Thursday, August 31, 2006

2nd District race...

I'd like to bring to your attention our efforts to inform voters about the 2nd Congressional District race. this morning we launched ( our special election Web page featuring that race, which includes video clips of U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, and Democratic challenger Joe Courtney during their meetings with the Norwich Bulletin Editorial Board. The video clips allow you to compare, side-by-side, the two candidates as they discuss their campaigns and the issues - in their own words. We've added the links to their respective campaign Web pages so that you can also visit and learn more of the details of where they stand on issues.

We did a similar effort during the primary featuring the gubernatorial and US Senate candidates, and will be repeating that with the general election slate soon. We're just waiting for the candidates to come in for the Ed Board meetings. Hopefully those pages will be up and available next month.

I'd be interested in hearing what you think about the 2nd District page.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Let's see if we can start a conversation...

I've become fascinated with reading about the upcoming US Senate primary in neighboring Rhode Island - what would appear to be a mirror image of the primary we just had here in Connecticut earlier this month. Republican incumbent Lincoln Chaffee is in the battle of his political life with Cranston Mayor Steve Laffy. Somewhat amusingly, it sounds at times as if Laffy is trying to define Chaffee as a "Ned Lamont" type of Republican.

Chaffee, like Lieberman, is a moderate. They are both members of the so-called Gang of 14, moderate members of the US Senate - Republican and Democrats. And both under fire by the more hardline members of their respective parties.

So what it is?

Is this "just" a movement by the hardline factions within each party to erase the moderates in effort to have a tighter grip on their respective parties? And is that a good idea? Why is it that neither political party seems to have any room within it for moderate voices?

Or is this more of an anti-incumbent movement by rank and file voters? As we saw here in Connecticut, more than just the hardline factions came out to vote. (By the way, in RI, independents are permitted to vote in party primaries - so it will be interesting as well to see what kind of turnout they have over there.)

Or...a third possibility, a combination of the two?

What do you think?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Something to think about over the weekend...

I spent all day Thursday at Millstone Nuclear Power plant facility in Waterford covering the day-long conference on what should be done to insure the Groton sub base is never again targeted for closure. There were some pretty good ideas coming from the discussion. It will be interesting to see how many of them get implemented. I'm not sure a lot of folks see this as a priority. There is this feeling that the threat is over. Three times the base has been targeted, and three times the state has won the argument to keep it untouched. But this last fight was the toughest, and Connecticut was lucky it won. I don't think the Pentagon will be as sloppy the next time.

And this little tidbit, which I think is going to become a major issue in the coming weeks.

Insurance Commissioner Susan Cogswell has adopted new guidelines that effectively allows Andover (insurance) Companies to require property owners within .75 miles of Long Island Sound - or "portions of major rivers - to install hurricane shutters on their property. We're not talking plywood, we're talking steel - and big time expenses. And if property owners don't, the insurance company can simply cancel their policy.

The decision affects about 2,000 people in the state, and could cost as much as $100,000 to comply. (That's a high estimate, and it's not really clear how many folks would have to come up with that much money.) But it is a major expense for folks.

I think you're going to see a lot of pressure put on Cogswell to reconsider that change.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The first Bush coming....

Former President George Herbert Walker Bush will make a brief appearance in the 2nd Congressional District to support the re-election campaign of U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District. It will be the elder Bush's second visit to the area. He was here four years ago headlining a breakfast fundraiser for Simmons. The two go back to their times working for the CIA. The event is scheduled for Sept. 6 at a seaside resort in Westbrook. The price is $250 to attend, $1,000 for the VIP visit that guarantees a picture with the former president.

Simmons' opponent in this year's election, Joe Courtney of Vernon, quickly responded with a press release noting that it was under the former Bush's Administration - back when Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense - that efforts were made to kill the Seawolf submarine program. They also noted that as devastating as that would have been economically back then, it's ironic that this visit should come at a time when EB is in the midst of layoffs.

"It's certainly disappointing that Rob Simmons would welcome the man who almost single handedly shut down eastern Connecticut's economy to Connecticut at the same Electric Boat is struggling to maintain its workforce," Courtney campaign spokesman Brian Farber said in a release from the Courtney campaign. "But then again, Rob Simmons has supported George W. Bush more often than any member of Congress from Connecticut. So I guess it makes sense that President Bush would send his father to tell Simmons, 'Thanks.'"

More endorsements....

I've mentioned in the past that I don't put a lot of stock in endorsements, but this year's elections are not the norm - and who knows, maybe endorsements will carry some weight this year as voters try to make up their minds.

This afternoon, Democratic nominee Ned Lamont will be endorsed by the UAW CT CAP Council. represeting 20,000 active and retired members in the state.

Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman picked up the re-endorsement from 16 labor leaders representing building trades, firefighters, Teamsters, etc.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate New Haven Mayor John DeStefano won the support of teachers.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

More polls....

A new Rassmussen Reports poll shows the race for U.S. Senate in Connecticut remains tight. Conducted Monday, the poll gives US Senate Joseph Lieberman a narrow lead over Democratic nominee Ned Lamont, 45-43 - well within the margin of error (4-percent) - meaning this is a deadheat with about 78 days remaining until Nov. 7.

Republican challenger Alan Schlesinger still hasn't broken the double digit mark, polling at 6 percent.

Four percent of those polled said they hadn't made up their minds yet.

Another poll, this one from the American Research Group, also puts the race at a deadheat. In that poll, Lieberman has 44 percent to Lamont's 42 percent - with Schlesinger getting only 3 percent. Eleven percent say they're undecided.

In the governor's race, the Rasmuseen poll shows incumbent Republican Jodi Rell still maintains a comfortable lead over Democratic challenger New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, 61-31 percent.

The 2008 campaign...

The Democratic National Committee has followed through with it's plans to alter the primary/caucus schedule for the 2008 presidential campaign by adding Nevada and South Carolina to the mix of early contests. insure that it's will be done, has added a penalty clause to its new schedule.

According to the New York Times...Any candidate who campaigns in a state that does not abide by the new calendar will be stripped at the party convention of delegates won in that state.

It could very well cause a showdown as New Hampshire state officials continue to argue that their state constitution gives the right to set a primary date when "they" want to set it.

The reasoning behind the move makes some sense. Neither Iowa nor New Hampshire have large - or any for that matter - minority populations that better reflect the nation - and the party. Adding Nevada's caucus, with its heavy Hispanic population, and South Carolina's primary, with its heavy black population, to the front of the schedule certainly brings a more diverse population to the process. But it also short circuits the process, positioning the party to complete the selection process of a nominee well before many states even get a chance to vote. (But that's already happening anyway, so it's pretty much a moot point.)

The question then is, should candidates be penalized before the national party and individual states can't agree?

The 2008 new schedule is as follows: Iowa caucus on 1/14, Nevada caucus on 1/19, New Hampshire primary on 1/22 and South Carolina primary on 1/29.

Kudos to Lamont...

While activists within the Democratic Party continue to try and stop US Sen. Joseph Lieberman's bid to winre-election to a fourth term, Democratic nominee Ned Lamont on Monday distanced himself from the effort, declaring that anyone has the right to run for elected office - and the decision to run as an independent is the senator's to make, and his alone.

There is no question that Lamont would prefer that Lieberman didn't chose to continue his re-election bid,, and has been one of the more outspoken critics of that decision, urging the incumbent to abide by the party's vote in the Aug. 8 primary. Understandable, and if I were in his position, it would be the stance I would take. And he deserves some credit for taking this position and opposing the efforts of those trying to block Lieberman from appearing on the ballot.

Now...if we could move away from this non-issue and start talking about the real issues, this campaign can start to make some progress. The vast majority of voters don't care very much about party labels. They do care about the issues affecting their lives.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Updating Wednesday's post...

On Wednesday I posted a note about a story in the Capitol magazine The Hill that questioned U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman's senority status if he were to be re-elected running as a petitioning candidate. On Thursday, I asked Lieberman about the speculation in the article that some of his fellow Democratic colleagues in the Senate have suggested he might lose it.

Lieberman said he spoke with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid right after the primary, and was asssured by Reid that if he wins, his senority and his committee assignments would not be in any jeopardy.

For the record, Reid's office will only say that is something to be decided after the election.

There's a lot of different ways to look at that - and no doubt that many who have strong opinions on this particular election will choose to look at it in a way that suits their purposes. I only offer the information .

The war in Iraq...

Just got back from a quick trip - via C40 Chinook helicopter - to McGuire AFB in New Jersey. The purpose was to say goodbye to 70 Connecticut National Guard troops who boarded a plane this morning bound for Iraq. Needless to say, the war in Iraq is the focal point of this year's contenious US Senate battle - a "battle" being fought with words by people who don't have to put their lives on the line. And I'm NOT talking about just candidates. Some of the most vocal opinions are the ones being expressed by those supporting candidates.

I've been to many of these send-offs, not just the formal ones held here in the state before the troops head for the next duty assignment. I've been to Ft. Dix and Ft. Drum more than a dozen times. I make a habit to try and make the welcome home trips as well. I do it because it's a story - and lately it's been "the" story. But I also do it because I remember another war when there were no grand send-offs, and anything but a warm welcome home.

