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Connecticut's 5th Congressional District- a Primary Recap and a General Election Preview

by: RockRibbedR

Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 22:40:56 PM EDT

This is the second part of an ongoing series on Connecticut's 5th Congressional District. For part one, see here:
Considering that I've never been to Northwest Connecticut, this diary is all based on what I have picked up following the race for the 5th district. Please forgive me if I make any minor errors that an outsider may make! 
Welcome CT Capitol Report Readers! If you have any questions, go ahead and email me at wfdeacons12 @ gmail .com (remove spaces).

On Tuesday August 14th, State Legislative, Congressional, and Senate primaries were held across Connecticut. The only competitive Congressional district, and the only really competitive federal election in Connecticut (sorry Linda McMahon), is the race for Connecticut's 5th Congressional District.

The 5th District is based in the Litchfield Hills region of Northwest Connecticut, but also reaches out to include the Farmington Valley (an affluent portion of suburban Hartford), some conservative towns near Waterbury, and the cities of Waterbury, Meriden, and New Britain. The district, which gave John Kerry and Barack Obama victories at 49% and 56% respectively, is politically marginal yet slightly Democratic leaning, with a PVI of D+2. With three term Congressman Chris Murphy vacating it to run for the US Senate, local politicians from both parties smelled blood and two bitter and expensive primaries ensued.

RockRibbedR :: Connecticut's 5th Congressional District- a Primary Recap and a General Election Preview


The Republican Primary-

There were four Republicans who ran in the 5th District primary. The slight frontrunner (and eventual winner) was 6-term State Senator Andrew Roraback of Goshen, whose 54% Obama district contains much of the rural, swingy Litchfield Hills region. Roraback, a Hotchkiss, UVA, and Yale educated attorney with deep familial roots in the Litchfield Hills (he practices law at his family's firm in Torrington, Roraback and Roraback, which was founded in 1883(!)), billed himself as a "Yankee Republican." He is widely considered a fiscal conservative and a social moderate-to-liberal, favoring spending cuts and fiscal prudence but also abortion rights and gay marriage. Roraback's fundraising was not particularly strong, but he won the state party's endorsement at the CT GOP Convention and had a strong team of volunteers that helped him throughout the primary. Democrats feared that Roraback would win, and a liberal SuperPac craftily ran $200,000 worth of ads in the primary's final two weeks claiming Roraback was "too liberal for 5th District Republicans" in an effort to take down the most electable candidate. Below is a picture of Roraback's State Senate district, along with its demographics and 2008 Obama/McCain vote.


Roraback's main competitors were Lisa Wilson-Foley and Mark Greenberg, both businesspeople. Wilson-Foley, of Avon, held a similar ideological profile to Roraback's, although she tacked slightly to his right in tone in order to create some political separation. Wilson-Foley's campaign was hampered when it was discovered that not only was she using ex-Governor and convicted felon John Rowland as an advisor, her husband's business had hired him, all at the same time as Rowland used his perch as a radio show host to blast her rivals. However, her being from the Farmington Valley of suburban Hartford gave her a natural, Republican rich base of support for votes and fundraising. Wilson-Foley's fundraising was slightly weaker than Roraback's in the 4th quarter, although she had some ability to self-fund her campaign. She had the second most cash on hand at the end of the fourth quarter, doubling Roraback's CoH. Wilson-Foley did end up performing somewhat strongly in the Farmington Valley and, surprisingly enough, in Danbury. However, the accusations of tomfoolery involving Rowland's presence on her campaign team likely did her campaign in.

Mark Greenberg, of Litchfield, ran as a "true conservative" on both fiscal and social issues. Greenberg, a wealthy real estate investor, pumped large sums of his own money into the race and both raised the most in the 4th quarter and had the most cash on hand. Greenberg was the third-place finisher in the 2010 CT-05 primary. Greenberg hammered away at Roraback and Wilson-Foley for being too liberal, but was likely hampered by the presence of another conservative in the race, Justin Bernier. Greenberg swamped the district's southern flank, putting up big margins in suburban areas surrounding Waterbury and Meriden. However, his campaign team's grassroots efforts weren't as strong as Roraback's team's, and he failed to garner any traction in the non-southern ports of the district.

Justin Bernier, of Plainville, likely prevented Greenberg from winning but also hurt Wilson-Foley's chances, as well. Bernier, a veteran and former Congressional staffer, also ran as a "true conservative" and was the second-place finisher of the 2010 CT-05 primary. He cut Wilson-Foley's margins in the Farmington Valley and actually won the towns of Farmington and Plainville, but failed to repeat his strong showing in 2010, as he performed poorly outside of the Farmington Valley. Bernier was the weakest fundraiser of the four Republican candidates, pulling in the least money in the fourth quarter and having the least amount of cash on hand at fourth quarter's end. Below is a table that shows how the four Republican (and the three Democratic) candidates fundraising was in the fourth quarter.


Much to the chagrin of national Democrats, whose $200,000 anti-Roraback buy was expected to severely harm his campaign, State Senator Andrew Roraback won the primary. Roraback took 32% of the vote, with Mark Greenberg clocking in at second place with 27% of the vote. Lisa Wilson-Foley and Justin Bernier finished in third and fourth respectively, just barely finishing over 20% with Wilson-Foley pulling ing 21% of the vote and Bernier coming in last at 20% of the vote. Interestingly enough, the two more moderate candidates, Roraback and Wilson-Foley finished with a combined 53%, meaning that a moderate could have won a one-on-one race with a conservative in the 5th District.

