I decided to take a break from redistricting diaries and instead give all of you more information about my home state of Connecticut. I thus decided to present to you a detailed analysis of the past four congressional elections in Connecticut. These four elections are essentially those that enabled and cemented total Democratic control over Connecticut's five congressional districts. This diary will also present a large number of maps in order for me to illustrate my points more clearly. There are many patterns described here that may seem counter-intuitive at first glance, but when looked at more deeply, make sense.
For each of these four congressional elections, I will analyze the results in each district and explain any trends that are noticeable. Then I will compare the 2008 results by town to the results from 2006, and for the 2010 and 2012 elections I will compare the results to those of the elections both 2 and 4 years prior. The result is that there is a lot of information contained in this diary, and my hope is that when you are done reading you will have a better understanding of Connecticut politics in general, and of the individual politicians in particular.
Without further ado, let's start at the 2006 elections below the fold.
The 2006 Congressional elections in Connecticut were a great success for the Democratic Party, as Democratic challengers defeated two Republican incumbents and came close to defeating the third. In addition, the two Democratic incumbents both won re-election in huge landslides. Here is a map of the results by town:
In district 1, Democratic incumbent John Larson did so well that he swept every town, including strongly-Republican Hartland. In addition, he got more than 70 percent in all of the closer-in towns in his district. He got the largest margins out of Hartford (which is less than 20 percent white), Bloomfield (the only majority-African-American town in New England), and his hometown of East Hartford.
In district 2, Republican incumbent Rob Simmons, who was first elected in 2000, was defeated by Joe Courtney, a former state representative, LG candidate, and congressional candidate (2002), by only 83 votes in what was the closest House race in the country that year. As the map shows, Simmons did well in his hometown of Ledyard as well as many of the towns around it, and he overperformed substantially in the normally-Democratic towns of Norwich and New London in the southern part of the district. However, Courtney performed well in his hometown of Vernon as well as the nearby towns, and he got large margins out of Mansfield (home to UConn) and Windham (home to ECSU and 40 percent Hispanic). These towns are all in the northern part of the district. This north-south dichotomy is not a usual feature of 2nd district elections, and existed here largely since one candidate was from the northern part and the other was from the southern part.
In district 3, Democratic incumbent Rosa DeLauro won in a massive landslide, which is typical of her. There’s not much to see here: DeLauro only got below 70 percent in three whole towns and parts of two others.
In district 4, Republican incumbent Chris Shays narrowly held off Democratic Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell to win his tenth (and, as it would turn out, last) term in office. Farrell won five towns, including the three largest, but her margins were not inspiring in any of them. She got only 66% in Bridgeport, and coupled with the lower turnout in the cities due to this being a midterm election, that just wasn’t enough to defeat Shays. However, her more moderate positions on the issues led her to do slightly better in the rich suburban towns than one might expect considering that she lost.
In district 5, Republican incumbent Nancy Johnson was defeated in a 56-44 landslide by now-Senator Chris Murphy, who was then a state senator from Southington. He moved into Cheshire around the time of his election so that he would live in the district. This result was, more than anything, a function of George W. Bush’s extreme unpopularity in Connecticut, and Johnson lost towns that she had won in landslides in the past. Murphy racked up the score in Democratic cities such as New Britain and Meriden as well as the Northwest, but he also outperformed Obama’s 2008 numbers in the Waterbury suburbs (but not in the city itself). He won usually-red towns such as Thomaston, Woodbury, Southbury, Wolcott, and Harwinton. This district was really the best example in Connecticut of the magnitude of the 2006 wave.
The 2008 Elections were also a big success for the Democrats in Connecticut, as they defeated the last remaining Republican congressman from New England and held of their seats with ease. Here is a map of the results by town:
And here is a map of the change in the results from 2006 to 2008. Blue means a town swung toward the Democrats, and red means it swung toward the Republicans.
In district 1, John Larson won re-election in another huge landslide. As the second map shows, he lost ground in almost every town, but that didn’t prevent him from still getting over 70 percent of the vote. If anything, that just shows how big his 2006 landslide was. Only one town was close, Hartland.
