Posturing has broken out in the campaigns for the Democratic and Republican nominations for governor as the candidates seem to assume that their primary election vote will be split many ways and so the outcome will be determined by single-issue special-interest voters.
On the Democratic side, Middletown Mayor Dan Drew may have gained the lead by advocating another big tax increase - on the wealthy, of course, though many are leaving the state - so that more can be spent on the policies that have enriched the core of his party, the government and welfare classes, while dragging the rest of the state down.
Probably in second place is Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, who is said to be the candidate preferred by Governor Malloy, having worked in the governor’s office before becoming mayor. Though the governor is unpopular and not seeking re-election, his administration employs enough leading Democrats and has bestowed enough favors that he may have strong if necessarily surreptitious influence on the nomination.
It’s not clear yet what Bronin stands for, and his candidacy for governor, undertaken only two years into a four-year term as mayor, seems like an attempt to escape Hartford’s insolvency and awful demographics. After all, Bronin pledged to serve his full term and declared that he would need more than one term to set Hartford right -- maybe the understatement of the century.
But then Hartford’s demographics and those of most of Connecticut’s cities are awful mainly because of state welfare and education policies, about which the governor has far more say than any mayor. Pouring more money into the cities -- the primary state policy of recent decades -- has only worsened them, but their fate still will be determined mostly by state government. Familiarity with the failure of poverty policy will be a prerequisite for a governor seeking to convert cities to self-sufficiency, and a mayor capable of critical thinking might be the one to do it.
As for the Republican candidates for governor, a forum attended by some of them in Windsor the other day suggested that they are all against raising taxes and against imposing more controls on gun ownership, gun owners apparently being considered the party’s biggest special interest even if guns have little bearing on the state’s prosperity and health.
Some of the Republican candidates say they would like to repeal the state income tax, but of course none of them describes how to cut spending enough to accomplish that. For example, where do the Republicans stand on binding arbitration for government employee union contracts, welfare for childbearing outside marriage, social promotion in the schools, and other policies that force costs up or actually prohibit control of spending?
The Republican candidates don’t yet seem to have positions on anything that matters. They seem to think that if they just present a forceful demeanor, they can win the nomination with as little as a third of the primary vote and then win the election largely on the basis of the public’s dissatisfaction with eight years of Democratic rule.
Maybe a Republican can win that way but even then he won’t be prepared to govern, won’t be ready to advocate and enact the profound policy changes Connecticut needs to survive. Just halting Connecticut’s long decline will require heroic politics.
Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.