The Capitol Beat: November 3

November 3, 2014

“Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable.”

– Mark Twain

November 4: The Day We’ve all Been Waiting for…to be over

The day of reckoning and release from the onslaught of statistics, political ads and solicitations is almost upon us. It won’t feel like closure until we actually fill in the bubbles on the ballot or pull the lever on November 4, of course. Then all we can do is wait for the final tally to reveal how many people voted and for whom. There seems to be consensus on at least one thing: it can’t end soon enough.

In Connecticut politics, as in many other states, there is a lot at stake.

Gubernatorial

Connecticut’s gubernatorial race has been deadlocked or within the margin of error in almost every poll leading up to tomorrow’s vote. Republican candidate Tom Foley is hoping for a bump from Independent candidate Joe Visconti’s decision to drop out and endorse him, while Governor Malloy is once again counting on the cities that helped launch him to a 6,400 vote victory over Foley in 2010. Democrats believe their Get- Out- the- Vote ability – bolstered by individual visits from the Governor of Puerto Rico, the President and First Lady First Lady – is worth about 3 percentage points.

With Visconti out of the race, a new Quinnipiac poll out today shows Governor Malloy leading Foley 47 to 43 percent among likely voters; seven percent are still undecided with a little more than 24 hours left.

Legislature

Let’s start with the House, where Democrats currently hold a 43 vote plurality – 97-54. The Democrats have 10 open seats to protect and the Republicans have seven. Republicans could pick up some seats this cycle, in light of the fact that it is a midterm election nationally with Democrats facing some headwinds, but no one is expecting a major sea change in the chamber. However, if Democratic turnout is strong and they are able to pick up four seats, they would have a two-thirds majority in the House – the number needed for overriding vetoes.

Other things to watch in the House: Republicans will be electing a new leader from within their ranks – longtime House Minority Leader Larry Cafero, R-Norwalk is retiring – which will likely influence committee membership. Deputy Republican Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, and Assistant GOP Leader Jason Perillo, R-Shelton, are among those vying to replace Cafero. Democratic House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, and House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, are expected to hold onto their leadership spots. As for all-important House committee chairmanships, there are currently two vacant House chairmanships: on the Judiciary and Finance Commitees, due to the retirement of Stamford State Rep. Jerry Fox and Guilford State Rep. Pat Widlitz, respectively. If chairs of other committees are pulled off to fill these spots, or if the Speaker decides he wants to change things up a little, there will be others.

It gets a little more interesting as you move over to the Senate, where Democrats hold a 22-14 edge and have five open seats to defend, including that of Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, who is retiring. Senate Republicans, who have 2 open seats, will also be losing their leader, John McKinney, who will not be returning after an unsuccessful bid for governor. Senate Majority Leader Marty Looney, D- New Haven, is hoping to replace Don Williams, while Senator Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, is looking to succeed Looney. Senator Len Fasano, R-North Haven, is hoping to succeed John McKinney as the Republicans’ torchbearer.

For the sake of argument, if Republicans were to pick up two seats in the Senate, their ability to serve as players or spoilers is immediately enhanced. Some believe this is a realistic scenario. If they are able to pick up 4 seats, then you have a tie in the Senate and the Lt. Governor casts the deciding vote. Interestingly, under this scenario, If Foley wins, Republicans will preside over the Senate and decide who fills Senate chairmanships on committees, creating split committees and causing gridlock. Conversely, under this scenario, if Malloy wins Democrats would still control Senate committee appointments.

If Democrats hold onto their majority in the Senate, which appears likely, they will be appointing at least four new Senate chairs to replace those who are not returning: Sen. Andrea Stillman (Education), Sen. Gary LeBeau (Commerce), Sen. Ed Meyer (Environment), and Sen. Tony Musto (Government, Administration and Elections).

Traditionally, the four caucuses (Senate Dems, Senate Republicans, House Dems, and House Republicans) vote on their leadership shortly after the election. Committee assignments, including chairmanships, are usually announced between mid-November and Christmas.

The long and short of it is, there will be a lot of jockeying and a lot of changes after the dust settles from the election.

Executive branch and state agencies

This is where you see the most dramatic change when the executive branch changes hands, because the Governor appoints his own staff and budget office and hand picks agency heads. The agency chiefs then pick their own staff (e.g. deputies, attorneys, legislative liaisons) to help them implement state law and the Governor’s policies.

If Governor Malloy is re-elected he too has the authority to bring in new commissioners and may very well decide to exercise that authority. Malloy would have at least one vacancy to fill – State Department of Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor is stepping down at the end of the year.

NOTE: Beginning with tomorrow’s election results, we will be sending along an abundance of information on changes in leadership, rank-and-file, committee assignments, and agency appointments as it becomes available. Stay tuned.

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