In district 2, Joe Courtney won his first re-election in a landslide. Courtney was able to entrench himself very quickly, helped by his being a member of the Armed Services Committee. This is important for the district since New London County has several Navy-related contractors and institutions. He also perfected the art of appearing moderate while voting like a liberal, and, partially as a result of that, has never attracted a top-tier challenger. Courtney dropped below 55 percent in only two towns, Somers and Madison.
In district 3, Rosa DeLauro won re-election in another epically massive landslide. I believe her 77 percent is the best any House candidate in Connecticut has done in quite a while. This time, she even exceeded 80 percent in three towns: Hamden, New Haven, and West Haven.
In district 4, Democrat Jim Himes finally accomplished what many other Democrats in the past had failed to do: defeat Chris Shays. However, Himes’ path to victory was very different from the path that Diane Farrell had tried to use. As the second map shows, Himes underperformed Farrell in the majority of towns in the district, largely rich suburban towns. However, Himes more than made up for that with massive wins in the three largest towns in the district: Bridgeport, Norwalk, and Stamford. His 79 percent in Bridgeport, coupled with much higher turnout there due to Obama, basically sealed the deal for him. If turnout in each town was the same as it was in 2006, Himes would likely have lost. Thus, Himes is a textbook example of someone who was swept into office on Obama’s coattails.
In district 5, Democrat Chris Murphy won re-election by his largest margin of victory yet in a federal race. He won 59-39 overall, and improved dramatically in Meriden, Waterbury, and New Britain as well as the Northwest. The only major place where his performance declined was Danbury and the two towns north of it, which is not surprising considering that his opponent, David Cappiello, represented those three towns in the State Senate. Murphy outperformed Obama in almost every town except for Danbury and the surrounding towns.
The 2010 elections were a success for the Democratic Party in Connecticut insofar as they did not lose any seats. Democrats won only 58 percent of statewide congressional votes, and the two districts in Western Connecticut saw close races, but Connecticut avoided the fate of many other states that saw Democrats lose seats.
Here is a map of the results by town:
Here is a map of the change in the results from 2008 to 2010:
And here is a map of the change in the results from 2006 to 2010:
In district 1, John Larson saw his closest race in quite a while, although he still won 61-37. He underperformed Obama in almost every town, and in fact he lost every town in the northwest extension of his district. His performance dropped significantly from 2008 in every town except Hartford (which is less elastic), where it dropped only slightly.
In district 2, Joe Courtney defied the Republican wave by winning 60-39. As the maps show, his performance decreased almost everywhere except for the New London-Groton area, where his advocacy for the Coast Guard Academy, Electric Boat (a company that builds nuclear submarines), and the Groton Naval Submarine Base caused more voters there to stick with him. He improved the most in Ledyard (the town just north of Groton), which isn’t too surprising considering that his 2008 opponent was from Ledyard, and so he did worse there than he otherwise would have. His opponent got 50 percent in only five towns, all in the northern part of the district. These five towns all voted for Romney in 2012, so this is not too surprising.
In district 3, Rosa DeLauro saw a much closer race than in 2006 or 2008, but that is relative, considering that she still won 65-33. For the first time in a while, she actually lost two towns: Prospect and Naugatuck. Prospect is a suburb of Waterbury and one of the most Republican towns in Connecticut, and DeLauro’s opponent was from Naugatuck. DeLauro’s performance dropped pretty steeply in all towns except New Haven, which, for similar reasons to Hartford, is less elastic.
In district 4, Jim Himes was one of the very few Democrats to get a higher percentage of the vote in 2010 than in 2008. He won 53-47, and not only won the three towns that he had won in 2008 but added Westport, Weston, Redding, and (by one vote) Fairfield to the ever-expanding list of towns that he’s won. He improved significantly in the rich suburbs in the central part of the district, particularly Ridgefield, Redding, Weston, and Westport. He only did worse in Shelton (where his opponent was from), Monroe, and Oxford (where he did unusually well in 2008). Himes’ march toward Courtney-style entrenchment continued.
