A smiling Gov. Dannel P. Malloy offered the simplest analysis Wednesday of the previous night’s Democratic wins in municipal elections: “If you want to look at trends, the Democrats had a pretty good night.”
By capturing Republican-held mayoral offices in Waterbury, Milford, Manchester and Middletown, Democrats now control municipal governments in 14 of the state’s 20 most populous communities, according to the Connecticut Democratic Party.
The Connecticut GOP’s initial analysis, however, shows it actually made a net gain of five municipal governments by winning control of 14 small towns that had been run by Democrats.
The analysis did not count Waterbury as a Republican loss, since the losing incumbent, Michael Jarjura, was originally elected as a Democrat and re-elected in 2005 as a write-in. He was, however, the GOP nominee this year.
But even excluding Waterbury, the 14 Democratic towns won by the GOP have a total population of fewer than 200,000, compared to the population of more than 300,000 in nine Republican towns that went Democratic.
The Democrats’ post-election analysis focused on their performance in larger communities and the role played by the statewide party and Malloy, the first Democratic governor in 20 years.
Malloy campaigned and raised money for victorious Democratic mayoral nominees in Waterbury, New Britain and Middletown – and he and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman appeared with the winners Tuesday in all three communities.
“To have them all win was pretty extraordinary,” Malloy said Wednesday. “I would have been happy with one. To see them all come through, as well as other major races in the state was just a pretty good day.”
With Malloy as a fundraising draw, the Connecticut Democratic Party had the resources this year to help Democrats throughout the state, said Eric Hyers, the party’s new executive director.
“Our organization, the Connecticut Democrats, were able to really play an active role for the first time in off-year election,” Hyers said. “We had the resources.”
The party offered assistance with polling, fundraising, direct mail and get-out-the-vote efforts in dozens of communities, Hyers said.
George Gallo, a former GOP state chairman who is the House Republicans’ chief of staff, said there is nothing like an activist governor to energize the party’s statewide organization, the state central committee.
“There are powers that the governor has. The governor can come in and help you raise money,” Gallo said. “The governor can help rally the troops. The governor can help the party raise money from the state central standpoint. There are definite benefits.”
Unlike Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who had a cool relationship at times with the GOP leadership during her tenure, Malloy has embraced his role as the de facto head of the Connecticut Democratic Party.
“I take that role very seriously,” Malloy said.
One benefit of having Democratic mayors in sizable communities is the presence of a political infrastructure that generally goes with controlling a city hall.
With the victory of Democrats Neil O’Leary in Waterbury and Tim O’Brien in New Britain, Democrats now hold two important cities in the 5th Congressional District, where the parties are fighting for the state’s only open U.S. House seat.
But Democrats might do well not over-celebrate the results.
In 2005, Republicans crowed about what may have been their best municipal election in 20 years, expressing optimism their victories might portend better things to come in legislative races in 2006.
Republicans defeated Democratic mayors that year in Norwalk and Middletown. And they thought they wounded a big-city mayor, holding him to 51 percent of the vote–and possibly ending his dreams of statewide office.
The wins gave Republicans an 83 to 82 edge in controlling municipalities. Four other communities were controlled by third parties.
But things didn’t quite turn out as hoped for the GOP.
Instead of shrinking the Democratic majority in the state House of Representatives, Republicans lost seven seats in 2006.
And as far as wounding a potential statewide Democratic contender?
His name was Dan Malloy.
After his close call in 2005, he did not seek another term as mayor of Stamford in 2009. But he had a pretty good year as a statewide candidate in 2010.
Democratic towns won by Republicans: Beacon Falls, Cromwell, East Haven, Hampton, Harwinton, Oxford, Plainville, Seymour, Sherman, South Windsor, Stafford, Suffield, Tolland and Windsor Locks.
Republican towns won by Democrats: Chester, East Hampton, Manchester, Middletown, Milford, Newington, New Britain, Old Lyme and Southbury.