Below is a map that shows the winner of each town's primary.


Key- Red: Roraback (32%) Green: Greenberg (27%) Orange: Wilson Foley (21%) Blue: Justin Bernier (20%)

As you can see, Roraback won every town in his State Senate district and also did well in its surrounding towns. His weakest areas, the district's cities and the suburban towns where Mark Greenberg performed the strongest, are areas he will need to focus on as the general election rolls around. The good news in Roraback's performance is that he will likely over-perform Mitt Romney in his Litchfield Hills based Senate district, an important prediction considering that President Obama will likely narrowly carry or narrowly lose the 5th District. Roraback always put up strong showings in his Senate district. The bad news for Roraback is that one of the two regions he performed weakest in, the district's southern flank, is the political base of his general election opponent, former State Representative and Democrat Elizabeth Esty.

The Democratic Primary- Connecticut House Speaker Chris Donovan, always heavily backed by organized labor, started out as the prohibitive favorite in the 5th District Democratic Primary. Donovan, of Meriden, was well funded and well known in the district's southern flank. At the end of the fourth quarter, Donovan was second in the Democratic primary in fundraising and cash on hand, however, labor was willing to make up the difference. Donovan also won the state Democratic Party's backing at its convention. All was well for Donovan and his campaign until, not so surprisingly (considering the typical scumminess of labor-backed urban politicians), half of his campaign team, many of whom were long time Donovan aides, was arrested by men in black (federal agents) for trying to conceal the sources of some of Donovan's donations. Donovan was never proven to have any knowledge of the conspiracy being run by his campaign staff, but the uncertainty behind the situation left an opening for his two primary opponents, ex-State Rep. Elizabeth Esty (a Lieberman clone in many ways), and rich kid and overall some dude Dan Roberti.

Elizabeth Esty, of Cheshire, is a former one term State Representative with a reputation of breaking party ranks, much like Andrew Roraback. Esty was defeated in 2010 after voting for banning the death penalty, an unpopular vote in her district considering that a home invasion-turned-vicious slaughter in Cheshire made national news, and many locals felt that the death penalty was the only appropriate punishment for the perpetrators. Even though she stood with her party on that particular (and fatal) vote, Esty broke ranks with her party on a few crucial votes during her time in the legislature, including voting against the Democratic budget at one point because it was too fiscally liberal for her liking. Esty and Donovan were known to dislike each other in the legislature, for both personality reasons and because she represented a reform movement in the party, a movement that threatened labor's grip on the Connecticut Democratic party. Many thought Esty was running just to try to take down Donovan, however, she became the frontrunner after his campaign finance mishaps. Esty was well funded the whole way, backed by both interest groups like pro-choice Emily's List as well as fundraising the strongest in the fourth quarter and having the most cash on hand of any candidate for CT-05 in either party.

The Democratic primary's third wheel was 30-year-old Dan Roberti, son of a powerful DC lobbyist and big time Democratic donor. Roberti, of Plymouth, had a resume that was as thick as paper but a monetary backing from interest groups, including a Super Pac run by his father, that was anything but thin. Roberti's fundraising and cash on hand was behind Donovan's and Esty's, but Super Pacs kept him in the race. At one point, late in the race, a poll by PPP (D) showed him narrowly winning the primary. This caused the Democratic establishment in Connecticut to panic, as Roberti was widely seen as easy to attack for a lack of really any sort of practical experience in life to use in Congress. Their worries compounded when President Bill Clinton endorsed him (surprise, surprise, his father was a big time Clinton donor in 2010) two days before the primary. However, Roberti's apparent momentum was a sham; Roberti only carried his home town, losing every other town in the district to either Esty or Donovan. Much to the dismay of Republican strategists in Connecticut, Elizabeth Esty blazed her way to a decisive victory and, in the process, slayed a giant (or a dragon/troll, depending how you look at organized labor) of Connecticut Democratic politics. Esty drew 45% of the primary vote, performing 13% higher than Donovan, the second place finisher, who finished with 32%. Roberti, who had polled on top late in the primary, finished way back at 23%. Amazingly enough, the anti-Donovan vote totaled 68%. My, oh my, how far he fell from grace after his campaign's finance scandal. Esty, by far the most moderate in the CT-05 Democratic field, is the most electable and moderate of the three Democrats, making for a marquee matchup with the also moderate GOP nominee, Andrew Roraback. In a change of pace from the usually polarized races in the last few years, a general election for an important US House seat will feature the two most moderate nominees possible after both sides had a competitive primary election. Below is a map that shows how Esty, Donovan, and Roberti performed in each town in the 5th District.


As you can see, Esty swamped nearly all of the towns in the district, only losing Roberti's hometown of Plymouth, a smattering of random towns in the Litchfield Hills, Sherman, the cities of New Britain and Meriden, and one of New Britain's suburbs. Labor was able to deliver New Britain and Meriden, but, shockingly, was unable to deliver the city of Waterbury, a fairly unionized place. Esty's consistently strongest margins were in the southern flank of the district, one of Andrew Roraback's weak spots. Plus, she was able to drive out Democratic primary turnout in the typically Republican southern flank of the district, her base, something that will prove important for her to do in the general election. Interestingly enough, Esty had some issues in some of the northernmost towns in Roraback's Senate district, even losing some to "possible felon" Chris Donovan, as Roraback once called him, meaning that perhaps Roraback could exploit her issues there.

