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Election Dissection: A Look At The Conn. And LI Races

Voter Stickers
Darron Cummings

With the 2016 election over, analysts are poring over data to try to figure out what the electorate has said. In Connecticut returns show a closer race than had been anticipated, especially in the state Assembly races where the minority Republicans gained seats in the state House of Representatives and are now tied in the Senate.  

WSHU’s Senior Political Reporter Ebong Udoma has been talking to political experts about the election results in our region. Ebong sat down with WSHU’s News Director Dan Katz to discuss what he learned. Below is a transcript of their conversation.

Ebong, was it a surprise that Republicans gained so many seats in this election?

Dan, we had anticipated that the GOP would gain some seats in the state Assembly, but what was more remarkable was that about 40 towns in Connecticut that had voted for Barack Obama in past elections flipped to Donald Trump, while Hillary Clinton only managed to flip nine towns that had voted for Romney four years ago. And they were all in the wealthy parts of Fairfield County.

I spoke with Sacred Heart University Political Science Professor Gary Rose about this. Here’s his opinion about why so many towns flipped to Trump.

“I would suggest that the towns that probably flipped are those that are feeling the effects of a very sluggish and lethargic economy here in the state of Connecticut, and there are many communities in the state that are feeling that. I seriously doubt that the changes were due to some of the other issues that Trump has been promoting such as immigration reform and issues about how to deal with ISIS and so forth.”

So the economy is the reason why Trump did better than expected. Does that also explain why the GOP did well in the state Assembly races?

That’s what Rose believes. But he also feels the GOP campaign was helped by the business lobby. Here’s what he says about that.

“Much of that had to do with really the efforts of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, in that they really poured a lot of money, nearly half a million dollars in some of these Senate races in order to dislodge some Democratic incumbents. So you could make an argument that an outside group. But at the same time I don’t want to attribute the success of the Republicans to just the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, I would also suggest too that Dan Malloy with his 24 percent public approval rating, had something to do with that race as well. I think these are localized races. It really was that Democrats in the state were cutting benefits, cutting programs, and then there was at the same time concerns about raising taxes.”

So does Rose believe the GOP could be on the verge of taking over state Assembly and the governorship in Connecticut in the next election cycle in two years?

Actually Rose feels that if state Democrats make some changes that might not be the case. Here he is again.

“The Democrats are going to do all they can to thwart it. By addressing some of their needs and concerns out among their districts, And I think they are going to address it by nominating a different candidate for governor, irrespective of what the current governor’s plans are.”

Okay, so how about the results on Long Island. Any surprises there?

I had spoken with Hofstra Political Scientist Larry Levy about that before the election, so I called him back to see if the outcome was what he had anticipated. Here’s what he told me.

“There were no surprises on Long Island with respect to congressional districts. They tend to reflect, in two of the cases, the top of the ticket. Where Lee Zeldin and the Suffolk Republicans went all in with Donald Trump. They made a calculation well before the election that he would run strongly there. And that’s in fact what happened.

You know Dan, one interesting thing that Levy told me is that a new power broker has emerged on Long Island as a result of this election. And that’s Suffolk County GOP boss John Jay LaValle. Here’s what Levy says.

“He was one of the first major Republican leaders, I mean around the country, to get behind Trump. He represents a very big county in the Republican world nationwide. And John Jay Lavalle if he plays his cards right for himself and all the constituents of Suffolk County and even Nassau, could help deliver on things that may be important.”

Let’s talk for second about some of those important things. I would say transportation infrastructure would be one of those.

Yes, especially if you’ve ever been stuck in traffic on the LIE or one of the parkways on Long Island. And you know Trump has been talking about putting together a massive federal infrastructure bill. Levy says Lavalle being close to Trump might help Long Island get a little bit more of those federal construction projects.

Thank you Ebong.

Thanks You Dan.

Subscribe to Ebong’s podcast, Capitol Avenue, on iTunes or Google Play

Dan is a former News Director at WSHU
As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.