Some of the guys I saw today were ones that I first met in Bosnia nearly five years ago. This is the same unit that was serving as part of the International Peace Keeping Force there - protecting Muslims. They were there doing that when Sept. 11 happened.

I mention this because of all the opinions being offered about the war, and whether we should have gone there and whether we should stay there, I've never heard any of these kids - and you'll pardon my use of that word, but they are younger than I - never have any of these kids complained about going. And when they've come home, they come home proud of what they have accomplished.

There's been a few new posts added to this blog in the last couple of days, more than expressing a point of view on the war or cited it as an example in trying to make a point. At this point, I choose not to offer a comment to them. My morning was spent with young citizens of Connecticut who are the example, and don't need to make a point.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The question...

I've been asked this question many times over the past month. What happens if US Sen. Joseph Lieberman wins re-election as an independent candidate? Does he retain his seniority or does he lose it?

There is no straightforward answer. Lieberman has repeatedly said he intends to continue to caucus with the Democrats. A decision on committee assignments, and potential chairmanships, is that of the party leadership and whether Lieberman would benefit from his long standing relationship with the leadership in the Senate is something that only time will tell.

However...this little item appeared in The Hill magazine , one of the Capitol's better journals of what's going inside the beltway. It seems some Democratic senators are not happy with the senator's initial forray into the independent candidacy - questioning his seniority status if he should win in November.

The Hill cites aides to senators saying that Lieberman could be stripped of his seniority, and expressing "shock" that he suggested those calling for a reduction in troops in Iraq are bolsterring terrorists groups. It stops short of saying how strong or widespread those feelings are.

The seniority issue is significant because if Democrats were to take control of the Senate following the 2006 election, Lieberman - if he were to win re-election - would likely be in line to be the next chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

And for what it's worth, the current Republican Committee Chairwoman Olympia Snowe of Maine has endorsed Lieberman's re-election bid.

No doubt this will result in lots of speculation over the coming weeks. What it all means, however, won't reallyu be known until the dust settles after November.

This just in...

I just posted a news update on the Norwich Bulletin Web page, and thought I'd repeat here if anyone missed it. I learned today that it appears President George Bush will be coming to southeastern Connecticut next year to deliver the commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in May. Official confirmation will not come until a week or so before the event.
The president traditionally visits each of the four military academies during his four year term. He was last at the CG Academy in 2002. He hasn't been back since his second term began, and the schedule would suggest it will be New London in 2007 - barring any unforeseen events.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Another Democratic battle...

The Democratic National Committee is expected to vote this weekend on the 2008 primary schedule. For those who haven't been following this dispute, the DNC wants to add a couple of states to the early schedule, including another caucus after Iowa but before the New Hampshire primary. The early betting is that Nevada will get the nod - a western state that caucuses so as to appease New Hampshire, leaving it as the nation's first primary.

But New Hampshire folks are not appeased and have been banging the drum if any state is added to the schedule before they vote. By state Constitution, the Secretary of the State can set the New Hampshire primary date whenever he/she wants to - and they are threatening to do just that, even if it meant moving the primary to late 2007.

What's the big fuss? Slipping a new state into the schedule between Iowa and New Hampshire would mean candidates would have to cut back on the time spent in those two states in order to woo the caucus members in Nevada. That idea isn't to anyone's liking in New Hampshire.

Looking towards November...

A few thoughts about the upcoming November elections and things to look for to try and gauge how it all may unfold.

In the U.S. Senate race, incumbent U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman is going have to prove - and prove quickly - that he still has the ability to raise money. Running now as an independent candidate, Lieberman will have to establish that his candidacy remains viable without the backing of the Democratic institutional support.The three-term incumbent will need to rely heavily on television advertising in reaching out to voters across the state, and that will require money.
Democratic nominee Ned Lamont will also need to establish his candidacy among a new group of voters who may not be as convinced as harden Democrats that the time for change is now. Now having the support of top Democrats is nice, but Lieberman had that support as well - and it didn't help him in the primary.Unaffiliated voters and Republicans - and there are certainly many as displeased with President Bush's policies as the most ardent Democrats - may not, however, be as thrilled with a hard line partisan stance that Lamont used so effectively in winning the Democratic Party.
Republican Alan Schlesinger probably needs to establish his candidacy's credibility even more so. Bill Jenkins , who has contributed often to this blog, is of the opinion that Schlesinger's gambling issue isn't much of an issue and will have no bearing on his candidacy. I'd suggest that with two Republican Congressmen - Rob Simmons and Chris Shays - throwing their support behind a Lieberman independend candidacy , the Republican governor and state party chairman attempting to convince him to withdraw, and the President's spokesman saying flat out he won't get any support from the White House - Mr. Schlesinger desperately needs to establish his candidacy as viable.
Technically, it's a three-way (four if you count the Green Party candidate) race. In reality, right now it's a rematch between Lieberman and Lamont.