Partisan Turnout in the 2012 CT-05 Primaries and analysis

For the first time in years, Republicans actually turned out more voters than Democrats did in a Congressional primary in Connecticut. Republicans made up 51.5% of the two party share of total CT-05 primary voters. This is incredibly significant, especially considering the facts that President Obama got to 56% in the 5th District in 2008 and that there was an incredibly competitive US House primary in both parties. Both bases were motivated to turn out, and, surprisingly enough, Republicans turned out at a higher rate than Democrats. This could signal a return to 2004 type levels in Connecticut's 5th, when John Kerry won the seat by a fraction of a percentage point, only a few hundred votes. Roraback and Esty both have the potential to garner some crossover votes, Roraback in the Litchfield Hills and Esty in the Waterbury/Cheshire area (especially in her old State House seat). It's interesting to consider that Roraback was able to squeeze a Republican primary turnout advantage out of Gore/Kerry/Obama towns in his Senate district while Esty was able to pull out a Democratic turnout advantage in Cheshire, a town that voted for George W. Bush, twice. The 5th Congressional District election should be rather close, especially with Mitt Romney having a decent chance to win up ballot in the district. Thanks to their turnout advantage in the primary, Republicans have to feel uplifted about their chances in November, especially considering the presence of a competitive primary in both parties.

Below is a map that shows which party had a higher turnout in each town in the district. A light shade of red or blue means that Republicans or Democrats turned out at a rate of between 50.1 and 55% of the total turnout rate, a darker shade of red or blue means that Republicans or Democrats turned out at a rate of between 55 and 63% of the total turnout rate, and a dark shade of red or blue means that Republicans or Democrats turned out at a rate of between 63 and 100% of the total turnout rate.


For a reference point to judge the above turnout rate map with, here's a map that shows how the towns in the 5th District voted for President Obama and John McCain in 2008.


Andrew Roraback's Keys to Victory

I currently rate the race for Connecticut's 5th District as having the slightest tilt in Elizabeth Esty's favor. Esty is a moderate with a history of being elected (and defeated) in a historically Republican district. She's also well-funded, personally wealthy, and has Emily's List, a deep pocketed pro-choice interest group, willing to spend to help her win in November.

However, Andrew Roraback is not without his unique advantages that could help him take the cake in the 5th District race in the fall. Roraback has a history of being elected to the State Legislature for 9 straight terms, including being elected for 6 terms to the State Senate. Roraback's ~100,000 person Senate district, which overlaps nearly completely with the 5th District, is far larger than Esty's former House seat. Additionally, unlike Esty, Roraback has no history of losing, or coming close to losing (at least in the last decade). Roraback should be able to rack up a huge margin in his Senate district, where he is very popular and where members of his family have lived and practiced law for at least 130 years. The Roraback family name is golden in Northwestern Connecticut, and he should be able to exploit this for fundraising purposes. If Roraback wants to win in November, he's going to have to do a few important things.


  1. Roraback has to put up a huge margin in Litchfield County, especially in his State Senate district. If Romney comes close, Roraback way overperforming in his district could provide just the votes he needs to pull him over 50%.
  2. Roraback has to build on his impressive history of pulling together a tremendous team of grassroots volunteers. He'll be outraised and outspent by Esty, but he and his team can definitely out campaign her. That will be key to finding just enough votes, especially from Obama supporters, for him to win the election.
  3. Roraback's team has to hit the ground running and campaign like there's no tomorrow, from today to when polls close, especialy in the southern portion of the district (Esty's base). Remember, Esty lost in 2010 for a good reason: she was not a good fit for her State House district. They kicked her out once before and Roraback needs to remind them of why (which was her being too fiscally liberal, albeit less fiscally liberal than most CT Dems, and her vote to repeal the death penalty). Roraback voted to repeal the death penalty alongside Esty, before voting against repeal in 2011 after becoming angered by an early release program that he felt was too lenient on offenders. Roraback needs to campaign hard on both the death penalty and on spending reforms, especially in Cheshire, Hamden, and Wallingford (her old district) and the towns surrounding her old district. If he can remind those voters why they kicked her to the curb in the first place, he can take away her home field advantage in those suburbs.
  4. Roraback needs to make inroads in the Farmington Valley (wealthy areas of suburban Hartford that Justin Bernier and Lisa Wilson-Foley are from) before Esty is able to. While Esty performed well in the Farmington Valley in the primary, that was more because the Democratic voters in that area are not unionists and did not take kindly to Donovan's scandal. If Roraback can sell his brand of fiscal prudence and social moderation/liberalism to the socially liberal and fiscally moderate/conservative voters in Farmington, Simsbury, Avon, and the other towns in the Farmington Valley, he will be able to lock down Romney's voters there and, hopefully, be able to pull in a few Obama voters, too.
  5. Roraback needs to not ignore the cities. A big reason why Republican Nancy Johnson, who held the seat from the 1994 elections to the 2006 elections, lost the 5th District in 2006 was because the cities in the district felt that she began to ignore their concerns. Roraback needs to squeeze out as much crossover support as possible, and that means making sure he at least makes a small effort to make voters in the cities feel like he cares about them. As a rural politician, his worst performances in the primary came from cities like New Britain, Waterbury, and Meriden. Roraback can't let Esty dominate in the cities. Remember, the cities were a weakness in the primary for both Roraback and Esty. I am not saying he can significantly overperform Romney in the 5th District's cities; I am just advocating that he has a campaign presence there.
  6. Roraback has to convince the NRCC and national coservative organizations that CT-05 is a seat worth investing in. Remember, Sam Caligiuri put up a disappointing performance in 2010 (although Murphy was an exceptionally strong incumbent). If he wants to win the seat, he's going to have to get some help fundraising or with ads, perhaps from the NRCC.
  7. Update: If Chris Donovan decides to run as a Working Families Party nominee, or decides to publicly not endorse Esty, that would be a huge boon to Roraback's chances. I had mentioned that that may happen on this site a few days ago, but those thoughts were not taken seriously. It looks like that may happen!,0,1366956.story
  8. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Roraback needs to hope that Mitt Romney narrowly loses or wins the 5th. If Romney wins the 5th, and Roraback runs a strong campaign, I see no reason why Roraback would lose, especially considering how he should put up a huge margin in the Litchfield Hills around his State Senate district. Remember, Connecticut is a "1% State" if there is one, especially with there being lots of affluence in parts of the Litchfield Hills, the Farmington Valley, and the towns around Danbury and Waterbury. Both polling and primary turnout levels show that Connecticut independents are fed up with the Democrats' attacks on the successful and the affluent. Those turnout levels and polls also show that analysts should expect to see 2004 style Presidential numbers from Connecticut in November, or at least close to those numbers. That means that the 5th District should be very competitive territory for Mitt Romney, and the better Romney does, the better Roraback does.
Hopefully, Andrew Roraback runs a strong, grassroots powered campaign, is able to cut into Esty's base in the towns around Cheshire, is able to put up a huge margin in the Litchfield Hills, and Mitt Romney does well in the 5th District. If those things happen, we'll be calling him Congressman-elect Roraback in November.

