It’s been two months since Republicans swept every major town board in a municipal election that—on the surface—looked like a GOP wave completely washed out a former Democrat town. Republicans led vote counts in every race, placing the top four vote getters on the board of finance, top five on the council, and top three on the board of education. There wasn’t a single GOP candidate that didn’t win the office they sought.
As the numbers poured in, it seemed to make a pretty strong argument that Republican voters turned out in force. One local newspaper reported that Southington Republicans will be hard to beat because the party made such great strides in recruiting voters. How they arrived at that opinion wasn’t totally clear, but we were scratching our heads, too. Almost as soon as polls closed, we asked Southington’s registrars if they could break down voter turnout by party like they did in 2013 and 2015. It took some time, but we finally received their report in late December. (See the chart on page 6).
As it turns out, Republicans didn’t charge to the polls in greater numbers than Democrats. In fact, Democrats out-numbered Republicans by nearly 200 voters. GOP turnout was about 44%, and Democrats about 42%. Pretty similar.
It was the unaffiliated voters that decided the election once again. Obviously, they weren’t as excited as party members (25% turnout) but it seems that the ones that did made the trip for the polls were either excited by the Republican message or just fed up by Democratic control of the council.
We think it’s more likely that they were just sick of the party that was in control. It even seems that some Democrats were sick of their own party. There was one Democrat running for BOE that didn’t even receive all of his party’s votes. He probably wasn’t the only one. If no Democrats voted for BOF member Ed Pocock Jr., he would have had to receive every single Republican vote and almost every single unaffiliated vote to account for his 6,556 vote total. That’s unlikely.
We think that the 2019 election was based on something more. Maybe all voters—not just unaffiliated—are sick of party politics and lack of ethics of whatever party’s in charge.
In 2017, the Republicans were in control of the council. Republicans were facing ethics complaints about illegal meetings and illegal campaign ads. There was partisan bullying during a discussion about hiring town officials. Republicans didn’t even let Democrats participate in the conversation. The result? Republicans lost the election.
Leading up to last fall’s election, the roles were reversed. A high level school employee on the council was denying his lack of ethics in school budget discussions (after leading results in the last three municipal elections, he didn’t even garner 50% in 2019). During the toll discussion before the election, Democrats didn’t let Republicans participate in the conversation. The result? Democrats lost the election.
We think it’s more about who lost than who won. We hope that elected officials finally learn that party politics shouldn’t be the driving force in public service, or it will cost you on Election Day. Perhaps the way to win future elections is to woo those voters that you don’t see at the party caucuses.
After the recent toll “discussion,” we’re still waiting for the town council to wake up and realize that they’re a nine-person board, not “majority” and “minority” members. Otherwise, we’ll just wait for the unaffiliated voters to push them out at the next election. Or better yet, maybe we’ll see those unaffiliated voters step up as candidates themselves. A 44% turnout by charged-up unaffiliated voters would be really interesting to see…and hard to beat.
To comment on this editorial or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.