Former Mayor, Town Councilor and friend, Wes Johnson was a political junkie. For many years, Wes and I would meet for breakfast after the local elections and pour over the statistics and analyze the results. Wes passed away in November of 2008 after a battle with cancer, but every year since I think of him on election night and the morning after, as I begin my analysis of the most recent election.
For most of the candidates, the 2015 election is officially over. Not for me. I tend to dwell on the results a little longer as I find the analysis of the data fascinating. The Mayor’s race was uncontested and former Police Lieutenant Mike Finkelstein, a Republican only had to vote for himself to be elected. He did better than that with 2043 votes. As campaign chairman for the Ledyard Republican Town Committee, I generally don't share the details of my analysis but I can offer a few insights:
When the electorate is worried about the economy and taxes, they tend to vote Republican. That was pretty evident this year as the Republicans took a 6-3 majority on the Council and Board of Education. We were able to take full advantage of the “Take Back Connecticut” theme as voters grumbled about the “mess in Hartford”. Ledyard voters are also aware that payment on two major construction projects are coming due which means higher taxes.
Despite comments to the contrary, Ledyard isn’t made up of mostly Republicans. In fact, we have close to the same amount of Republicans as Democrats in town but the unaffiliated voters tend to be more conservative. Ledyard has a large contingency of active, former and retired military who also tend to lean conservative. With a Democratic governor, Democrats now appear along the top row of the ballot in all Connecticut elections. Even that didn't seem to matter in Ledyard. Or Groton or even Norwich of all places as those typically Democratic leaning towns went Republican in a big way. It was that “mess in Hartford”.
As Republican Campaign Chair, the rest of my analysis is secret and includes several surprising strategic errors that I witnessed. Not so surprising is that negative campaigning doesn’t work in a municipal election especially in a small town like Ledyard. Our electorate is too smart for that and would rather hear the positives about the candidate rather than the negatives of an opponent who could be a friend or neighbor.
Finally, several years ago a political friend once shared with me this important lesson from Politics 101: "Never blame the voters for your loss no matter how dumb you think they are".
I happened to think Ledyard voters were pretty smart.