Why Polling Matters

In 2007, after Mayor John Fabrizi walked into a courtroom to seek leniency on behalf of a sexual offender who was a friend of  Fabs’ son, it changed the city’s political landscape. Dem party operatives sensed primary voters were freaking out and the feeling of the electorate was measured in a poll. The numbers showed Fabs could not defeat State Rep. Chris Caruso.

Party regulars such as John Stafstrom, Mario Testa and Tom McCarthy told Fabs he had to do the right thing for the party and step aside. State Senator Bill Finch was recruited and the party establishment won a squeaker over Caruso who they feared would powerwash their grip on City Hall into the Pequonnock River.

Last year OIB and Merriman River Associates www.merrimanriver.com joined forces on a poll of prime Democratic voters to test the standing of Mayor Bill Finch. The results showed the mayor trailing Caruso by a few points and the mayor ahead of Fabrizi by a few points. Finch performed best when measured against a large primary field splitting the anti-vote. Within the next few weeks we’ll sample the mayor’s standing once again. Merriman River, by the way, was the only pollster that had Dan Malloy leading Ned Lamont going into primary day last week. If you have any thoughts or questions and issues that should be tested, as well as potential candidates in the poll, let us know.

I suspect Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa will conduct his own poll to gauge the standing of the mayor who faces a number of challenges including the budget and crime. Don’t count out Finch just yet. He’ll be well financed for reelection, but if polls continue to show him in trouble it will create some trepidation within the Democratic establishment.

Speaking of polls, I don’t usually pay attention to poll results released by a campaign unless I can see the questionnaire and the demographic universe that was sampled. Two years ago Jim Himes’ campaign released an internal poll, questionnaire and demographics in the final weeks of his race against incumbent Republican Congressman Chris Shays that showed a tight race. Ayres, McHenry & Associates which conducts polls on behalf of Republican candidates has sampled projected competitive Congressional races around the country, including Jim Himes versus Republican Dan Debicella. The results show Himes has a battle, and judging Jimmy’s first ad going after Debicella the Himes campaign senses they have a battle as well. The makeup of Connecticut’s Fourth Congressional District, featuring heavy GOP suburban towns and cities Bridgeport, Stamford and Norwalk, suggests this should be a competitive race, given voter anger over Washington spending. Barack’s poll numbers also don’t look great right now in this mid-term cycle. From the Debicella campaign:

A poll released by the American Action Forum and conducted by Ayres, McHenry & Associates has the race for the 4th Congressional seat in a statistical dead heat. Among voters likely to vote, Debicella trails Himes by only 4 points, which is within the margin of error. Among those certain to vote, Debicella and Himes are tied.

Other highlights from the poll include:

• Only 40% of likely voters polled say that Himes deserves to be re-elected. 46% believe it is time to elect someone else.

• Debicella is ahead among independent voters 47% to 38%

• 63% of voters in the district believe the country is on the wrong track while only 23% believe it is headed in the right direction

• On the important issues like taxes and spending, voters believe that Debicella will do a better job than Himes (32% to 18% and 29% to 25%, respectively)

The poll’s results indicate how unhappy voters are with Jim Himes and Washington, according to Debicella campaign manager Jason Perillo. “The poll indicates clearly that voters believe Dan will do a better job of keeping taxes low and of controlling spending,” Perillo said. “Americans have lost faith in incumbent Congressmen like Jim Himes and their failed policies. We’re spending hundreds of billions of dollars and unemployment is still floating around 10%. Big government is not working.”

Dan Debicella is the Republican Party’s nominee to face Jim Himes in November.

Debicella’s economic proposals have included replacing the unspent stimulus money in favor of a temporary cut in the payroll tax that small businesses and middle class families pay, and creating a federal spending cap to rein in the nation’s $1.4 trillion deficit.

He grew up in Bridgeport where his father was a police officer and his mother was a secretary. He was the first in his family to go to college full time, attending the Wharton School and receiving his MBA from Harvard Business School. He has spent most of his career in business, having worked for management consulting firm McKinsey in Stamford, as Director of Strategy at PepsiCo and The Hartford Financial Services.

