Thursday, November 30, 2006

Thursday's update...

I'm playing city editor today, meaning not much time to do anything else except deal with brush fires. But I did want to get this post out today.

One of the things I have learned about blogging is the need to keep things fresh. There is probably nothing morre frustrating then going to a blog site and seeing that nothing new has been added in the last couple of days. And unfortunately, it will be a few days before anything new is added here.

As we enter December I find myself in that situation where I've got too much vacation time stored up - and we operate on a "use it or lose it" philosophy. The idea of losing vacation time has never been one of my favorite things - so use it I shall.

I'm taking a long weekend and will be back on Tuesday. (The following week, I'll be taking more time - but more on that as it draws closer.)

But on a brighter note, things are looking much better come January. In fact, the plan right now is to head down to Washington right after the New Year and spend the week there as Congress kicks off it's new session. I'll be blogging every day from Washington as eastern Connecticut's new congressman takes office.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wednesday thoughts...

A couple of interesting press releases arrived in my mailbox the last couple of days and I'd be interesting in hearing your thoughts on these ideas.

First..a Texas-based, national, non-profit grout - Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together ( - is conducting a national petition drive to have Election Day declared a national holiday, or to move the traditional Tuesday voting to a weekend. The aim here is to increase voter turnout.

Second...another group - - is launching a national petitioning drive today to draft Democratic Illinois Sen. Barrack Obama as a 2008 presidential candidate.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Another Tuesday thought...

Prior to attending the legislature's Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee meeting in Hartford yesterday, I poked my head into an Appropriations Committee meeting where Bob Genuario, Gov. M. Jodi Rell's budget director and head of OPM, was briefing the committee on next year's budget deliberations.

Essentially what Genuario was trying to convey to lawmakers is that next year is going to be a tough budget year in terms of spending because the budget cap doesn't have a lot of leeway to it. Basically, the budget is currently running about $450 million under the cap. But when you add in contractual obligations and other fixed costs the state has to deal with next year, that figure plummets to the $50 million range.

That's all the state has to play with - $50 million in new spending. There's not a lot you can do to help 169 towns when you only have $50 million to spread around.


I had planned on adding a few more items to the blog yesterday, but ended up taking a trip to the Capitol in Hartford instead. The main purpose for the ride was a meeting of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee to discuss the transfer of the Norwich portion of the Norwich State Hospital property to the city. A rather routine matter, but a bit more interesting these days in light of the Utopia situation in neighboring Preston.

I must admit that I am not surprised that Utopia didn't pan out. And the Utopian plans for downtown Norwich - the proposed $500 million redesign of the harbor area -a ren't likely to fadvance either. Here's why I never felt Utopia would really happen.

If someone is planning to invest just over $2 billion in the region, how come after three years they're still working out of the back seat of a car and using cell phones? If I was planning on investing $2 billion, I'd be visible - very visible and accessible. There's plenty of empty store fronts in downtown Norwich that could be rented at a very modest rate and that's where I would have an office. Not in the back seat of my car on a cell phone.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Back from my break...

And a happy post Thanksgiving Day to all.

Obviously with my absence, things have been quiet here. But I have noticed a few comments posted and sometime later today I'll jump in and respond to those. First priority, however, will be to catch up on what happened last week and take a look at what's coming up.

The switch in party affiliation by State Rep. Diana Urban of North Stonington, formerly Republican and now Democrat, didn't come as much of a surprise. Urban's frustration with the GOP leadership in the state House of Representatives - and its frustration with her - has long been known. What will be interesting to watch is how well she fares among the Democratic majority.

Lt. Gov. Kevin Sullivan will be retiring from political life in a few weeks. A retirement party has been planned for Friday, Dec. 8 at the Connecticut Culinary Institute (formerly the Hastings Hotel) in Hartford. All are welcome to attend, but RSVP's are required by Wednesday. It costs $55 per person. And if anyone might be interested, RSVP to 860-524-7384.

A lot of the coming activity in December will center on legislative breakfasts hosted by a variety of organizations who hope to catch the ear of local lawmakers in regards to special interests of particular concern to the groups. One of the more interesting ones coming up next week will be the annual Electric Boat legislative breakfast where lawmakers on both the state (CT & RI) and federal level will get a hint as to the future of the nation's premiere submarine builder's plans. It was at last year's breakfast that we first got the details of the planned layoffs that took place during 2006. The breakfast is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 5.

More later after I catch up on what else is going on.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Break time...

This year's elections are now over, now that the 2nd Congressional District race has been officially settled. For some, the results are good - while there are probably others out there not completely satisfied with the outcome. But as I like to say, the voters have spoken - it's time now to move on.'s time for me to take a break. I've got a wee bit of vacation time that has been building up, and needs to be taken before the end of the year. Beginning tomorrow, I'll be on a vacation - and back here at my desk after Thanksgiving.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday with friends and family.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Official tally...