On the gubernatorial front, you got to ask yourself what's up with the Democratic ticket. Voters give New Haven Mayor John DeStefano a narrow victory over Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy for the top spot, but then turn around and give Malloy's running mate Mary Glassman a convincing victory for the number two spot. With all due respect to Glassman and Scott Slifka (DeStefano's choice for Lt. Governor), I'm guessing most voters knew little if anything about either candidate. So it might safe to assume that some voters simply decided to "have a little fun," just to see what might happen.
The DeStefano camp has to consider that maybe voters haven't yet taken this race seriously. And going up against a very popular incumbent with very high approval ratings, that has to be a concern.
As for the governor, she needs to come out strong as the focus now shifts towards her. DeStefano is going to make a strong argument that things are simply not going well here in the state, and someone needs to be held accountable. Given that there are 84 days remaining in this election cycle, there is more than enough time to hammer home that point. Gas prices are high, winter heating costs are going to be higher, more layoffs are coming at Electric Boat, and property taxes went up again in virtually every community. Come November, it is possible voters could turn out at the polls with a sense of wanting to hold someone accountable.

And on the congressional front, the state's three Republican incumbents should be very concerned about the mood of voters. The Democratic primary battle for U.S. Senate clearly sent a message that Democrats at least are not happy with the current direction the country is going. For incumbent U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, that should be of particular concern since he represents one of the most Democratic congressional districts of any Republican in the country. And as noted above, there are also enough unaffiliated and Republican voters displeased with the current state of affairs that this could be a very tough fight for him.

But then again, 84 days in an election cycle is a lifetime. The following opinions are subject to change as we go on.

Monday, August 14, 2006

back to what's going on....

Typically, when I take a vacation from the paper, I try to avoid the news and just relax. So this first day back in the office is pretty hectic as I now try and catch up on what's happened...and what is happening.

First up...Speaker of the State House of Representatives James Amann has called a press conference for 12:30 this afternoon in Hartford, at which it is expected he will formally support the re-election - independent re-election bid of U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Amann said months ago that he would not only support the senator in the primary, but afterwards as well no matter what the circumstances. So today's announcement should come as no surprise. Amann took a lot of heat from the bloggers backing Ned Lamont's campaign when he made those comments a few months ago.

The press conference is at 12:30 at the Capitol.

setting the record straight...

Seems to be a bit of a misunderstanding regarding this blog which I would like to clarify once and for all.

A regular contributor...who goes by the screen name mccommas...wrote:

" I wonder if a blog like this is a good idea for a journalist. It seems that you are being sucked into the poltics Ray. If I were running your newspaper, I would never allow it."

First...this blog is not a personal blog. It was created by the Norwich Bulletin, and I have been asked by the paper to take this on as part of regular reporting - essentially an extension of my weekly column that appears in the Sunday Bulletin under the name Hackett on Politics.

As for being sucked into the politics of the bloggers - those who have made it a point to criticize and defame the incumbent in the US Senate race...I have no intentions of letting that happen. What they want to do is simple, and that is to use any means necessary to continue their agenda. That's their choice and I have always believed in allowing people the opportunity to voice their opinions. I may not agree with it, and may at times express that disagreement. But the baiting - I'm not interested. I have more important things to do.

When I started this, I said in that very first post that I would like to keep this open and not subjected to any moderating of other's posts or comments. If, however, that becomes problematic...then we'll do what we have to do.

I appreciate the kind words expressed by some regarding what we have done with this blog...and I hope to continue to improve on the course of the conversations that are held here in the future.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Catching up...

It's been a few days since I've added anything to the blog. These last days of a campaign can be a bit time consuming. I often joke that in the closing days of a campaign I typically take more trash out of my car than my condo - and that has more truth to it than you think.

I spent most of the morning visiting polling places on my way into the office, and must admit to being a little disappointed in the early turnout numbers. If you haven't voted - do so.

And one more thought before I head into some of these previous posts and respond to some of the responses. The site will be quiet for the next five days. I traditionally take the rest of the week off immediately after an election - a kind of mental health break. My philosphy has always been that once the voters speak, there really isn't anything more for me or candidates to say. I'll be back on Monday...have a great weekend and enjoy the good weather - I will.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Civil rights...

Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are in Connecticut, on the campaign trail supporting U.S. Senate candidate Ned Lamont and gubernatorial candidate John DeStefano. And another well-known civil rights activists will be hitting the campaign trail this weekend as well. Actor Danny Glover is coming to the state, supporting Lamont and DeStefano. Details regarding the Glover visit have not yet been released by either campaign.


The latest Quinnipiac University poll is out, and it isn't looking good for three-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Lieberman now trails Democratic primary challenger Ned Lamont by 13 points, 54-41 percent. What is even more telling is that 85 percent of those polled - likely Democratic primary voters - say theire minds are made up.

I've said all along that this race is going to be decided by turnout. Convention wisdom says that between 20-25 percent of the eligible voters will actually vote Tuesday. But this race is anything but conventional. Given the strong, passionate feelings people have in regards to this race, you have to believe the turnout is going to be larger. How large? Nobody knows and I couldn't even begin to venture a guess. What we do know, based on conventional thinking, is that those who do feel strongly that the time has come for a change are coming out in big numbers. Will Lieberman be able to turnout an equally sizeable number to counter that remains to be seen.

The Q-poll also has some good news for Democratic guberantorial candidate Dan Malloy. Malloy has closed the gap in his bid against John DeStefano, now trailing DeStefano 48-38 percent. That race is still too close to call.

And more ads...

no sooner did I post an entry raising questions about the latest round of political ads...then this.

The Dan Malloy campaign responded to the DeStefano attack ad with one of their own, bringing the whole level of discourse to a new low. In this ad, the Malloy cam accuses DeStefano of flip-flopping on women's issues - and then depicts the mayor in a dress, pregnant and then holding a baby, suggesting if he was a woman he might understand - but as governor he won't.

Is it really necessary to stoop this low?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Stranger and stranger...

Just when you thought this primary election had done it all, here comes this one;

It's possible we may not have a winner next week - especially in the hotly contested U.S. Senate Democratic primary contest. The Associated Press is reporting that state officials announced Wednesday that the Aug. 8 primary "will be held open" until Aug. 25 to insure that absentee ballots from Connecticut soldiers and sailors overseas are counted.

There are roughly 2,100 eligible military members who can vote in the primary - and 700 ballots were mailed late. In order to insure those votes are counted, the "official" outcome of the Aug. 8 will not be ratified until Aug. 25. What that means is, if a race - and in particular the U.S. Senate race which is predicted to be close - is 700 or less votes difference in the tallies - we won't know for another two weeks who won.

Like I said...just when you think you've seen it all.

Singing for dinner....

Steven Stills (from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fame for those who might not remember - and the Buffalo Springfield for those who are even older, like me) is performing in a benefit concert on behalf of Democratic congressional candidates Joe Courtney (2nd District) and Chris Murphy (5th District).
The concert is being organized by Connecticut for Change, a joint fundraising committee authorized by the two congressional campaigns - and the proceeds from the event will be divided equally among the two campaigns. (Tickets go for $125, $250 and $500 - with appropriate titles for each. $125 and you;re a "singer;" $250 earns you the title of "songwriter - and for $500 you're a "rock star" with access to backstage reception.)
The event is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 14 from 6-8 p.m. at Cheney Hall in Manchester.. More information can be obtained from each of the candidates' campaigns.


Two new campaign ads have surfaced - one television and one radio - that raises a question.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John DeStefano has approved a TV ad that is a direct attack on his Democratic primary opponent Dan Malloy - which raises the question: Why would a candidate up 20 points in the poll decided to launch an attack ad, especially at this point in the campaign, one week from the primary?

The radio commercial is one approved by Democratic Senatorial chanellenger Ned Lamont. The commercial critizies the high cost of gas and the profits oil companies are making. There are car horns honked throughout the commercial, implying that "expletives" are being deleted as the announcer rants and raves about the price and the profits. That raises this question: Exactly what group of voters is the campaign trying to attract with these implied expletitives? every campaign, every candidates' campaign launches ads that leave a lot to be desired. But these two, just kind of make you wonder what people are thinking.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


U.S. Sen. joseph Lieberman continued his Tomorrow Tour through eastern Connecticut Tuesday, with stops in East Lyme, New London, Montville, Colchester and Norwich. The afternoon schedule includes stops at EB, Killingly, Willimantic and Plainfield. Thus far, the senator has been received well on the campaign trail,. But in an interview on the bus, Lieberman conceded this will be a difficult primary battle next Tuesday, with the outcome decided mostly by the number of voters going to the polls. He is hoping those who want to "vote for something" will turn out, brining the numbers higher - rather than allowing the choice for a Democratic nominee to be decided solely by those who only want to vote "against something."