In the State Senate, Debicella has served as the lead Republican on the budget-writing Appropriations Committee. He recently co-authored a budget proposal that cut the size of Connecticut government by 5% through combining or eliminating agencies, privatizing social services, and resetting program spending to 2007 levels. Debicella also led the fight against the budget that ultimately passed, which raised taxes by $1 billion and borrowed $1 billion to balance the budget.



  1. Polling is a great tool for politicians and gauge for the electorate. But actions speak louder than words. Take away the on-the-job training that Himes has had and compare his experience to Debicella. Dan is urban oriented and has experience in government. Jim is suburban oriented with a career on Wall Street. Who understands the people more? Dan Malloy touts his urban experience as a reason to vote for him as well as his career in public service. Should we carry that over to the other Dan? I hope we see more polling on how the candidates stand on the issues.

  2. Lennie–Do any of these polling companies ever do a poll on how many people are going to vote? With all the money that was spent on mailings and polls in this last primary cycle, it was a pretty sad turnout.

    Besides changing the primary date back to September, should Connecticut institute an open primary voting process for all?

      1. Such enlightenment Lennie.
        Did you have these same thoughts when you were a political operative? I don’t recall way back then such an open liberal approach to voting. Do you support absentee ballots without reason or cause? Early voting? Open voting at any polling place and not simply an assigned one?
        Please share some of this insight with us.

  3. Lennie,
    I have a question based on the CT Post info that a sixth Council person will become an employee of the City. Assuming as I have heard in the past (readers can post this info) that Council members have family members (or girlfriends) who also are employed by the City, does the electorate feel there is an appearance of a conflict of interest? What would a poll report? And if someone (who?) says CT Statute trumps Bridgeport Charter provisions to allow this elected service and employment at the same time, how does a community deal with a body that passes the budget annually that includes salary, benefits, and practically everything else that impinges on employment, yet is human and subject to what they pass? Do we expect them to be superhuman? Obviously the job requirements at the Airport seem to settle for a very basic threshhold of education, training and/or experience.
    WHAT TO DO? If there is disagreement, who would have to sue whom? Let the discussion begin …

    1. Beacon Too. How are those ethic complaints coming along??? Simply because something is legally allowed under state law, that would not trump a valid ethics complaint or are we still hesitant to attach our real name to a piece of paper?

  4. GRIN,
    You have not responded to my offer of a drink for you at my expense at Lennie’s next party if you can show me your photo ID with the name GRIN REAPER, have you? So why question someone else’s use of a pseudonym? Perhaps it is because it is more humorous to have fun about personality and side issues, than heavy work dealing with structure, processes, laws, day-to-day realities?
    Regarding the Ethics Process I understand a complaint was filed. Now let’s see what happened to it? Stay tuned … So GRIN, how is your photo ID??? Do I need to set aside a significant reserve to fund an exotic double drink for the REAPER, or are you a shot and a beer guy?

  5. The comment above … according to Debicella campaign manager Jason Perillo. “The poll indicates clearly that voters believe Dan will do a better job of keeping taxes low and of controlling spending.”

    Republicans have no history of controlling spending. What, with Bush and Reagan? They were big spenders, created big government and huge debt. What a joke!

    Polls are important, but as long as Republicans don’t distinguish themselves from Bush’s failed policies, they should be in trouble.

    Now, if you want to really understand what Republicans have supported or not in important issues like health care …

    Read today’s full-page Op Ed by Redington T. Jahncke, who appeared on last Tuesday’s “Bridgeport Now” live TV show. www .bridgeportnow.net.

  6. Anybody have an idea how Keila Torres is doing with her inquiry into those hired since Finch took office as a side note? She should be investigating those hired from the prior administration.

  7. BEACON2,
    I believe it is illegal for a charter provision to be in conflict with a state statute. So it appears the state statute takes precedence over the charter. However, some kind of legal ruling or policy should be established that those serving on the city council who are also employees of the city simply must recuse themselves from voting on the city budget and also on the particular labor contracts associated with each party. I think that is only fair to the taxpayers of the city.