UPDATE: Chris Donovan is considering running as a third party candidate or not endorsing Esty at all. That would be a HUGE boon for Roraback. Stay tuned!,0,1366956.story

What % of the total vote will Andrew Roraback get in the CT-05 general election?


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What issues does he leave the Conservative line on?  Do any of them cross with Etsy's line crossing?

33/M/D/NY-01 DKE:Socks The Cat

I'll look into that, Tek
For now, here's Roraback addressing some of his tax increase proposals (and dirty Democratic strategy in the 5th in order to try to prevent him from winning the primary).

From IL-09, Living in PA-07.

[ Parent ]
Forgot the link
Here we go:

From IL-09, Living in PA-07.

[ Parent ]
Since you asked
1. Social issues. Fmr award winner from NARAL. Pro gay marriage
2. Death Penalty
3. Neon Green. 100% Sierra Club record
4. Didn't become partisan hard liner on spending until about 2009; lots of local pork; bipartisan & unaffordable budgets
5. Voted with Dems on some bipartisan tax hikes
6. Tepid record on gun rights for a rural legislator
7. Lineage. R's in urbanized areas tend to be of blue collar Catholic roots; not uberWASPs
8. Openly distances himself as "New England Republican" from national party image. Beloved by GOP hating MSM

Understand now why he has a low ceiling in a GOP primary; & will struggle with conservative unaffiliated voters  

[ Parent ]
So why is he a Republican, exactly?
I'm not for kicking him out of the caucus, but why should conservatives invest money here that could be spent on electing candidates that are more distinguishable from their opponents?  

[ Parent ]
Lack of outside $ will be a clear hurdle here
Will have to be "Republican" $; can't see Club for Growth or the like doing an IE here  

[ Parent ]
To the left of Hanna
Fiscal moderate, social liberal. No thanks.

25, Male, R, NY-10

[ Parent ]
I'm not worried anyway because Esty will blow him out, but this is the kind of guy we don't need in the caucus AFAIAC.  

[ Parent ]
Fiscal moderate
Roraback seems pretty fiscally conservative as far as I've heard. For what reasons would he be called a fiscal moderate?

Lifelong Republican, TX-17

[ Parent ]
Read CTIronman, Above
1. Social issues. Fmr award winner from NARAL. Pro gay marriage
2. Death Penalty
3. Neon Green. 100% Sierra Club record
4. Didn't become partisan hard liner on spending until about 2009; lots of local pork; bipartisan & unaffordable budgets
5. Voted with Dems on some bipartisan tax hikes
6. Tepid record on gun rights for a rural legislator
7. Lineage. R's in urbanized areas tend to be of blue collar Catholic roots; not uberWASPs
8. Openly distances himself as "New England Republican" from national party image. Beloved by GOP hating MSM

#4 & #5 make him pretty much unacceptable to anyone who's a serious FisCon (also #3). #1, 2 & 6 kill him with SoCons. #7 kills him with working class types. #8 kills him with partisans (read: Hanna-redux).

Bottom line: This is not a race worth wasting national resources on. If individuals around here want to throw money at this guy, have at it.

But I hope the NRCC, et al. don't waste a dime on this one - if we're going to play a long-shot, there are three races in WA state that I can think off right off the bat that are more deserving.  

[ Parent ]
I fully agree...
This man is a Richard Hanna clone...this district isnt unwinnable for a conservative republican...I dont understand the reason you have to run such a RINO here...

