Connecticut's races to watch, according to CT Mirror's Mark Pazniokas
On this Election Day eve, we welcome back Connecticut Mirror co-founder and Capitol bureau chief Mark Pazniokas. He walks voters through specific candidates and races, including some familiar names who might be sweating the election results.
John Henry Smith: It’s well documented that 5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes has a fight on her hands versus Republican challenger George Logan. In the 3rd District, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro [is] not expected to have much trouble winning reelection. And yet, as the current chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, she's got a lot to lose on Tuesday night if the GOP nationally manages to take control the U.S. House. I mean, how much do you think she's sweating right now? How much are [Joe] Courtney, [Jim] Himes and [John] Larson sweating it? They're all committee chairs, too, for now at least.
Mark Pazniokas: Well, yeah, I mean, in the case of Himes and Courtney there — it's actually subcommittees. But yes, your point is dead on. They’ve had a taste of power. And in the case of Rosa DeLauro, it’s really unparalleled influence. When you are the Appropriations chair of the U.S. House of Representatives, you have huge influence over spending. And that will be very, very difficult to go back to being in the minority. Now, even as a ranking member on appropriations, you have certain influence, but it’s not the same as being in charge.
Joe Courtney, in the 2nd District, is the chair of the Seapower subcommittee, obviously, of huge importance in that part of the state with Electric Boat and the submarine base. Himes is a player on the Intelligence Committee and a few other places. So, yeah, it’ll be hard for them. It’s hard to believe that the Democrats can hang on to the house, given that the margins are so thin. And that there’s a strong historic trend in the midterm elections that the party [that] holds the White House loses seats in the Congress, and they just don’t have many seats they can afford to lose.
John Henry Smith: What are some of the General Assembly races that are catching your eye?
Mark Pazniokas: Some of the open seats are in districts that the Republican two years ago won by a half point or less. And out in eastern Connecticut, Paul Formica, a Republican state senator who had been first selectman in East Lyme, and he was, you know, kind of had great crossover appeal. That was a district that went for Joe Biden. He's not running for reelection, so that seat's in jeopardy.
In Vernon, there is a retired police officer named Dan Champagne who's not running again, and he barely was reelected two years ago. And the Democrat who nearly took him out two years ago is the nominee for the Democrats this year. So those are two seats that Democrats could pick up.
There are other districts down in Fairfield County. A young guy named Will Haskell, a Democrat who unseated a longtime state senator, Toni Boucher, a few years ago, he’s not running for reelection. Toni Boucher is trying to recapture her seat. But, you know, the district has changed. We have more people from New York moving into that part of Connecticut. And we’ve gone through one redistricting, where that district now has a piece of Stamford with Democratic voters.
And then there’s a couple of others where it’ll be harder for the Democrats. One of them’s in the Farmington Valley, where Kevin Witkos did not run for reelection. He's a Republican, former police officer from Canton. That’s a district that should be competitive. So you know, we’ll see on that one as well.
John Henry Smith: And you put your finger to the wind, what are you sensing? What are you hearing about the ballot measure that would change the Constitution to allow early voting in Connecticut?
Mark Pazniokas: I don’t see any organized opposition against it. There are certainly people working to pass it. This is a referendum question that is written in English plain language. The previous time [it] was on the ballot, I couldn’t tell you what the hell it was supposed to say! It looked like it was written by a committee of lawyers. This one is very straightforward. “Do you want early voting or not? Do you want the General Assembly to be able to write the rules for early voting or not?” So that’s a pretty easy one for folks. So I would expect that to pass.
John Henry Smith: Well, you put everything here today in plain English. We really appreciate it. He is Connecticut Mirror co-founder and Capitol bureau chief Mark Pazniokas. Thanks so much.
Mark Pazniokas: My pleasure.