© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
Public Files Contact · ATSC 3.0 FAQ
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

A Trump endorsement helped in a GOP primary, but hurt in a Connecticut general election

Election official Glen Johnson pulls a list of ballot counts out of a tabulator machine after the polls closed at the Christian Heritage School polling place in Trumbull, Conn. on Nov. 8, 2022.
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
Dan Haar, CT Insider columnist and associate editor of Hearst Connecticut Media.

Decision 2022 is mostly over here in Connecticut. To dissect the results we have -- and give insight on the results we're waiting for -- CT Insider columnist and associate editor of Hearst Connecticut Media Dan Haar joins the program.

John Henry Smith: Dan, [Connecticut's 5th District U.S. Rep.] Jahana Hayes beat David Sullivan by double digits back in 2020 to retain her seat. Why the struggle for her now? Was it all of that national GOP money as the Republicans tried to retake the House, or was it something else?

Dan Haar: David Sullivan [...] did not have any type of public name and did not spend the year and a half that George Logan has spent crisscrossing the district. [Logan] would go around to Disabled American Veterans, to every group and take a picture and put it on Twitter. That's retail campaigning, and that does add up.

HARTFORD, CT - October 29, 2020: Behind-the-scenes footage of the live CPTV program “Election 2020: A Connecticut Conversation” with host Lucy Nalpathanchil and guests Khalilah Brown-Dean, Dan Haar, and Jonathan Wharton. (Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public)
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
HARTFORD, CT - October 29, 2020: Behind-the-scenes footage of the live CPTV program “Election 2020: A Connecticut Conversation” with host Lucy Nalpathanchil and guests Khalilah Brown-Dean, Dan Haar, and Jonathan Wharton. (Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public)

John Henry Smith: The Trump effect seemed not to be too effective nationwide. Here in Connecticut, the Trump endorsement seemed to do [GOP U.S. Senate Candidate Leora Levy] no favors in the actual election -- was it, in fact, the death knell?

Dan Haar: As soon as Leora Levy hitched wagons with Donald Trump, she was dead in the water in Connecticut in a general election. Donald Trump is a death knell in Connecticut, he will get you to max out at 40 or so percent. But the other way of looking at it is Bob Stefanowski, who never touched Donald Trump, probably doesn't even like Donald Trump, didn't campaign as a Trumpian candidate, still got the same 43%. And only a really good Republican like George Logan can get any higher than that at all.

John Henry Smith: Has Bob Stefanowski pretty much had his chance now, and do you think the GOP will pivot?

Dan Haar: Yes, Bob has had his chance. No, I don't think they'll pivot. And the reason is very simple. You can sum it up in two words: closed primaries. The Republican Party establishment didn't pick Bob Stefanowski over Mark Boughton and didn't pick Leora Levy over Themis Klarides -- the voters did. And that's because you have the voters in a primary number between 120,000 and 180,000 out of 10 times that who vote in a general election. And that's the hardcore Republicans who want to go hardcore conservative, and that's what they pick. Until they have open primaries, they're gonna have the same problem.

John Henry Smith: And which issue set played more of a role in determining the outcome of yesterday's races? On the one side, you've got the GOP triumvirate of inflation, crime and border security. On the other side, you've got the Democratic pairing of reproductive rights and democracy being under siege concerns.

Dan Haar: Both. And I'll tell you why -- this is what my column is about. The Republicans controlled the message that Democrats rejected their message, the Democrats need to do a better job of making their issues front and center. The Republicans need to do a better job of not just complaining and saying "things stink," but actually giving in-depth solutions, which for the most part they did not do.

John Henry Smith: At the polls, we heard of no significant voting malfunctions or strife, which I know was a concern for many. Are you surprised?

Dan Haar: We all joke about Bridgeport every time but for the most part, I think Connecticut has a good system. I would like to see a more professional system. I don't support the idea of elected registrars, I think that's a vestige of the past. I think they should all be professional appointed people. But you know, the system in Connecticut works well. The secretary of state's office works very hard to get information out and in a nonpartisan way, I think the registrars pull together and it does work.

John Henry Smith: If Hayes wins in the 5th District, what happens to Republicans in Connecticut if they can't make inroads with any statewide races?

Dan Haar: Ben Proto, the chairman, knows this very well. And he's effective at building the first steps of this. The problem is getting past that primary level. He and they have to build a bench of people like Themis Klarides, like John McKinney, who previously ran for governor and lost in a primary to the inexperienced Tom Foley back a couple of cycles ago. They have to keep people in the system and going for higher office, who are state senators, who are experienced mayors. For example, Mayor [Erin] Stewart in New Britain. They have a bench, they have to make that bench be the thing that goes to the next level for the statewide and congressional offices.

John Henry Smith: Overall, talk about how the challengers did yesterday.

Dan Haar: Other than George Logan, a lot of the statewide challengers all did about the same, which surprises those of us in the punditry who thought that, for example, maybe Dominic Rapini for secretary of the state would do better well, because he worked really hard and he had a strong message. Or maybe we thought Harry Aurora because he was running against a treasurer candidate in Erick Russell who hadn't run, but no, it ends up they all did about the same. Mary Fay, who wasn't expected to do as well, did 45% against Sean Scanlon for comptroller, all in a narrow range of 42% to 45%. And what that tells you is that partisanship is stronger than the personalities, if the personalities don't go beyond where the sort of traditional Republicans have been.

John Henry Smith: He is CT Insider columnist and associate editor of Hearst Connecticut Media Dan Haar. Thanks so much.

Dan Haar: Great to be here. Thank you.

This post has been edited and condensed for clarity.

John Henry Smith is Connecticut Public’s host of All Things Considered, its flagship afternoon news program. He's proud to be a part of the team that won a regional Emmy Award for The Vote: A Connecticut Conversation. In his 21st year as a professional broadcaster, he’s covered both news and sports.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.