Today is the most significant political day on the calendar up until the general election on November 8.
Registered Democrats and Republicans will each cast ballots for the candidates they want to represent them in the general election. On both sides, and in races up and down the ballot there are very competitive contests, which, in some cases were completely unexpected.
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Here’s your primer on the key races and trends to follow on Connecticut’s primary day:
GOP Race for Governor
Five candidates emerged from the pack of more than 20 that had been running for governor at various points throughout 2017 and the first half of 2018.
The five who emerged were endorsed Republican Mark Boughton who is Danbury’s longtime mayor, former UBS and General Electric executive Bob Stefanowski, former hedge fund manager David Stemerman, former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, and tech entrepreneur Steve Obsitnik.
Stefanowski and Boughton share a desire to phase out the state’s income tax, though neither has provided a full explanation as to how they would replace the state’s largest source of revenue.
Steve Obsitnik and David Stemerman have each run as experienced business outsiders with plans to fix the state’s sagging economy. Obsitnik pledges to create 300,000 jobs over eight years, while Stemerman has provided the most detailed plans out of any candidate running for governor on issues like investing in infrastructure, cutting taxes, and addressing the state’s soaring pension obligations.
Tim Herbst has run the furthest to the political right of all of the Republicans, picking up endorsements from the Connecticut Citizens Defense League and the socially conservative Family Institute of Connecticut.
The trends to watch in the race will be where turnout is highest and how that vote is distributed. Four of the Republicans: Boughton, Herbst, Stemerman, and Obsitnik all call Fairfield County home. The vote will inevitably be split among them, but Boughton has a built-in advantage with the Fifth Congressional District having an open race and a three-way GOP primary. The district includes Danbury and Boughton may have a leg up with that extra attention, and the fact that he’s at the top of the ballot, having the party’s endorsement.
Other scenarios include the money poured into the race by Stemerman and Stefanowski paying off and one of them emerging, or Herbst or Obsitnik having strong ground games that lead to better than expected turnouts, giving one of them the win.
Democratic Race for Governor
UPDATE: Businessman Ned Lamont has won the Democratic nomination for Connecticut governor, defeating Bridgeport mayor and ex-convict Joe Ganim. Details here.
Ned Lamont won the party’s endorsement at their May convention, emerging from a field of about 10 Democrats seeking the office at the start of the year. Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim collected more than 16,000 signatures to achieve a position on the ballot and start a long-shot bid for governor, his second in the past 25 years.
Ganim has run an aggressive campaign and has called himself, the “second chance candidate,” a not so subtle nod to the 16 felony convictions that led to him spending 2003 to 2010 in federal prison for public corruption.
He’s attacked Lamont for his wealth, saying he’s out of touch with regular working class families. Ganim’s support is centralized in the state’s largest cities, especially Bridgeport.
Lamont is making his third run at statewide office, failing to win a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2006, and losing to Dan Malloy for governor in the primary in 2010.
This time around Lamont has many establishment Democrats in his corner and has the name recognition to potentially lead to a victory to send him to November.
Lamont is the founder of a cable television system that’s used on college campuses and he sold it years ago for millions.
Establishment Democrats have lined up behind Lamont, who has advocated for a fairer tax system, highway tolls for trucks, and improving the state’s economy.
Fifth Congressional District: Democrats
Elizabeth Est announced she would retire at the end of the year after her response to sexual assault allegations by one of her former staffers was made public. That led to the opening in the Fifth for newcomer Jahana Hayes and well-known Democrat Mary Glassman to make runs for the job.
Hayes is a former “National Teacher of the Year” from Waterbury whose campaign has revolved around Hayes’ experience as a single mom who worked her way through college and received multiple degrees as she became one of the most popular teachers at the school where she worked.
Glassman is a former first selectwoman from Simsbury who previously ran twice for lieutenant governor.
The two candidates share similar policy proposals like addressing the opioid epidemic, a health care system that resembles “Medicare for all,” stronger gun laws for the district that includes Sandy Hook and addressing inequity in the state’s schools.
Whoever wins will have a significant fundraising edge on the Republican field. Hayes and Glassman have each eclipsed more than $400,000 in contributions while the Republican candidates haven’t donated more than $300,000 as a group.
Fifth Congressional District: Republicans
Republicans have three candidates running to flip the 5th Congressional District. Former Meriden Mayor Mann Santos, who won the party’s endorsement in May, former college professor Ruby Corby O’Neill, and businessman Rich DuPont are vying to go to November.
Similar to the Democrats, the candidates on the GOP side do not have much daylight on policy between them. They all pledged to protect and promote the Trump agenda in Congress including on tax cuts and tariffs, they also all want to see a more conservative voice in the district.
Their different backgrounds and grassroots operations will likely be what determines this race.
O’Neill, whose husband is a sitting member of the Connecticut General Assembly, leads the pack in fundraising with more than $120,000 raised so far.