38, male, Roma ( Italia ), conservative

[ Parent ]
4 way races & flawed candidates
Yield this result  

[ Parent ]
Fiscal conservatism
Apparently, wanting to eliminate the death tax, cut income taxes, slash business taxes, and lower taxes overall is "NOT FISCALLY CONSERVATIVE!11!!!"

From IL-09, Living in PA-07.

[ Parent ]
You Can Ignore CTIronman's Points...
...but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a point.  

[ Parent ]
Wow Thanks
A Republican I could think about voting depending on the opponent.

33/M/D/NY-01 DKE:Socks The Cat

[ Parent ]
And of course good job RRR
Excellent diary.

33/M/D/NY-01 DKE:Socks The Cat

[ Parent ]
I forgot to say it in my comment but this is an excellent piece of research and writing, especially considering RRR isn't from CT.

[ Parent ]
I think he's fibbing about being from IL
Time for me to check the Torrington phone book :)

[ Parent ]
BP, CTIronMan, and Tek
Thanks so much for the compliments! I had a lot of fun following this race and following this up! I swear I've never even been to CT-05 (although I've been to the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th districts).

From IL-09, Living in PA-07.

[ Parent ]
Great Diary
The only thing I'd add is that Roraback needs to hope Obama keeps ratcheting up the populist rhetoric, so Romney gets more of an opening to get Bush 2004 numbers or better through most of Connecticut.

Lifelong Republican, TX-17

Excellent Write-Up
This was freakin' brillant and detailed to the max. Way to go!
Maybe I'll do something for MA-6 after the Mass primary on Sept 6th.

I agree with you that Roraback has a shot to win. I really hope the NRCC sees that potential. He's going to need help with finances. I am a little worried though he hasn't made a connection to the cities of the district yet. He needs to be winning Danbury, close in Waterbury, and at least in the high 30's in New Britain to win here. His primary performance was far from setting up to match that.  

Baker '14
R, MA-3

Thanks so much! I really enjoyed sitting down tonight with a block of a few hours of free time and just pounding this out. It was way fun to write.

Any thoughts on how Roraback could connect with the cities? I am really, really pulling for him... you know how much I want to rebuild the party in New England.

Any other thoughts on what Roraback has to do to win? Are there any issues that are really important in CT-05 that a guy who's never been there (like me, I've only been to CT-02, 03, and 05) wouldn't know are significant to the region/district?  

From IL-09, Living in PA-07.

[ Parent ]
I doubt Team Roraback would take advise from a commoner like me
But Esty's husband is a Commissioner in the Malloy Adminstration. If Dan Malloy endorsed sunshine; I'd attack him for promoting drought.

If Roraback makes a vote for Esty a vote for Malloy; "then" he can get the kinds of margins in the I-84 corridor he''ll need to offset New Britain & Meriden  

[ Parent ]
My family lives there
I actually grew up in the 1st myself but am very familiar with the 5th. It's hard to describe it because it combines rural and urban areas. I am really not a fan of the way this district has been drawn, as it should not include Waterbury and especially not New Britain. It makes little sense the way they drew it and the 1st is also a mess by taking in areas that should be part of the 5th.

But all that aside, some of those smaller towns are actually quite conservative across the board. I think both Esty and Rorabach are to the left of the district, which is unfortunate. I apologize if I haven't answered your question, but I guess my point is that GOP politicians don't have to run way to the left to win in New England. That notion is simply false, especially in a district Ike CT-5. There are plenty of voters there who would be happy to have a reliably conservative option.

When there is little difference between the views of the GOP and dem candidates, there is also little reason for conservatives in the district to vote for the republican. I still would, but grudgingly.  

22, male, R, MA-3 (home), NC-4 (school)

[ Parent ]
I 100% agree
new england republicans dont have to run liberals to win...especially in this type of can run soft spoken and competent conservatives a have a good chance...but they never learn...winning with these type of candidates doesnt help to strenght the party in the can you strenght the party if your elected officials are ashamed to be called republicans and always buy the liberal bias against their party?

38, male, Roma ( Italia ), conservative

[ Parent ]
CTIronman has been hitting the nail on the head all over on this one
To win Roraback needs to foster a connection with Waterbury, and the I-84 Corridor. The problem is he isn't a blue collar Republican, nor is he a real CoC guy (at least I didn't think so). He's the old line Republican. He should be able to foster a good following in the Farmington Valley, where they are a lot more white collar, and socially moderate. That's almost a given for him I guess.

This is a diverse district, and stretches from the most distant of NY suburbs to wealthy liberals in the Hills, white-collar folks around Hartford, and socially conservative blue collar folks in the cities. It's hard to pin this district down on one strategy. I don't think Esty is the scariest of an opponent, but I think at this point Roraback needs to focus on the economy and jobs, and forget his liberal pet issues. That's the one place where he can hold his base, and yet win over blue collar folks that are very much worried about the economy. He needs the sort of Scott Brown line I guess. He doesn't care about what party a good idea is, if its a good idea, and it will help create jobs, he'll be behind it.  

Baker '14
R, MA-3

[ Parent ]
Winning CT-05
FANTASTIC article, particularly from someone who hasn't stepped foot into the district. (That said, you really should visit, however, the Litchfield hills are beautiful!)

A few important things to remember about Connecticut's 5th. It was represented by Republican Congresswoman Nancy Johnson for 24 years - in actuality split between the eliminated CT-06, and its successor district CT-05.  (She lost the seat to Murphy because of complacency. Neither her campaign, nor Connecticut Republicans believed in the need to wage a real race against Murphy, and were out hustled, and out campaigned.)

