A week after voters cast their ballots, mostly for Democrats in Connecticut’s elections, Republicans are looking at what went wrong, and who to blame for the losses.
Republicans were hoping to capture at least some control of state government on November 6. Instead, Republicans lost 18 total seats in the General Assembly, 12 in the House, six in the Senate, and were shut out of all statewide offices.
"We allowed the national narrative in those wealthier communities to dominate," said JR Romano, chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party. "This is one of these clouded elections where we really have to drill down into each individual campaign, what their strategy, what their message was."
Romano says voters made a mistake in voting for Democrats, saying that the party has abandoned working-class voters. He says suburban voters in lower Fairfield County abandoned the Republican economic message, and instead bought into the Democrats’ message against Donald Trump.
Former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, who finished fourth in the GOP gubernatorial primary over the summer, said Republicans were caught flat-footed certain parts of the state.
"These Democrats in Greenwich, in Westport, they were energized and I know the Republicans in these towns and they were not as energized and this is where it was critical to the party to pay, and make the investment in a real, solid field program," Herbst said.
Herbst says the blame lies with the entire Republican Party, not just the chairman. He said the GOP State Central Committee was nonexistent for most of the year when it came to logistics and rallying the base. He believes that led to the sweeping losses in different parts of Connecticut.
Democrats, in contrast, had a field organization that worked incredibly well in the lead up to election day. Funded in part by U.S. Senator Chris Murphy’s campaign, thousands of volunteers made phone calls and knocked on doors, identifying and communicating with voters all over the state.
Herbst says the operations run by House and Senate Republicans to reach out to voters were not coordinated, and the party did not provide additional support.
"[Democrats] do a better job of planning coordinating early, working together than we do," said Herbst.
Republican Bob Stefanowski lost to Ned Lamont by about 40,000 votes. He collected the most votes of any Republican who ran statewide last week.
Herbst says the result of a bruising five-way primary did Stefanowski no favors, and Herbst says the party is to blame for not coalescing immediately following the August primary.
"The fact that we waited two months to have any semblance of a public display of unity, I think that placed Bob at a very competitive disadvantage because we were still trying to pull the base together when we should have been going after the unaffiliated voters and the disenfranchised Democrats," Herbst said.
Democrats, in contrast, started working as a ticket in the days immediately following the primary.
Romano says the criticism of the party’s operation is unfounded and represents a misunderstanding of the party’s role.
"The state party doesn’t run the campaign. It doesn’t run the Senate races, it doesn’t run the House races, they don’t run the governor’s race,” Romano said. “Our focus here is to focus on infrastructure, so I can tell you from our perspective, Max, is we did half a million voter contacts."