Lamont can thank ‘Middle’ town(s)
Governor-elect Ned Lamont said plenty of bleary-eyed thank you’s after his early Wednesday morning victory. He owes gratitude beyond the big cities and rich, anti-Trump towns that swung toward him.
The Democrat’s biggest thank-you goes to voters who turned out in near-record numbers — evenly, across the whole state.
A Hearst Connecticut Media analysis of unofficial returns shows that in comparison to the 2010 election between then-candidate, now Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Tom Foley, the Greenwich Democrat won the battle for those added voters across the state. That was the last time two non-incumbents vied for the governor’s office.
Lamont outdueled Republican Bob Stefanowski in middle-income towns, he kept an attack by a petitioning candidate in check and he minimized his losses in the small-town bastions that make up the Republican base.
Every single city and town in Connecticut saw more voters in Tuesday’s election than in 2010, which was also a midterm election for a first-term president.
Malloy beat Foley by less than 7,000 votes in the year when Republicans took both houses fo Congress. This time around the margin for Lamont was 44,581 as of late Friday’s count — and Lamont’s total was a prosaic 694,694 votes.
The turnout war of 2018
For each city or town, the map above shows how many votes Lamont received above the total in that town for Malloy in 2010; and how many votes Stefanowski received above the total of Foley. The percent figure is Lamont’s total over Lamont as a ratio of the total additional votes in that municipality. Overall, Lamont received 124,400 votes more than Malloy in 2010, for a total of 694,000 votes to Stefanowski’s 650,000.
Every single city and town in Connecticut saw more voters in Tuesday’s election between Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski than in 2010. In all, there were just over 250,000 more voters this time around, pushing the turnout to 67 percent. Where they turned out had real consequences for Stefanowski as blue citadels led the way. Stamford saw 10,061 more voters; in Norwalk an added 8,328 showed up and in New Haven nearly 7,000 more checked a dot for governor than in 2010. Even little Union, which — population around 800 — came out with 31 additional votes in Tuesday’s contest. Stefanowski won Union by 95 votes. Lamont won Norwalk, New Haven and Stamford by a combined 43,229 votes. In Stamford, the city with largest uptick compared with 2010 — ironic, since Malloy had been mayor for 14 years — Lamont’s increase was nearly 80 percent as large as the additional tally. Stefanowski picked up less than 1,700 over Foley. If we measure each 2018 candidate’s tally above that of his party-mate from 2010, compared with the overall increase in each town, we see that Stefanowski had a bigger percentage of the gain in more towns. But Lamont beat Malloy’s total by 124,400, while Stefanowski outpolled Foley by 88,650. The fact that Stefanowski’s tally would have electged him governor in almost any other year is of little solace. The takeaway - more voters came out because of backlash against Donald Trump and Malloy — and Lamont did a better job of collecting the higher numbers. He won the Turnout War of 2018, and thus the race.
We knew Lamont would trounce Stefanowski in the poor cities. We saw that Lamont fared better than expected in the richest towns. Stefanowski had to win big in the towns in the middle of the income scale, the Connecticut heartland. Instead, a narrow win in the the middle-income turf war played a large role in putting Lamont in the governor’s mansion. In 72 cities and towns with median household incomes between $65,000 and $87,000, Lamont staved off Stefanowski by some 4,500 combined votes. Fittingly, he also won Middletown (home of his running mate, Susan Bysiewicz) by some 3,560 votes, though the titular town falls just below our income threshold. Also fittingly, Stefanowski won more Middles — both Middlefield and Middlebury, by 341 and 1,223 votes respectively — but still fell short of Lamont’s Middletown margin. Stefanowski did better if you don’t count the large towns and small cities in the middle of the income scale. For example, if you lop off anyplace that produced more than 20,000 votes, and count the towns with median household earnings between $65,000 to $95,000, you’re left with the state’s 79 heartland towns — not poor, not rich, not big. Stefanowski needed to annihilate Lamont in these places. He did win by 11 percentage points, good for 45,000 more votes than Lamont racked up - but it wasn’t nearly enough. Lamont hammered home the local property tax issue to counter Stefanowski’s promise to end the state income tax.
The Griebel Factor
Oz Griebel, the petitioning unaffiliated candidate, won 3.9 percent of the vote. Experts were divided on who he’d hurt most, and the evidence shows a split. In the 40 cities and towns where the former economic development executive scored more than 6 percent, Stefanowski and Lamont were separated by a total of less than 1,500 - out of 300,000 votes cast. And Griebel fared equally well in the places where Lamont and Stefanowski performed best. By contrast, Tom Marsh, the unaffiliated candidate in 2010, tallied less than 2 percent. But he clearly did better in Foley towns than in Malloy cities and towns - and may have cost Foley the election, with three times as many total votes as Malloy’s margin.
Rich man, rich towns
Overall, Lamont won with 49.4 percent of the vote, about the same as Malloy’s performance. But in the 12 richest towns, Lamont averaged a 6 percentage point improvement over Malloy’s 2010 results. Only one of those towns, Woodbridge, delivered Lamont less than a 4.5 point gain over Malloy. And of the 12 towns, ten are in Fairfield County. Stefanowski still won the 12 richest towns by 2,145 votes. But Tom Foley clobbered Malloy in them, by 17,193 votes.
Small towns, cushy GOP wins
The smaller the town, the more likely it swung big for Stefanowski. In the 22 towns with fewer than 1,500 votes cast this election, Stefanowski’s median margin of victory was 17 percent. He walloped Lamont in Colebrook by 29.7 percentage points, and took Morris with nearly 31. The trouble is, Stefanowski’s red wave crested largest in small ponds: He got 520 votes in Colebrook and 810 in Morris. In towns casting fewer than 5,580 votes in the gubernatorial election — the median number cast of 169 cities and towns — Stefanowski also triumphed, winning a combined 54.3 percent of the vote to Lamont’s 40.3 percent. He won the smaller half of Connecticut by 33,784 votes. But that sizable go-ahead was wiped away when big blue cities were finally tallied in Wednesday’s early hours. New Haven and Stamford — among the last cities to report results to the state — together sent Lamont 55,347 votes, outgunning Stefanowski’s support in half of the state.
A cosmo boost
We think about the big cities as a bulwark for any Democrat, and we’re all talking about the swing toward Lamont in the richest towns. But quietly, three big upper-middle-income towns/small cities played an outsized role in delivering a broad victory to Lamont. They are Norwalk, West Hartford and Fairfield - places that view themselves as little slices of cosmopolitan, East Coast America. As it happened, they produced three of the five largest turnouts in the state. And Lamont cleaned up, beating Stefanowski by a combined 18,669 in those three alone - compared with Malloy’s 2010 margin of 6,697 over Foley. The upshot: Lamont’s message of investing in the state hit home in the land of big towns and big salads.
In the 12 poorest cities and towns, Lamont won a lower percentage than Malloy in nine of them - including Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford. But it didn’t matter, because those 12 municipalities, almost all pro-Democrat, saw a huge increase in turnout, boosting Lamont’s margin over Stefanowski to 78,400, compared with Malloy’s 62,800 over Foley. The poorest include five of the six largest cities (Stamford is richer) and a few small towns. Ansonia was the sole bottom-12 town to side with Stefanowski. The upshot: Fears of a Lamont enthusiasm gap in cities and poor towns were not warranted.