Season’s over, time to play fantasy politics
As bad as this recent election was for Connecticut Republicans, in 2020 foresight, the next could be much worse.
With no governor or U.S. senator campaigning, the general interest for a casual voter in 2020 will be similar to the way we Yankee fans felt about the recent World Series: We knew, vaguely, who was playing, but why stay up after the fourth inning?
Of course, if the president remains in office, there will be reasons for the blue wave of 2018 to splash again to the polls. If they can come up with two-thirds majorities, the Democrats could — I am not saying yet that they would — make life even more difficult for Republicans who tried as hard as they could to keep Trump out of the Connecticut campaign arguments, and failed miserably.
The results of the 2020 legislative races will have a lot to do with the way the General Assembly performs its once-a-decade redistricting. The goal will be to draw new lines for 151 House districts, to have about 23,000 residents each, and the 36 Senate districts to each contain about 97,000 people.
Traditionally, the redistricting process is a bipartisan affair. Both the House and Senate have to approve the final document by two-thirds votes, so during the negotiating process in 2011, a lot of consideration was given to incumbents, whose districts were drawn so that, theoretically, they could keep the seat.
The Fairfield-centric, multi-town district of former Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, for instance, was carved to his liking.
In the recent election, Republican Sen. Tony Hwang of Fairfield was able to hold on in the wave, reaping the benefits of McKinney’s district alignment. Sen. Toni Boucher of Wilton, Sen. Mike McLachlan of Danbury, Sen. Scott Frantz of Greenwich, not so much. Whether those Republicans didn’t campaign hard enough; whether their opponents took advantage of their weaknesses; or if they were victims of the wave, is strictly academic at this point.
In the current landscape, the next General Assembly may have 23 Democrats and 13 Republicans, thanks to a close recount won by first-term Sen. George Logan, R-Ansonia. Another Senate recount will be decided Monday. The House is still awaiting yet another recount but may end up with 92 Democrats. Another big Democratic turnout in 2020, thanks to Donald Trump, and Democrats could get the 24 needed in the Senate and 101 in the House. All of a sudden Democrats would have the two-thirds hammer, just in time for redistricting.
From there, it would be easy to give that Greenwich-centric 36th District seat a bigger chuck of millennial downtown Stamford, say. Or push Hwang’s 28th District farther east into Bridgeport. These kinds of shenanigans did not exist after the Census of 2000 and 2010. But why not in 2020? The General Assembly has been getting more partisan, not less.
In the recent Senate election, 11 Democrats won with more than 60 percent of the vote. Only one Republican won with that kind of plurality. In the House, 55 Democrats won more than 60 percent, compared to 24 Republicans. So at this point in time the state is getting bluer and Democrats are getting more powerful.
It’s not that I think it’s a good thing, but that’s the landscape in a state that the current president, thanks to his 2017 tax bill, essentially declared war on, along with Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, California ...
So in 2020, with no real top-of-the-ticket struggle, no U.S. Sen. Dick Blumenthal re-election until 2022, it’s going to be all about Trump. No distractions with fighting over a governor’s race, along with five solid Democratic representatives in the U.S. House.
So the second wave of the political tsunami is out there.
Of course, Democrats and Lamont have to produce, now that the voters have given them the majority.
And Republicans will have to show they are relevant and offer valid, consequential arguments and proposals in this annual frustration called the Connecticut state budget.
The state can make a billion dollars in year if extensive highway tolls are installed, according to a new DOT report. Sixty percent of that billion bucks would come out of the pockets of already monumentally disappointed commuters/taxpayers. Is Ned Lamont going to hold the line on his trucks-only-tolls proposal? Do the Democrats now have enough votes in the General Assembly to enact tolls knowing that it will extract another $600 million a year from a populace that is already among the highest-taxed in the state?
Will supporters of tolls be able to explain that we’re already subsidizing 40 percent of the traffic on our highways?
It’s almost like the old Hot Stove league, talking off-season baseball. Only the General Assembly throws out its first pitch on Jan. 9, when Lamont steps to the plate.
Ken Dixon, political editor and columnist, can be reached at 203-842-2547 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit him at twitter.com/KenDixonCT and on Facebook at kendixonct.hearst.