The cities in CT-05, while majority Democrat in registration, have a history of voting Republican.  Danbury's mayor is former Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate Mark Boughton.  New Britain, until last year, was ruled by a former Republican mayor for many years until he retired.  Meriden has had several Republican mayors and councilmen, and currently sends a Republican to the State Senate. And the city of Waterbury also has a long history of Republican mayors and State Legislators, mixed in with the Democrats.  Significant "R" votes can come from these cities which will compliment the votes Roraback will get out of his vast, rural State Senate district.

The point being, it's not necessarily as "D" leaning a district as you might think, and can certainly not be counted on to simply vote for Democrats.  

Many of the Democrats in these cities tend to be fiscally conservative "Reagan Democrats" who, in times of economic downturn may well vote for a moderate Republican.  Connecticut, historically one of the states to emerge from national economic recessions, is still mired in high unemployment, and under the current Democrat Governor Malloy (first "D" elected Governor in 20 years, who is now polling in the low "30's") has seen the largest ever tax increases. I believe this will work for Roraback.  If the Republican party had the ability to field and rally behind a viable candidate in Fairfield county, we might have had a shot at CT-04, as well, but alas, that did not happen.

I can tell you locally, that the Republicans are expecting to pick up at least two seats in the Connecticut State Senate (18 and 33), and are banking on a Democrat backlash aimed at both federal and state office holders in carrying more to victory.

Further, Obama won Connecticut 4 years ago by 22 points.  The latest PPP poll, which gives a typical slant toward the liberals, has Obama leading Romney by 8 points.  Huge difference.  Linda McMahon just won her self-funded primary by a near 3-1 margin to run against Chris Murphy (current CT-05 Congressman) who won a primary by a 2-1 margin.  She is also only trailing by 8 in the liberal PPP poll.

The point here is that if the liberal polling has Romney and McMahon only trailing by 8, I'll bet it's much closer in reality.  There is an "anti-Democrat" undercurrent here, due mostly to continued poor economic conditions, anti-business policies, and high unemployment which I believe will pull close races into the Republican column.  Any candidate - especially Andy Roraback - who takes advantage of those issues in his campaigning (particularly in the cities) should be victorious.

A sloooow move Red - Foley Governor and Greenberg in CT-05!

[ Parent ]
Did you find us through the CTCapitolReport link?

It's definitely a shame we couldn't get a top-flight recruit in CT-04, as it seems like another district where Romney will run close to Bush numbers, with a chance of doing somewhat better.

Waterbury seems to be a pretty unionized place, so what kind of Republicans do they elect (say Tim Murphy vs Jim Gerlach types)? How do you think Roraback will run there and how do you think he will run in his Senate district?

Lifelong Republican, TX-17

[ Parent ]
Thank you!
In fact, I did find you through the CTCapitolReport link. There are a great many interesting articles linked from the site, if you can get around the mind-numbing liberal headlines the "webmaster" creates for them!

CT-04 is a disappointment.  I was really hoping former State Senator Dan DiBicella would run again. He gave it a shot in 2010, but, like all CT Republicans, was not successful. That was, however, before the "anti-Democrat" undercurrent I referred to before took hold.  I think there are areas in CT that are ripe for takeover, with the right candidate. I really think Dan could have made it this year, and I do believe CT-04 will be strong for Romney (as will CT-02, which for years was represented by Rep. Rob Simmons (R-North Stonington)).

Waterbury is a pretty unionized city, and that trend follows down the Naugatuck Valley.  But, these are conservative, blue-collar union members whose main concerns are taxes and government efficiency, but who are also socially moderate to conservative, with strong Christian values.  The majority Democrat voters have no problem (as is shown by history) voting for Republican mayors (3 of six since 1986), and state legislators.

I think Roraback will be competitive in Waterbury.  While he may not embody their ideals, Elizabeth Esty (his opponent who just won a brutal Democratic primary against the nearly-indicted Speaker of the House) offers them no better alternative. Their reasons for not voting for Roraback will not attract them to Esty, either, so in November, it may be a close vote in Waterbury.

Andy has been elected to his State Senate district several times, by enormous margins.  He polled very strongly in the primary in the middle and northern parts of CT-05, including the City of Torrington.  I think he will do very well in the suburban and rural towns, as well as the cities of Torrington and Danbury, and post high vote totals which will offset Esty's wins in the liberal leaning suburban Hartford towns in the district, and the union-filled City of New Britain (though as I mentioned, they are not shy about electing Republican mayors).  

Waterbury will be competitive, as will Meriden.  Keep in mind, however that Meriden voters may not be to warm to Democrat Esty, who defeated the Speaker of the House.... who was from Meriden. Compounding the challenge in getting votes from the city is that Speaker Donovan has not only failed to endorse her yet, but has not as of today withdrawn from his already secured position on the "Working Families" line.  If Donovan stays in the race, which I would assume he would not do, Roraback wins in a landslide.

When you add up all of the above factors, I would respectfully give Roraback a slight edge in the race.  A larger edge if polling continues to show strong performances by both Romney and Linda McMahon (for US Senate).

A sloooow move Red - Foley Governor and Greenberg in CT-05!

