voters won’t buy the backward agenda they’re selling.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has identified Esty as one of 25 “frontline Democrats,” incumbents considered politically vulnerable this November.

Esty said she believes the close race for governor will engage voters and possibly get them to focus on the congressional candidates as well. But she doesn’t expect support for Foley to automatically trickle down to Greenberg or support for Malloy to automatically help her candidacy.

“This is not a district that votes party line either way. It’s a district that votes for individuals who they think are serving them well,” said Esty, adding that 43 percent of the district’s voters are unaffiliated with a major political party. “And you have to earn that support.”

Greenberg, who sought the GOP nomination in 2010 and 2012 for the 5th District seat, said he senses a great frustration among the electorate this year and believes that will help him and Debicella on Nov. 4.

The voters, he said, “look at their economic situation, they look at the fact their children aren’t coming back from college because there’s no economic opportunity here,” Greenberg said. “And they look at the … incumbents as those who are responsible, whether that’s Dan Malloy, Elizabeth Esty or Jim Himes.”

Yet Puglia rejects the notion that Foley, who narrowly lost to Malloy in 2010, will rally voters to also support Greenberg or Debicella. He said the low turnout for the primary is an indication there’s little excitement for Foley’s candidacy.

Final election results from 2010 show Foley won the 4th and 5th Congressional Districts, as well as the 2nd Congressional District in eastern Connecticut. Malloy’s strength was in the 1st and 3rd Districts, home to Hartford and New Haven.

Like in 2010, Malloy will be able to garner votes from both the Democratic and Working Families Party lines. Esty’s name will appear on both lines as well. Foley’s name will appear on Republican Party and Independent Party of Connecticut lines. Greenberg’s will also appear on those two lines.

 

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