If there is a “red wave” rolling out across the nation as some suggest, the head of Connecticut’s Democratic Party says she doesn’t see it landing here during this fall’s statewide elections.
Instead, State Democratic Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said she believes Connecticut voters will continue the state’s established track record of backing what she calls the moderate-to-progressive views of the party’s candidates.
“I think Democrats have shown that they align themselves with the voters and that’s why we continue to elect Democrats in this state,” DiNardo said in an interview just three weeks before both parties hold their nominating conventions. “The voters in Connecticut clearly support reproductive choice, they support gay rights, they support our educational and health care systems. Those are things that Democrats have always supported and that’s why I think we are and will continue to be a blue state.”
And that contrast with the Republicans’ agenda, she said, is perhaps most pointedly demonstrated in the expected rematch race for governor between incumbent Democrat Ned Lamont and Republican challenger Bob Stefanowski.
DiNardo said she does not believe that Lamont’s 44,000-vote margin of victory four years ago will be endangered by what many outside observers see as a trend favoring more conservative candidates like Stefanowski.
“I truly believe that he has no understanding about Connecticut and what the voters in Connecticut want,” said DiNardo. “It’s clear that he’s against the minimum wage. He has an “A” rating with the NRA. His economic plan would slash money from the schools and he’ll cut healthcare.”
DiNardo is also highly critical of a political action committee, called Parents Against Stupid Stuff, which opposes gay marriage, abortion, the teaching of critical race theory in public schools and transgender rights. Sean Fieler, who heads the PAC, has promised to spend $1 million to unseat the incumbent Democrat.
Stefanowski said recently that as governor he would “evaluate” the state policy of allowing transgender athletes to compete in girls’ sports.
DiNardo said she believes Lamont’s key strengths going into the election are his handling of the COVID pandemic, widely praised in various polls, and Connecticut’s rebounding economy, which has partially contributed to the state having a record Rainy Day Fund exceeding $3 billion.
Those issues will be highlighted throughout the Lamont campaign, she said, including in television and online ads.
“We need to remind people of what a great job he did on that, which is typical of the type of work that he does and will do going forward,” she said. “I think Ned was always a businessman first and not a politician, which I think made a difference in getting through COVID and turning the state around.”
DiNardo said that she does not think that ongoing scandals, including alleged improprieties in hiring and awarding of school-construction contracts by members of the Lamont administration, and the glaring mishandling of nearly a million dollars of federal COVID-relief aid in West Haven, will deter his candidacy.
“I think people will see that the governor had nothing to do with these and he reacted as soon as he could,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that these things happen but it’s not unique to a party. It’s how a leader reacts and handles it that makes a difference. And I think people will see that he has done a good job in that regard.”
November’s election also will decide contests for the five other state constitutional officers, as well as all 187 seats in the General Assembly and several members of the U.S. Congress.
DiNardo said she is confident that incumbent Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate such as Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Reps. Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes, John Larson, Jahana Hayes and Joe Courtney will keep their seats.
“I don’t make any assumptions and I always think you need to run like you’re behind,” she said. “But I think people recognize the jobs all of them have done for Connecticut in their districts so I’m really optimistic that we will retain those seats.”
That same philosophy, DiNardo says, applies to the potential impact that the widely-unfavorable ratings of Democrat Joe Biden as president will have on state races, including for the General Assembly where Democrats now hold strong majorities in both the House and Senate.
“His numbers aren’t moving up,” she acknowledged of polls on Biden’s performance, while praising some of his efforts. “But, you know, I believe that voters look at the individuals who are running, so I don’t see that it will have a significant effect on the election.”
DiNardo said she expects that inter-party primaries will be waged for the open state constitutional officer posts of Secretary of the State and Treasurer, and possibly Comptroller, after the nominating conventions are held over the first weekend in May.
“Obviously I would like for everything to be resolved already but I have no problem with people vying for those seats,” DiNardo said. “Let the voters of our party decide on who they feel is the best candidate for us and after the primary we’ll come out as a united party. I think it’s healthy for us.”