As went Connecticut, so went Wilton’s voters in Tuesday’s primary election, as with the statewide outcome to see come November. Wilton Democrats overwhelmingly supported U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy over Susan Bysiewicz, while Republicans in town chose Linda McMahon over former Rep. Chris Shays to head to the polls later this year.
Chief among those emboldened by the results were the respective heads of the Wilton Democratic and Republican Town Committees. Just as the victorious candidates themselves quickly declared their willingness to hit the campaign trail and take on the opposition, so too did the GOP’s Al Alper and Democrat John Kalamarides seem revved up for the November fight right here in Wilton.
“It’s interesting to me how many people have very negative feelings about Linda McMahon, and you can see that in the Republican numbers right here in Wilton, how the Republicans really turned out to support Chris Shays. They felt he would have made a better Senator than Linda McMahon. Linda has a great deal of money, but I think Chris [Murphy] will deal better with the issues. Linda for instance, has not been willing to sit down with any editorial boards to really discuss the issues, and that speaks volumes,” Kalamarides said.
For his part, Alper was very encouraged by what he saw as an enthusiastic turnout from his party’s voters, who he believes are driven by Republican dissatisfaction with the current administration.
“Certainly 24 percent Republican turnout versus 18 percent turnout for the Democrats is demonstrative of the larger enthusiasm gap that exists nationwide. I think we are pretty much a bellwether for what you’ll see throughout. Percentage-wise that is a huge difference, that’s directly related to the enthusiasm on the Republican side of the aisle for change in Washington this year. It portends that we’re going to have an exciting election in November, a tremendous turnout in November, and real change come November,” he said.
For Alper, he believes that makes his candidate an even stronger contender to put up against Murphy. “Linda had a 169-town name recognition, that no one on the Republican side or the Democrat side had (except Susan Bysiewicz, who lost). So Linda goes into this race with a leg up over Murphy to begin with. Linda takes our party enthusiasm, and she takes that 169-town name recognition, and she takes it over the top in November.”
“Besides which,” he added, “Chris Murphy has nothing to run on. He was absent more than he was present. Even Obama voted ‘present’ [in the Senate].”
Kalamarides wasn’t surprised at how well Murphy did in the primary with Democratic voters.
“It played out like I thought it would,’ Kalamarides said after local results were announced by the town’s registrars of voters. “Chris Murphy had a much better command [than Bysiewicz] of what the issues were in the statewide race, and how he would handle them as a U.S. Senator. The other thing that he had going for him, was that all the state’s constitutional officers—the governor, the lieutenant governor, the attorney general , the comptroller, and all the other U.S. representatives—all those people endorsed him early on. They really had a feeling that he was the one that should go to DC.”
He added, “I think that when people see Chris and meet Chris—and he’ll be here in Wilton this fall—that they’ll get behind him, and the Democrats will work hard to support him. I think he’ll do very well in the general election, I think he’s going to win.
Alper pointed out that Shays was very highly regarded amongst Republicans in Wilton, but that the need for change pushed them to get behind a candidate that brought something new to go up against a Democrat in Connecticut, which he points out is “a decidedly blue state.” After 2010’s loss for Republican Dan Debicella against Democrat Jim Himes, the general feeling for state GOP members was that it was time for a different approach and that Shays wasn’t the one to back.
“Chris is a very good friend of Wilton, and I personally like him as well. During his 22-year tenure in Washington, he never forgot Wilton—we were an important part of the work that he did, and he definitely kept us in mind. Having said that, many of the Republicans that I have spoken to felt that, while Chris had done great work, it was time for something different. We all like Chris but just felt it was time for a change.”