    1. Well, I am a tad confused. In all my years as a city employee, and let it be that it was decades, I was always schooled by the City Attorney’s Office that the State Statutes were a guideline, and if a city chose to adopt more stringent requirements by way of Charter or Ordinance, that was a City’s right. Now all of a sudden State laws can trump out a city charter or an ordinance. Why would a city bother making laws or charter mandates if the state can just make them null and void? I was taught that whichever law is more stringent prevails. In this current interpretation, the state laws are ruling our city. And I find it offensive. I would like to think my elected officials have some sort of say in the matter, but according to our current city attorney, the state trumps out all of our charter and ordinance mandates.

  8. Lennie: I was polled yesterday by Creative Resources (I believe, left my note at home). Questions about who I would support in the 4th dist. race, governor, senate and feelings about Obama and congress. I suspect my liberal bias skewed the numbers a little (minutely?).

  9. Might be interesting to do a poll on the 22nd District State Senate race. Are people still pissed off at Musto for backing the juvenile facility in a residential area? If they are, that–plus the fact there won’t be any Obama coattails for Musto to ride–would seem to hand the seat over to Republican David Pia.

  10. To say that Debicella is for the Cities is really laughable. I say this being someone from a suburb that Debicella represented and someone who worked in Hartford at the time for the City of Bridgeport. Debicella’s record in the state legislature is well documented and so are his anti-city votes. He was against keeping the property tax conveyance rate which gave Bridgeport over two million in tax relief and municipal mandate relief. He is AGAINST fully funding PILOTs, money for improving the city’s education, rape kits for women; he sided with insurance companies over providing hearing aids and coverage for prosthetics for older children on the Husky plan. I had to read the next one twice, he voted against covering treatments to help cancer patients find bone marrow donors! He is no friend of the working man and has one of the worst environmental records in the state.
    Secondly, I am always leery of polls, and Lennie I understand your viewpoint on this poll. But, and this is a big but–44% of those polled expressed support for the Tea Party. I don’t believe 44% of likely voters in our district support the Tea Party. This is a flawed sample; there is no way I am ready to believe Fairfield County is a Tea Party stronghold. There are some loud voices but it is a loud minority.
    Further, Debicella’s plan to “replace the unspent stimulus with a payroll tax” is problematic at best. For starters, there isn’t much unspent stimulus. It’s a two-year program, and by next winter there won’t be much unallocated funding. Next, Debicella’s tax cut plan costs $350 billion, so he is advocating higher deficits, while Jim Himes is the vanguard of Deficit Reduction in the House.
    Jim is supporting extending the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 on families earning under $250,000 per year and is still open to extending them for high-income people, too. Jim Himes as repeatedly shown he votes based on the needs of the people, not just along party lines. (Please don’t try to make an argument about Pelosi because ANYONE who votes for a bill that passes including Republicans votes the way Pelosi did.)

  11. MCAT: It’s nice you make Himes sound like the second coming but he is not.
    He voted for Tarp without reading the bill, he voted for the stimulus bill that has put no one back to work. He voted for the health care bill without reading the bill and does not know the ramifications of that vote.
    The unemployment rate is still close to 10% and both parties can take credit for not getting people back to work. He is in for a tough fight and may well fall victim to the mid-year elections.

  12. TC really, you want Debicella? Seriously? CT unemployment is 8.9 percent better than the national average. Further, if you take out the workers who were only seasonally employed for the Census, private sector jobs actually rose this quarter. Not reading the bill is a misleading statement. My guess would be most legislators don’t read thousand-page bills cover to cover. They have staff that who do and give them outlines of each section. What most don’t understand is that many bills are thousands of pages, perhaps with many non-related amendments, charts, graphs, and there are thousands of bills. That’s why we have committees. For the most part, the reason the stimulus bill didn’t work as well as it should have in CT is that Gov. Rell chose not to use the stimulus bill to stimulate the economy, but rather used it to plug holes in municipal education budgets instead of funding the ECS grant at the same levels. Now the funds are scheduled to stop in 2011 and all municipalities and schools will be short that money in their budgets leading to higher property taxes. Therefore, we didn’t get to utilize those funds for things like infrastructure projects which create a proportionally higher number of jobs than other types of projects and on top of that municipal schools we be short state money. Malloy promised not to make municipalities bear the brunt of her decision and yes TC, I believe in him too.


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