Connecticut Republicans Try to Save 2020 Hopes as Dems Push Progressive Agenda

State Rep. William Petit Jr., R-Plainville, left, talks to House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, right, as legislators look on at the State Capital on May 9, 2018, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Connecticut Republicans haven’t had it this bad since 2008. The state’s GOP suffered its first state legislative losses since Barack and Michelle Obama moved their family into the White House in the November midterm election.


“I think the message at its core is a good message,” said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, who along with her fellow Republicans decided 2018 would be all about the economy.

“I can’t leave my house, I can’t walk 10 feet out of this office, I can’t go any anywhere on a daily basis without people complaining they can’t afford to live here anymore, they can’t afford their home, they can’t get a job, the kids can’t afford to come back,” Klarides told the Connecticut Mirror. “I mean, literally, I’ve never heard that more than I heard it this year. So I think the message is a good message. I think it’s a solid message.”

But it didn’t work. Democrats gained 12 seats in the state House, giving the party a 92-59 seat advantage. Democrats also picked up five seats in the Senate for a 23-13 margin, breaking an 18-18 tie that enabled the GOP to block much of what the Dems have planned for 2019. And a Democrat, Ned Lamont, won the gubernatorial election.

What went wrong? Another Connecticut Republican, former U.S. Rep. Chis Shays, said “Trump just trumped” the state GOP’s platform.

Former state House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. was defeated Nov. 6 in a race for probate court in Norwalk, Conn. Cafero told the Connecticut Mirror one person should shoulder the blame for the GOP’s midterm failures.

“With all due respect to my opponent, it could have been a rock on the ballot and we wouldn’t have won,” said Cafero, who had never lost an election before this year. “It all had to do with Donald Trump.”


Now, Klarides said, she and other Connecticut Republicans need to figure out how to distance themselves from President Trump before 2020. But while the Republicans work on that, Connecticut Democrats are gearing up for a couple of years of one-party rule before the 2020 general election.

The Hartford Courant reported Democratic legislators are ready to push a liberal agenda of what they are calling “The Big Five”: paid family and medical leave, a minimum-wage hike, legal pot, and electronic highway tolls, along with legalizing recreational weed and sports betting.

Gov.-elect Lamont likes the idea of letting people smoke marijuana just for the buzz but said that is not one of his top priorities. He is more concern with winning approval for a state budget.

“A budget that’s not meant to last for one year but a budget that helps us to have a blueprint for the next four and eight years,’’ Lamont said.

But Rep. Josh Elliot, one of the lawmakers who organized the Progressive Democratic Caucus, pointed to a sweeping liberal agenda as being his top priority.

“Of the 25 new legislators we have in the House, the vast majority will be in the favor of the Big Five,’’ Elliott said. “I think those Big Five will all get done. The question is: What’s next?’’

The GOP may be in the minority for the next couple of years, but state Republican Chairman J.R. Romano said Connecticut will be doomed if the Democrats get their way on the Big Five.

“Prices rise because of a higher minimum wage – a cup of coffee, groceries, gas,’’ Romano said to the Hartford Courant. “You know who doesn’t get a raise? The nurse at Milford Hospital. That’s why it doesn’t work. Everything gets more expensive.’’


“Connecticut is currently ranked one of the worst business climates in the country,” he added. “How are the things they’re pushing going to improve that?’’

Here’s some hope Republicans like Roman can cling to: Not every Democratic lawmaker is on board with Rep. Elliott’s agenda.

For instance, Democrat Alexandra Bergstein, who moves into her Senate office in January, opposes legalized marijuana. And, Democrat Sen.-elect Julie Kushner doesn’t like the idea of highway tolls.

But still, intra-party disagreements aside, the Democrats will be running Connecticut’s show, at least until January 2021.

Lee Elci, who does the morning show on 94.9 News Now Radio, predicts with Democrats in charge, “Connecticut’s taxpayers will suffer with less money, less opportunity, and less security.”

If Connecticut voters don’t like what happens in their state thanks to this “fresh new coat of blue paint,” Elci said they have only themselves to blame.

“I love the term, ‘You reap what you sow,’” Elci wrote. “It’s simple, honest and almost always accurate. Get ready, Connecticut, to reap what you sow.”


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