[ Parent ]
I wouldn't go overboard about GOP urban strength
A lot of the victories there over the past 25-30 years were due to Reagan Democrats who are dead or long moved away. Wtby NB & Meriden have shrinking & more Latino electorates now. Foley lost Waterbury narrowly in '10; that's telling  

[ Parent ]
Urban GOP Strength
I'm not saying I see these areas as Republican strongholds, far from it.  But voters in these cities have shown that they will vote in Republican candidates (just retired Mayor Stewart in NB, current Sen. Suzio of Meriden, for example).  My point was that these three cities cannot be written off as bastions of Democrat votes, and that Roraback could, indeed be competitive in them, so that they do not give Esty large, insurmountable vote totals.

You make a great point about the ethnic makeup of these cities, though.  They are indeed more Latino in nature, but I have not seen a lot of data which points to high GOTV numbers in the Latino community - with the exception of Hartford, and certain state house districts in Bridgeport.  It will be fascinating to see how they evolve, particularly if we see more instances of Latino candidates winning on their own, rather than being the beneficiaries of splits in the African-American community. It would be great to see more of a Republican presence in these Latino voting districts, which purport to embrace Christian values.

In terms of Foley's loss in Waterbury in 2010, I think that was the result of both the unions and Malloy convincing folks that "the multi-millionaire from Greenwich" could not understand or relate to the average Waterbury voter and their needs.  I think, however, if the vote were held again today, the vote totals would indicate that they saw the fallacy of that argument.

A sloooow move Red - Foley Governor and Greenberg in CT-05!

[ Parent ]
You can't get votes from folks that moved away
The voters you reference live heavily in Southington, Wallingford & Naugatuck now

Basically Rs now get no votes in 2 of Waterbury's 5 Assembly district & signs of slippage in 73 & 74 are showing.  I would be surprised if Rs elect another Mayor for awhile; and it will take a great showing in Naugy to flip Sen 15 when Hartley retires  

[ Parent ]
New Britain especially
Has changed a great deal in recent decades. When I was a little kid I remember going there all the time to see the New Britain Rock Cats play, and when I went back recently it was visibly far more Hispanic and urbanized than what I remembered. Danbury is experiencing a similar trend, and Waterbury has been diverse for a while.

Unfortunately I think these cities are becoming more like every other city in man's land for republicans. I hope I'm wrong; I haven't lived there since '98 so I'm sure some people on RRH are more familiar with the state than me at this point.

I definitely agree that not many working-class whites live in these areas anymore.  

22, male, R, MA-3 (home), NC-4 (school)

[ Parent ]
Danbury's hanging in there
It's more white collar & private sector. Plus, much of the recent Latinos/Brazilian population aren't going to be on voting rolls for a long while  

[ Parent ]
They don't seem all that liberal, at least the white collar ones don't. One of my best buddies' now 39-year-old dad was an orthopedic surgeon in Brazil. After medicine became way too socialized there, he moved to the US (4 years ago) for a fellowship of sorts for 2 years and then to redo his residency for 5 years here at a Med School here so he could get a job as an orthopedic surgeon here (he's 2 years into that residency).

Over dinner at their house one night, he told me that... 1) he thinks Obamacare is bad policy and 2) he doesn't know that much about American politics yet, but what he has picked up is that Democrats seem to love to waste exorbitant amonts of money while Republicans seem to like to save money and spend it wisely. Hearing rhetoric like that come from a recent white collar immigrant from South America gives me hope with white collar immigrants in general.

From IL-09, Living in PA-07.

[ Parent ]
Interesting observation
The town right next to me (Marlborough MA) has a huge Brazilian population, and Marlborough still votes for GOP candidates quite often. They went for Brown by a wide margin and recently sent a republican rep to the State House, which may not sound like news, but given how low our standing was in the legislature (and still is), I was thrilled to see a town near me elect a republican. Marlborough certainly is a mostly blue-collar city.

Worcester has a similar demographic profile and Brown actually only lost there by 5 points, which I was shocked by. Under no circumstance did I ever think Worcester could be competitive.  

I bought a used car last year from a Brazilian dealer in NC and out of nowhere he started complaining about how democrats were ruining his business. So, the more I think about it, you may be right. The conventional wisdom that a growing minority population is bad for the GOP is not always true, nor should it be. The left sure loves that narrative though.  

22, male, R, MA-3 (home), NC-4 (school)

[ Parent ]
If Debicella could only get 47% in 2010, he's not winning in 2012
With Obama on the ballot and getting a huge turnout in Bridgeport.  You dont think there was an "anti-Dem" undercurrent in 2010?  You have got to be joking.  This was likely the worst environment for Democrats since at least 1946.  

[ Parent ]
Very nice

25, Male, R, NY-10

Having kibitzed with LWF's manager
She certainly considered herself well to Roraback's right on taxes & the death penalty; as well as being a noncombatant in the culture war; not an advocate for liberal positions. I suspect had she not run AR would not have grabbed that much of her vote.

I also question the "grassroots" nature of AR support.  He had a base of town committee types who enforced discipline in their communities; but not boots on the ground outside his fortress.  I think outside Litchfield co the other camps had a clear edge in phoners/door knockers/signs  

From my Sam experience
Being broke after an August primary is a huge drawback. Esty can self fund & Emily's List is a printing press. Other AR problem is you see my punch list of AR heresies from GOP; Esty matches him on virtually each point.

