A lively discussion on voter turnout, political races and the state’s future ensued at Sacred Heart University’s post-election analysis in mid-November.
Lesley DeNardis, director of SHU’s Institute for Public Policy (IPP) and program director for the Master of Public Administration program, moderated the panel discussion, “Post-Election Analysis: What Happened and What Lies Ahead for Connecticut,” in the Frank and Marisa Martire Business & Communications Center’s forum. Panelists included Gary Rose, professor and chair of the Department of Government; Ken Dixon, politics editor for Hearst Connecticut Media Group; Michael Vigeant ’98, CEO of GreatBlue Research; and Ebong Udoma, senior reporter at WSHU Public Radio.
A week after the dust settled and people had time to absorb the election results, DeNardis told the panel and audience—comprised of faculty, staff, students and community members—that it’s time to look at all that transpired. She began the conversation by asking what driving factors influenced the results of the gubernatorial race among the governor-elect, Democrat Ned Lamont, Republican Bob Stefanowski and independent Oz Griebel.
Rose said there were many variables, including an anti-Trump sentiment. “He wasn’t on the ballot, but you have to remember Connecticut is not Trump country, and Lamont reminded us that Stefanowski was in Trump’s corner.”
While Stefanowski’s campaign ads told the public Lamont is just like Gov. Dan Malloy, whom many blame for the state’s ongoing economic woes, Rose said that wasn’t too effective. “Malloy is history. He’s an afterthought,” he said. The Trump factor, as well as Stefanowski’s inability to explain his platform to voters, are some of the reasons he lost, according to Rose.
Vigeant, whose company conducts polls for the IPP, said the race between Lamont and Stefanowski remained very close throughout the weeks and days leading up to the election. Moreover, with independent candidate Griebel running a strong campaign, Vigeant said, the two main candidates had to contend with the “Oz effect,” which deflected votes away from them. “There were a great number of folks supporting him,” he said.
Dixon said Stefanowski should have spent more time explaining his campaign and meeting with voters, while Udoma commented that neither of the main candidates showed much passion. Candidates for other seats got more praise and applause, he noted.
The panel also discussed the “blue wave” that hit the state. There were Democrats who claimed seats that longtime Republicans had held, such as Will Haskell, who, at 22-years-old, took the seat of long-time State Senator Toni Boucher in the 26th district.
“The demographics of Connecticut are changing; cities are changing,” Rose said. “The suburbs are young and liberal.”
When DeNardis asked the panel members their thoughts on what lies ahead for the state, Vigeant said instead of politicians concentrating on taxes and tolls, they will have to give more attention to business. “The big issue is drawing talent to the state,” he said. “We have to get businesses on the state’s side.”
Regarding whether Lamont will run the state differently than Malloy did, Udoma said Lamont’s transition team includes people from the hedge fund industry. “I don’t know if that helps,” he said, adding that people and businesses right now don’t have confidence in the state and that’s Lamont’s biggest task – gaining the confidence Malloy lost.