Farm Team: Democrats to Dominate Connecticut in Near Future

Posted April 10, 2013 at 5:36pm

After years of tumult and turnover, Connecticut’s congressional delegation has settled into Democratic homeostasis.

Connecticut voters, like much the rest of New England, ejected moderate Republicans from Congress over the past several cycles. Today, there are few immediate prospects for the GOP to make inroads — with the exception of a single House district.

The delegation is filled mostly with relatively young members, many of whom likely boast long futures in office. Democratic Sen. Christopher S. Murphy is the youngest member in his chamber. There is no Senate race until 2016, when Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s seat is up. Even the state’s most veteran members, Democratic Reps. John B. Larson and Rosa DeLauro, show no signs of giving up their safe seats soon.

“Back in 2009, it looked like there were few opportunities for Democrats to move up with two entrenched U.S. senators, but there were competitive U.S. Senate races in Connecticut the next two cycles,” said Mark Bergman, a Democratic direct-mail consultant based in Connecticut. “So while it may appear that things are locked in place in Connecticut for Democrats, there’s a strong Democratic bench ready to take up the mantle if things change.”

Until that happens, the 5th District will be the most fought-over federal race in Connecticut. Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty currently holds that seat.

The district includes Newtown, home of the massacre that killed more than two dozen people at an elementary school late last year. The tragic incident gave Esty a rare high-profile platform for a freshman to show leadership on an issue, gun control, in Congress.

But Republicans disagree on whether this helps Esty politically. Meanwhile, the local GOP continues to search for a good challenger.

Through most of 2012, the GOP touted its nominee, Andrew Roraback, as the strongest possible candidate who could run in the 5th District. But he does not appear to be looking for a rematch because of a state judicial appointment.

So far, only one candidate has expressed interest in challenging Esty: businessman Mark Greenberg. But more are expected.

“The landscape could certainly change after municipal elections, which take place next month,” a national Republican said of the nascent GOP field.

Republicans mentioned several other potential candidates for the 5th District: state Sens. Kevin Witkos and Rob Kane, state Rep. Dan Carter and Danbury Mayor Mark Broughton.

Elsewhere in the state, the 4th District could be competitive for Republicans. Democratic Rep. Jim Himes, won that seat in 2008 by defeating now-former Rep. Christopher Shays, a Republican who held on to the district for 22 years.

Since then, Himes’ margins have grown. His party is confident in his hold on the seat to give him a finance leadership position with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. That’s not the type of gig typically given to members with tough races ahead.

This seat will not become competitive until it is open, or the national political environment breaks for Republicans in a big way in New England. Still, anticipating opportunity, Republicans have their eyes on a number of local could-be candidates: state Reps. John Shaban and Tony Hwang, state Sen. Toni Boucher, 2012 GOP nominee Steven Obsitnik and state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney.

It is unlikely there will be immediate openings in the 1st and 3rd districts — both Democratic strongholds. Democrats say there are options in the event one of the incumbents retires or moves to another office.

If Larson leaves his 1st District seat, Berlin Mayor Adam Salina, state Rep. Andy Fleischman, state Sen. Gary LeBeau and the congressman’s brother, state Rep. Timothy Larson, are all potential successors.

If DeLauro leaves her 3rd District seat, former East Haven Mayor April Capone, state Comptroller Kevin Lembo and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. could run in her stead. Democrats also named one other possible candidate in this district: Ted Kennedy Jr.

And the bench gets deeper for Democrats in Connecticut. Party sources named a few other pols to watch in case there’s an open seat: Hartford Councilman Shawn Wooden, former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz and state Rep. William Tong.

Farm Team is a state-by-state look at the up-and-coming politicos who may eventually run for Congress. The column runs on Thursdays.

An earlier version of this article misspelled the town name of Danbury, Conn.