EASTERN CONNECTICUT, May 20, 2014 — Tucked away in a quiet part of America called Uncasville, Connecticut Republicans got together for a raucous fun convention. The 2014 Connecticut Republican Party convened at the sprawling Mohegan Sun Hotel Casino Convention Center. A colossus of an institution, the Mohegan Sun appears to take up the entire state of Connecticut.
Although Connecticut is a very small state that tilts heavily to the Democratic Party, over 1200 energized Republican delegates gathered . 2014 has several competitive races up for grabs, and no shortage of Republican primary challengers for the top offices.
In 2010, Democrat Dan Malloy barely survived against Republican Tom Foley 49.5% to 49% to become the Nutmeg State Governor. The results were controversial, and a Democrat Secretary of State meant a Democrat victory. Whether this was revenge for former Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman missing out on the vice presidency is up to interpretation. Since a Democrat had the lead, Democrats declared the matter settled. Republicans tend to concede rather than cause an Al Gore-style constitutional crisis. Foley has been itching for a rematch with Malloy since, and the convention may have given him his chance.
Connecticut has an interesting system. While the state party can choose a nominee, there is still the GOP primary in August. The convention can winnow the field, but no more.
Foley won 57% of the vote from the delegates, gaining the official party endorsement. However, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney both received at least 15% of the vote. This puts them on the primary ballot. McKinney actually had less than 15% until the very end when enough people switched their votes in an attempt to derail Foley.
Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti and council member Joe Visconti did not make it, but can still get on the ballot if they get the signatures of 2% of registered Republicans in the entire state. Visconti is the tea party candidate.
The same situation played in the lieutenant governor’s race. Representative Penny Bacchiochi technically won the party’s endorsement, but challengers Heather Somers and David Walker received enough votes to reach the August primary.
While receiving the party’s endorsement may not be meaningless, it does not end the discussion as it can in other states.
In the treasurer’s race, the vote may have been meaningless. Tim Herbst received 70% of the vote, but Bob Eick with his 30% can still force a primary if he chooses.
Peter Lumaj won 86% of the vote and will be the GOP nominee for Secretary of State without a contested primary.
While bloody primary battles in 2010 may have contributed to Foley falling just short in a 2010 national wave election for Republicans, upstart challengers are not expected to back down in a 2014 year expected to again help the GOP.
Connecticut GOP Chairman Jerry Labriola is well liked and well respected, and he managed to accomplish something many state chairs fail to do. Despite all of the political competition, the convention trains ran on time. There were no multi-hour floor fights on arcane procedural matters. The candidates stuck to their timetables and the convention came to close on Saturday afternoon as expected.
Some conventions feature socializing well into the night, but this convention was mostly business. There were hospitality suites in some of the Irish pubs, but most everybody was in bed well before midnight on Friday in anticipation of a long Saturday. Because there were so many different activities in the Mohegan Sun, delegates scattered their separate ways once the convention ended.
While Republicans were not forced to leave the Mohegan Sun when the convention ended, the equivalent of a Democratic Party rebuttal descended on the place. Bruce Springsteen was holding a nighttime concert. The multi-millionaire liberal was playing a concert in honor of the working man for only $135 per ticket plus all applicable fees.
For only $35, people could buy a book of pictures of Springsteen rather than take their own for free with their cellphones. Since Springsteen dislikes Republicans, his actions are considered earning a living rather than greed.
Unlike Springsteen’s home state of New Jersey, Connecticut Republicans were for the most part not interested in sticking around for the equivalent of a Democratic Party fundraiser disguised as a music concert.
They had families to get home to and an August primary to prepare for on the road to the November election.
Besides, a Springsteen concert can last four hours, about the time it takes to walk from one end of the Mohegan Sun through the casinos, restaurants and shops to the furthest parking lot.