What a night. Barack is President-elect, and his tsunami swept across Bridgeport taking its toll on 21-year Republican incumbent Christopher Shays and State Senator Rob Russo, both of Bridgeport.
How often have you heard the expression, better to vote for the devil you do know than don’t? Well, not always, even if some incumbents are on the side of the angels issue-wise. What makes presidential cycles scary for incumbents outnumbered by registration is the sheer number of voters that show up only every four years. Democrats voted in the city for the first time (or in a long time) that are disengaged from their congressional and state representatives. First-time voters cast a ballot for a presidential candidate that inspired them and they kept voting the line.
As I watched veteran political operatives hand out literature on behalf of their candidates outside polling places, several of them commented: I don’t know these people.
In March, when Rob Russo defeated Tom Mulligan in a special election you saw what can happen when candidates are matched up head to head with no other candidates on the ballot. Russo, riding a strong economic message, was rewarded with an overwhelming win in a low turnout. Russo won two city precincts and ran even in many others while winning large in the suburbs. On Tuesday, with some meaningful accomplishments involving jobs and education only after eight months in office, Russo was swept away despite running better than both John McCain and Chris Shays in the city.
Voters weren’t mad at Russo. They were just mad at all Republicans.
Shays, the last New England Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, conceded shortly before 10 p.m. to his opponent Democrat Jim Himes. The Himes campaign accomplished a city plurality in Bridgeport for a Democratic congressional candidate not achieved in 40 years, running up a 20,000-vote win, including absentee ballots. In doing so Himes, parroting Barack’s positions on ending the war and tax cuts for the middle class, also increased Democratic numbers in the city of Stamford.
Himes had two primary goals: attach himself to Barack and link Shays to George Bush. Add Shays’ support for an unpopular war with an imploding economy and you have a deadly nitro mix. It also helped that Himes had millions to spend. Examining Shays’ base suburban vote, he performed relatively well. The big difference was Bridgeport and Stamford blowouts, particularly the Park City, that bludgeoned the Dariens, Wiltons and Westons. This, by far, was Shays’ lowest Bridgeport performance. Overall, district-wide, looks like Himes has won by four percentage points.
Russo fared better than Shays in his district portion of Bridgeport, but not enough to withstand the wave. Russo won Trumbull and Monroe, but not enough to make up ground against Democrat Anthony Musto. The city will lose a solid public servant, but Russo will stay active. Congratulations to Musto. I spoke to Musto by phone briefly at 9:15 Tuesday night and he was surprised by the results. He expected a closer race. “It’s finally over,” he said with tinge of relief, following his first major run for state office.
This election cycle was an awful year to be a Republican with an electorate willing to punish almost all GOP candidates in its path. Don’t know what Shays will do. He has contemplated a run for mayor of Bridgeport, but that election is three years away. Could he step up and run for congress again in two years? Republicans such as Fairfield State Sen. John McKinney, whose father had occupied the seat before Shays, will take a look at that seat two years from now when a gubernatorial cycle with much lower city turnout, is more favorable to the GOP.
In other races, OIB friend Michele Mount waged a spirited race against Republican State Rep. DebraLee Hovey but came up short in the Monroe/Newtown assembly towns. Auden Grogins, the blonde banshee from Black Rock, as expected enjoyed a lopsided win, running ahead of her ticket in her home school. Auden’s general election victory was sealed when she defeated Bob Keeley in the August Democratic primary.
Hey, who won the OIB contest? It’s close, real close … between City Kitty, donJ, CosmoCat and Ron Mackey. Might need a recount.
If you want to harass me on the radio today I’ll be guesting David Smith’s show on WICC at 3 p.m.