U.S. Rep.-elect Joe Courtney was declared the winner in the 2nd Congressional District race by 90 votes - less than .03 of a percent - in his battle with incumbent Republican Congressman Rob Simmons. More than 242,000 votes were cast in the 65 town district that emcompasses one-third of the state's land mass.

Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz made the official announcement this morning, bringing an end to the election - the closest congressional race in the nation.

Courtney is still in Washington attending freshman orientation sessions this week. Simmons returned from Washington last night and has scheduled a press conference for 3:45 this afternoon at his Mystic campaign offices.

And it comes to an end...

Ran into some computer problems while out in Canterbury last night for the recount, and couldn't update last night's activities. But as I am sure you all know by now, the recount is over and Congressman-elect Joe Courtney of Vernon has won the election.

Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz has called an 11 a.m. press conference to announce the official vote results. I have it as a 94-vote win. Some of my journalistic colleagues have it ranging from "around 90" to 92 or 93. (It will be interesting to see just for the fun of it who came closest.)

U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, has called a 4 p.m. press conference at his campaign headquarters in Mystic, at which it is expected he will officially concede the race. I'm hearing that there will be no legal challenge like there was in 1994.

So that finally comes to an end later today.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The final four...

We've moved northward to Canterbury where, in about 35 minutes, election officials here will begin the recount of ballots cast in last week's 2nd Congressional District race. It is anticipated the recount should move relatively quickly since there were just over 70 absentee ballots cast. The hand counting of the absentee ballots has slowed the process for many communities.

Ashford began recounting its ballots at 5 p.m. Chester is also scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. tonight. Somers will be the last community to complete the mandatory recanvassing.

Unofficially, it appears Democratic challenger Joe Courtney is holding a 91-vote advantage over three-term Republican incumbent Congressman Rob Simmons with these final four towns to go.

Sixty-one towns reporting....

U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, trails Democratic challenger Joe Courtney by an unofficial count of 91 votes with 61 of hte 65 towns now having completed the mandatory recount.

Simmons, a three-term incumbent, picked up one vote in Ledyard this afternoon, and Courtney picked up three in Stonington.

The four final towns to conduct recounts - Ashford, Chester, Canterbury and Somers - are scheduled to commence their recounts this afternoon and tonight.

From Ledyard...

The recounting of the old mechnaic voting maqchinesw in Ledyard resulted in no changes to last week's initial vote tally in the 2nd Congresional District race. Election officials completed that part of the process in about half-hour Tuesday afternoon. Outside the small storage area at the Old Gales Ferry School, four officials are conducting the hand count of the absentee ballots.

The Ledyard count....

Ledyard officials are preparing to begin their recount of the 2nd Congressional District race at the old Gales Ferry School on Route 12. Ledyard has two voting districts. As has been the case in other recounts, verifying the machine counts shoujld move quickly, with the greatest amount of time spent doing the hand count of the absentee ballots. There are reportedly over 200 of the paper ballots to count.

The latest update on the count now has Democratic challeger Joe Courtney leading three-term Republican incumbent Rob Simmons by 90 votes. Courtney's edge increased by three after Glastonbury officials re-adjusted their recount figures that initally showed Courtney losing five to Simmons. The re-adjusted count now has Courtney only losing two.

Holding at 87-votes...

No changes in vote tallies being reported out of Deep River and Haddam this morning, leaving Democratic congresssional challenger Joe Courtney holding an unofficial 87-vote lead over three term Republican incumbent Rob Simmons.

Two other recounts are still under way, Stonington and Old Lyme. Ledyard is set to start its recount at 2 p.m. this afternoon - with the final four communities, Ashford, Canterbury, Chester and Somers, slated for later this afternoon and evening.

Norwich is done...

Norwich City Clerk Dee Anne Brennan officially certified the Norwich recount about 20 minutes ago, giving Democratic challenger joe Courtney an additional three votes in the close contest in the 2nd Congressional District.

Unofficially, Courtney now holds an 87-vote margin over three-term Republican incumbent Rob Simmons.

Four communities are conducting recounts at this hour. The last five are scheduled to begin their recounts this afternoon and evening.

Updating the count...

Right appears that 2nd Congressional District challenger Joe Courtney is holding an 84-vote lead in the recount of last week's election. That new - unofficial - tally includes Durham which apparently finished up late Monday night.

Norwich is still putting the finishing touches on its recount, having started Monday and expected to be completed this morning. It is anticipated Courtney will likely add one or two to his column when that is done.

The remaining nine towns are scheduled to conduct their recounts today. Deep River, Stonington and Old Lyme are under way as this is being written. Haddam will begin its count at 10 a.m. This afternoon, Ledyard (2 p.m.) and Ashford (5 p.m.) will start. And then this evening, the last three - Cantrebury (6 p.m.), Chester (6 p.m.) and Somers wrapping it up at 7 p.m.