Just not much visible difference on taxes & crime. Esty lost a general election in her district. Roraback finished last in the primary in Cheshire  

A case can be made both are a bit left of optimal in a district that votes pretty right for this part of the country  

Roraback presents a very interesting dilemma
I want to see this race prioritized for purely selfish reasons: I want the party to start rebuilding in my area of the country. But it doesn't make a lot of sense for the national party to spend here, because it's a tough district that rebuked us in 2010, and because Roraback isn't a conservative and would probably defect more than anyone in the House. Tisei presents a similar dilemma, but he probably has the cash to put away Tierney without help.

National money for New England is probably best spent on Guinta and Bass, since both have shown they'll vote with the party. Perhaps that pro-gay marriage Republican Super PAC we mentioned in the roundup could lend Roraback a hand.

To all the Roraback haters
"When we look at this race compared to others in New England, this is one of greatest opportunities for a Republican pick up, and we will very aggressively pursue this opportunity," said Nat Sillin, a spokesman for the Republican National Congressional Committee.

Read more:

Well, more like, "To all the haters who think the party won't invest here." Looks like the party may be willing to invest some resources here, after all.

From IL-09, Living in PA-07.

Roraback haters?

38, male, Roma ( Italia ), conservative

[ Parent ]
That's good to hear
I'm still skeptical that they'll actually spend significant money, but good for them if they do. We've flatlined in Connecticut, and winning CT-05 this year and the gubernatorial race in 2014 would be a good way to start climbing back.

[ Parent ]
We've had a wonderful caucus
In terms of not trolling against Rs on the MSM like we used to have. Hanna only made a few odd comments. I could easily see Roraback becoming the media's favorite Republican and troll.
It's not like he's your typical Gerlach, Reichert moderate, he's liberal on most issues.

25, Male, R, NY-10

[ Parent ]
Disagree on one count
I certainly don't think Roraback is liberal on most issues. He calls for income tax cuts, the abolition of the death tax, a 10% (at least) lowering of the corporate tax, and other tax cuts. He's fairly fiscally conservative. I also don't think he's liberal on every social issue, either, just some of the hot button ones. Remember, he voted against banning the death penalty when he got the chance to vote again because Malloy was too soft on crime with his early release programs.

From IL-09, Living in PA-07.

[ Parent ]
Roraback's current stance on fiscal issues is to right of his record
Yes, he was deemed a "reliable vote on fiscal issues" by the GOP caucus; but prior to 2009 that meant he voted to ratify the poor bargains Jodi Rell made with Chris Donovan & Don Williams

There's little Indicia he saw anything wrong with Bush style "compassionate conservatism" as he spent most of the ''00s lobbying the state to spend more on land preservation & environmental projects.  

[ Parent ]
Death penalty climb down was Rowland driven
Top afternoon talk show host in CT hammers you over an issue you find a way to send him somewhere else  

[ Parent ]
Very, very nice write up
Probably the most extensive and informative source of information you could find on this race on the net. Very well done.

That being said, I really could care less if Roraback wins. The super wealthy, socially liberal, environmental types are not my type of Republican.  I'd much rather win, say a WV-3 type of seat, than this seat.  If he wins great, but hopefully he doesn't detract too much money from competitive seats with Republicans that are actually conservative.

21, MN-05

Totally agree
Actually after reading about Roraback on the issues I am on board with Tisei...

38, male, Roma ( Italia ), conservative

[ Parent ]
WV-03 is not a competitive race
I guess the question comes down to this:
If Roraback is behind by 5, do you invest in this race? If Snuffer is behind by 30, do you invest in this race, knowing that you have a very popular incumbent?

[ Parent ]
You put the money into a race that's worth winning - in your scenarios, neither would be worth spending on.  

[ Parent ]
I agree
Rahall is safe as long as he's there. I'm just saying I would prefer a Republican that would come out of a district like WV-3 than one that would come out of one like CT-5.  Just trying to draw the biggest contrast I could.

21, MN-05

[ Parent ]
I think that Roraback needs to devote more resources to Waterbury than any other area where he needs to improve. Waterbury has in the past shown a willingness to split tickets for Republicans, and Roraback therefore has a lot of potential votes to mine there.

21, Male, Conservative Republican, TN-08 (home), VA-01 (college)

Neither candidate is a real good fit for Waterbury
It's just not a place that usually rewards slick upscale candidates. It tends to reward rough hewn Republicans talking taxes & crime; or union backed Democrats talking pocketbook issues.  Nancy Johnson never ran strongly here, and Chris Murphy worked the city so hard as an incumbent even a local opponent couldn't flip the city in 2010.

Esty winning here is a testament to how horrific the damage to Chris Donovan was post scandal. That said, if Liz has to run as a socially liberal Sarah Palin to win blue collar votes in the general; she will, ya betcha  

[ Parent ]
This is perhaps
one of the best diaries (here) I have seen written. Thanks to RRR, I feel like I know something about Connecticut political geography now.

A suggestion - have you looked at diarying the precinct results from the 2006 general with Johnson, or 2010?  

Rebuilding the party in the region?
Having someone who voted for some tax increases in the recent past does not seem like someone we should be hanging our hat on to help rebuild our brand in the region.  That said, he is the candidate and should deserve our support.

I still think Roraback will be a more reliable vote on budget issues than anyone WV-1 or WV-3 will elect in the foreseeable future.  That alone warrants investment in this seat.

28, Republican, PA-6


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