Maybe it was his only way to win Connecticutâ€™s election for governor, but having assured voters during the final weeks of his campaign that no one would have to sacrifice during his administration, either through tax increases or cuts in services, Ned Lamont now can only disappoint people, even as the hungriest ones think he owes them big-time.
Five days before the election Lamont, the Democratic nominee, told a rally of government employee union members in New Britain, â€śWeâ€™re going to be fighting for you for the next four years.â€ť Lamontâ€™s remark recalled Governor Malloyâ€™s infamous if honest declaration to a rally of government employee union members at the state Capitol four years ago: â€śI am your servant.â€ť
How will the new servant of the unions deliver to them after first pledging to raise taxes, then pledging not to, and then, hours before the election, dismissing a radio interviewerâ€™s question about taxes with a â€śno comment,â€ť as if that answer was not as arrogant as anything ever uttered by his ignorant Republican rival?
But at least Lamont will enjoy a Democratic majority in the General Assembly, as the slowly rising Republican tide of recent years receded just as the party seemed about to seize legislative power. Dissatisfaction with President Trump probably hurt Republican legislative candidates.
The restored Democratic majority in the legislature probably wonâ€™t object much to raising taxes again, as long as it is done quickly, leaving maximum time before the next election. New tax revenue will help protect the compensation of the Democratsâ€™ own campaign workers, like the members of government employee unions who performed sentry duty at polling places for Democratic candidates, doing political work on one their many discretionary paid holidays.
Connecticutâ€™s Republicans couldnâ€™t have suffered a bigger defeat than this election, since the state had been laid so low by eight years of Democratic administration under Governor Malloy that even Lamont ran against his own partyâ€™s record. But circumstances turned out to be worse for the Republicans than Malloyâ€™s record was for the Democrats.
First was the failure of the Republicans to unite behind a gubernatorial candidate at their convention, resulting in a five-way primary whose winner was a political unknown with only 29 percent of the vote, Bob Stefanowski.
Second was the failure of the Republican bench, the partyâ€™s leading legislators and mayors, to win nomination for higher office this year. Only one of those leaders did - state Sen. Joe Markley of Southington, who ran for lieutenant governor. With that exception everyone on the Republican ticket for statewide and congressional office had little to no name recognition when the campaign started and barely more when it ended.
That Stefanowski came fairly close despite his lack of involvement in the stateâ€™s public life, his unfamiliarity with state government, and his refusal to articulate a platform beyond reducing taxes suggests that Connecticut was ready for a change of regime if it was offered a more plausible candidate.
But while enactment of the state income tax in 1991 was expected to prompt a political revolution in the legislative election the next year, the political composition of the new General Assembly was exactly the same as the oldâ€™s. Malloy is leaving office detested but here comes his third term.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.