Connecticut Mayor, Businessman in Top Spots in Governor’s Race, Poll Shows
By Joseph De Avila
Wall Street Journal
May 7, 2018 2:41 p.m. ET
Democratic businessman Ned Lamont and Republican New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart have emerged as the top Connecticut gubernatorial candidates, according to a new poll released Monday, as their respective parties head to nominating conventions later this month.
Ms. Stewart and Mr. Lamont are essentially in a dead heat in a head-to-head matchup, according to the poll conducted by Tremont Public Advisors, a Connecticut lobbying firm that isn’t involved in the race.
“With six months to go before the November election, it appears Lamont and Stewart are starting to get the attention of the voters,” said Matthew Hennessy, managing director of Tremont.
Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat with some of the worst poll numbers in the U.S., declined to run for a third term. Mr. Malloy hit a 23% approval rating, according to a Morning Consult poll from February.
Political observers forecast a close race in a blue state where unaffiliated voters make up the largest voting bloc. The Cook Political Report rates this race as a toss up.
Republicans are banking that Mr. Malloy’s poor poll numbers will weigh down the eventual Democratic candidate. Democrats are hoping their base’s dissatisfaction with Republican President Donald Trump will fire them up to turn out in large numbers in November.
Connecticut’s next governor will face long-term fiscal problems as fixed costs such as pensions continue to rise faster than revenue growth. That creates challenges for the state to pay for other programs, including those in the education and transportation sectors.
Connecticut voters had a slight preference for a Republican candidate, according to the poll. A GOP contender beat a Democratic candidate 49.9% to 43.4%, though that is within the survey’s 4.5% margin of error.
Mr. Lamont, a 64-year-old cable-television entrepreneur who opposed the Iraq war, became a national figure when he beat Joe Lieberman, a staunch supporter of the war, in the divisive 2006 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. He lost in the general election to Mr. Lieberman, who ran as an independent.
Ms. Stewart, who is 31 years old, is in the middle of her third term as mayor. She is running as a moderate Republican who boasts of her crossover appeal in New Britain, city of about 73,000 residents where Democrats outnumber Republicans by about five to one.
The Republican nominating convention begins Friday, and the Democrats start their convention later this month. Candidates who secure the support of 15% of the delegates earn a spot on August’s primary ballot.
Ms. Stewart is shaping up to be a formidable general-election candidate, attracting more support from female voters compared with her male Republican rivals, Mr. Hennessy said. Her main challenge will be surviving a primary where other GOP members have been running to her right, he said.
In recent weeks, Mr. Lamont has earned several endorsements—including New Haven Mayor Toni Harp and Jonathan Harris, former executive director or the Connecticut Democratic Party—and appears to be separating himself from the rest of the Democratic pack, Mr. Hennessy said. His business background could appeal to some Republican voters, he noted.
Mr. Lamont would beat Republican Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton by 10 points, the poll found. And Ms. Stewart would top Democrat Susan Bysiewicz, former secretary of the state for Connecticut, by 10 points. Mr. Boughton beats Ms. Bysiewicz in a theoretical matchup by 47.2% to 42.3%. able-television entrepreneur Ned Lamont are in a dead heat