In district 5, Chris Murphy won a third term in the House, but by a narrower margin than in 2006 or 2008, winning 54-46. He lost a lot of ground in the Waterbury area, since his opponent was from there, and did a bit worse in much of the rest of the district. The only places where he did better than in 2008 were the Danbury area (where he bounced back, since his opponent in 2010 wasn’t from there), and two small towns in the rural Northwest.
And now we get to the 2012 elections. The 2012 elections were, yet again, a success for the Democratic Party in Connecticut, because they showed that Jim Himes has successfully entrenched himself, and the Dems held onto their open seat in the reddest part of the state.
Here is a map of the results by town:
Here is a map of the change in the results from 2010 to 2012:
And here is a map of the change in the results from 2008 to 2012:
In district 1, John Larson won another landslide re-election. He bounced somewhat back from his underwhelming victory in 2010, but as the third map shows, he didn’t reach his 2008 performance. He lost Hartland by a wide margin and was very close in New Hartford and Colebrook. He improved on his 2010 performance in every town, but the smallest improvement was in Colebrook. He only improved on his 2008 performance in two towns: Hartford and Bloomfield. I’m pretty sure that the blue town two towns south of Hartford on the third map is an error in the data.
In district 2, Joe Courtney won his biggest landslide yet, a 68-29 victory. He won every town, and improved the most in the northern and eastern parts of the district. He only dropped below 55 percent in one town, and that was East Lyme, where his opponent was First Selectman. His performance compared to 2010 dropped only in East Lyme and two surrounding towns, and the areas where he did worse compared to 2008 are also centered around East Lyme. I guess those are the people who had actually heard of his opponent.
In district 3, Rosa DeLauro won in yet another landslide, and her story is similar to John Larson’s: she recovered from her low in 2010, but didn’t do as well as she had in 2006 or 2008. She won every town, and improved significantly in every town compared to 2010. Compared to 2008, she improved in only the three most Democratic towns in the district: Hamden, New Haven, and West Haven. Hamden and West Haven in particular are getting more diverse, so that improvement isn’t a huge surprise.
In district 4, Jim Himes finally managed to win a convincing victory, defeating his opponent 59-41. He improved on his 2010 performance in every town, and won all the towns that he had won then plus Greenwich, Ridgefield, Trumbull, Monroe, and Shelton (all of which Romney won at the same time). Thus, so far, the only towns he has not won are New Canaan and Darien (good luck with him ever winning those two), Wilton, Easton, and Oxford. You can see on the third map above how he improved dramatically on his 2008 performance in every town except Oxford. This is less about Himes’ 2012 performance than the fact that he did very well there in 2008. Himes has finally become entrenched, and it’s going to be extremely difficult for the Republicans to dislodge him now.
In district 5, Democrat Elizabeth Esty won a narrow open-seat victory over Republican state senator Andrew Roraback in the district vacated by Chris Murphy. Roraback had represented northwestern Connecticut for a while in the state legislature, and he had a strong reputation as a moderate, so it is no surprise that Democratic performance dropped by over ten points in all of the towns in northwestern Connecticut. Roraback even got 75 percent in his hometown of Goshen. However, Esty’s bacon was saved by the presence of three cities: Waterbury, New Britain, and Meriden. Democratic mapmakers knew what they were doing when they refused to let New Britain be removed from this district, since without New Britain Esty would have lost. The only places where Esty improved upon Murphy’s 2010 performance were the Waterbury area (since Murphy’s 2010 opponent was from that area, and Waterbury turns out much more in presidential elections) and New Britain and, oddly, Southbury. Esty almost universally did much worse than Murphy did in 2008, but only in Danbury did she do better (since Murphy’s 2008 opponent was from Danbury). I am optimistic about Esty in 2014 because she will do much better in the Northwest than she did in 2012, since her opponent won’t be Roraback.
Well, I did say that I’d be presenting a detailed analysis with a lot of maps! I hope you all learned a lot from this, but if you only take away one thing, it should be that a candidate’s hometown can have a big impact on the results.
I hope you enjoyed reading, and I welcome any feedback, comments, or questions!