GREENWICH – Whatever the outcome, today’s special election in the 36th Senate District will provide water for the ongoing debate over the political identity of this affluent corner of Connecticut, a region of political influence and disproportionate economic.
Greenwich is a brand synonymous with wealth and power, a community of 63,518 people who only follow London, New York and Chicago in hedge fund jobs, and where million dollar homes are sold as demolitions.
But its status as a grassroots Republican town – where Prescott Bush Sr. once embodied Grand Old Party values ââas a US senator and raised a future president, George Herbert Walker Bush – has reached a turning point this year.
Democratic voters now outnumber Republicans, 12,435 to 11,973. There are 15,917 unaffiliated voters, meaning the GOP comes third in Greenwich – a stunning drop that accelerated with the appointment of Donald J. Trump in 2016.
On the ballot today, three candidates vying to succeed Alex Kasser, a wealthy Democrat who spent freely in 2018 to capitalize on animosity towards Trump, topple Republican Scott Frantz and put a Democrat from Greenwich in the Senate state for the first time since the Great Depression.
Kasser was re-elected in 2020, beating Republican Ryan Fazio by 2 percentage points. She quit abruptly in the middle of a nasty divorce. Today, Fazio faces Democrat Alexis Gevanter and a potential spoiler John Blankley, a Democrat candidate for the petition.
The 36th Senate District covers all of Greenwich and parts of Stamford and New Canaan to the north and east. All three candidates are from Greenwich.
But members of both parties are reluctant to cripple a special election in mid-August in what has only recently become a swing district, as is the neighboring 26th district, which covers the other half of New Canaan and six other communities. of Fairfield County.
âIt all comes down to Greenwich, because Stamford is going to opt for [Gevanter], and New Canaan will definitely go for Fazio, that’s my bet, âsaid Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, who toppled the 26th District in the same year as Kasser’s loss to Frantz in Greenwich.
Frantz, who backed Fazio in 2020 and backs him up again this year, warned against anyone attempting to draw a conclusion about the district’s political leanings based on the special elections.
“I think all the conclusions we draw on Wednesday morning will not be conclusive, because this is a special election and the turnout is ridiculously low,” Frantz said. “Next year’s elections will be much more telling in terms of what really happened.”
The struggles of a late summer campaign were evident in recent door-to-door rounds. In New Canaan, Fazio found himself trying to persuade an absent voter through a video and audio security system activated by him by ringing the doorbell. Gevanter got a little better luck trying to hire a Democrat leaving his home in Old Greenwich, dressed for the beach.
“You the Democrat? ” He asked. When she nodded, he promised, âYou have my vote. You have everyone’s vote in this house.
At least with voters at home, both candidates found voters aware of the special election and decided their vote. At the gates of the Republicans, two voters assured Fazio that they already had postal ballots ready to be cast in his name. Fazio, who prefers in-person voting, said promoting postal voting was a challenge after 2020.
Trump had equated the mail ballots with fraud.
“It has become political, to put it lightly – it may have become a bit religious last year, âFazio said.
Fazio faces the challenge of turning center without upsetting Trump’s voters. Hillary Clinton won Greenwich in the 2016 general election, but Trump won the primary here – inviting a review in the New Yorker by Evan Osnos, a writer who grew up in Greenwich, on the extent to which the GOP’s financial elites were really disabled. by Trump.
Obviously, some Republicans were.
Twenty years ago, when George W. Bush became president, the GOP dominated the electoral roll here: there were 15,107 Republicans, 6,884 Democrats, and 12,434 unaffiliated.
In 2015, when Trump launched his campaign, the split was still favorable: 11,719 Republicans, 7,434 Democrats and 10,964 unaffiliated. But the differences have narrowed across the Trump administration.
On the eve of the 2020 poll, the Republican advantage had shrunk to less than 300 voters in Greenwich. District-wide, Democrats now hold an advantage.
“The last presidential election was very polarizing, and I think it caused a lot of people to change parties or become independent,” Frantz said. Another factor, he said, is an influx of New Yorkers during the COVID pandemic, few of whom have signed up Republicans.
Democrats say Trump has moved the party to the right, too right for some Republicans on the Gold Coast.
âThe voters have remained the same. They always care about lower taxes, they always care about job creation, âGevanter said. âEconomic issues are always of the utmost importance to the district. “
The race is unimportant from a point of view: A Republican takeover could be a symbolic boost for a party that badly needs it, but the Democrats will regain the 24-12 advantage in the winning State Senate. last fall or will remain in power with a 23-13 majority.
The midsummer off-cycle race was nationalized to some extent, with Democrats viewing Fazio as Trump’s sidekick and Republicans suggesting that Gevanter, a business lawyer married to a Greenwich investor, is the second coming. by Nancy Pelosi.
Fazio is a former commodities trader who works for a small venture capital firm.
Gevanter, 39, who interrupted a legal career after the birth of the first of his two sons four years ago, joined the gun control group “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America” ââafter the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas. She was the head of the state chapter until the start of her campaign.
Fazio presented his campaign as a plea to prevent Democrats from holding a super-majority. His speech resonated in New Canaan with Mike Allocca, a retired manufacturing executive.
“I think what we need is more balance in the country, and certainly in the state,” Allocca said.
Gevanter retorts by saying that the district can be best served with a moderate voice in a Democratic caucus led by a liberal, Senator Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven.
A branch of the National Democratic Party, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, has highlighted the race, although the influence of outside groups is limited by Gevanter and Fazio both agreeing to spending limits on public funding.
The two main party candidates can spend about $ 94,000 – about $ 16,000 in eligible contributions and government grants of almost $ 78,000. Blankley said he has $ 26,000 to spend, much of his own money.
But surrogates have flocked to the race, knowing that it is never bad policy to be seen and heard by voters who could turn out to be donors in the races ahead. Greenwich is home to the two Democrats who are expected to lead next year: Governor Ned Lamont and US Senator Richard Blumenthal.
Being on the polls for the second time in nine months is a boon for Fazio, a 31-year-old Tory who wrote for The Federalist and handed the management of his campaign to Patrick Sasser, a pugnacious Stamford firefighter who successfully led a popular campaign against Governor Ned Lamont’s proposal for road tolls.
Lamont bounced back from that failure in 2019, winning bipartisan support in most polls for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, Lamont blocked progressives’ efforts to raise taxes for the rich, insisting that no large-scale tax hikes were needed. Gevanter was happy to accept Lamont’s endorsement and campaign with him.
âI’m the partner he needs,â Gevanter said. “He said it over and over again.”