Tuesday morning...

And the fun continues....

A quick update: It appears, best count available as we start the day that Democrtic challenger Joe Courtney maintains an 82-vote lead in the 2nd District race over three-term Republican incumbent Rob Simmons. Less than half the 65 towns have apparently filed their recount tallies with the Secretary of the State's office - but 56 of the towns have apparently completed the work.

There are nine towns remaining, all scheduled to commence their recounts today. To the best of my knowledge, Canterbury is slated to be the last community to begin the process - and that starts at 6 p.m. tonight. And that is where I will be.

So that is what I understand is the latest information. I'll update as I learn more.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A long deserved rest...

It's been three weeks since I've seen my daughter - her schedule (that of 17-year-old) and mine (with the election) being what they are. Veterans Day is being celebrated on Monday in Rhode Island, so she has no school that day.

So I'm taking a long three-day weekend - a kind of mental health day - and spending some time with friends and family.

I'll be back Tuesday for the finale of the recount.

Hope you all have a good Veteran's Day weekend.


The recount of the 2nd District election is well under way, with the margin separating three-term incumbent Republican Congressman Rob Simmons and Democratic challenger Joe Courtney making some minor adjustments.

Simmons picked up one vote Thursday night in Hebron, but then lost it Friday morning in Columbi'a recount. Courtney picked up an extra vote in his hometown of Vernon when a provisional ballot was added to Tuesday's initial count - and both he and Simmons each benefitted from two provisional ballots added to the mix in Pomfret.

Provisional ballots are filled out by voters at the polls on Election Day when they believe their names were mistakenly left off the official voter's list. The votes are counted later once it is determined they are in fact registered voters.

Bottom line tally - as of 3:45 p.m. - Courtney holds a 168-vote lead over Simmons.

Today and the weekend will be busy - but the real crunch comes Monday when 35 of the 65 towns in the district will conduct recounts. The deadline to complete the process is midnight Wednesday, but it now appears we should be completely finished by Tuesday night.


This picture was sent to me by Margret Brewster, sister of Waterford native Arnie Holm, a helicopter pilot shot down over Vietnam in 1972 - and whose body has never been recovered.

A few months ago, the crash site where Holm's helicopter went down was discovered. The recovery efforts have not yet been scheduled and its uncertain if those efforts will get under way next year, or have to wait until early 2008. Although everyone would prefer sooner rather than later, eventually it is hoped that Arnie's remains will be brought home and laid to rest.

The photograph here is a picture of Arlington Cemetery at Christmas time.

The last time I was at Arlington was April 2003, to cover the burial of Marine Cpl. Kemaphoon ``Ahn'' Chanawongse, also of Waterford, who was killed in the opening days of the Iraq War. He was running to retrieve ammunition when he was killed by an enemy round on March 23, 2003 in a battle in Nasiriyah, Iraq. He was 22 years old.

His mother, Tan Pachem, told me that she wanted Ahn buried at Arlington because Arlington, to her, is the place where America buried its heroes .

Tomorrow is Veterans' Day - a day to remember and thank those who gave - and give - for love of country.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


It is now official, we will have a recount in the 2nd Congressional District race. The certified vote count from Tuesday puts U.S. Rep.-elect Joe Courtney, D-2nd District (I need to start practicing that) 167-votes up over three-term Republican incumbent Congressman Rob Simmons.

I've seen dozens of recounts over the years, and I can count on one hand the number of times a recount resulted in reversing the initial outcome of an election - and I don't even need all five fingers for that count.

One hundred sixty-seven votes is a huge deficit. There will have to be a major discrepancy discovered to overcome that. I fully expect the margin of victory will change - but only by slight shifts. There were some problems reported on Election Day, but none of the magnitude that would suggest anyone is going to find the major discrepancy to overturn the results.

I think Simmons knows that. I think his comment yesterday was telling. When asked what he thought about Courtney declaring victory even before the recount started, he said, "If I was up 167 votes, I'd do the same thing."

And I think Courtney would do the same as Simmons if the roles were reversed. There is a process in our political system that provides for a rechecking of votes in cases where the outcome was close. Simmons has also been one to respect the process and thus - even though I believe he knows the outcome is not likely to change - he wants to see the process play out. I think Courtney would do the same.

I would...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Is it still morning...

Nothing like a refreshing three and half hour power nap to start the day.

Here's what we know this morning...

It appears Joe Courtney has won the 2nd Congressional District race, by my count of 170 votes. None of that is official yet. We're still waiting for some official word from the Secretary of the State's Office. That small margin will automatically trigger a recount - and that could take a week, maybe 10 days to complete depending on scheduling and how serious each side will contest every little tidbit under scrunity.

So at this point, we're awaiting a press availability from the Simmons camp. (The Courtney camp, at this point has no such plans).

And we're waiting for some definitive answer from the Secretary of the State's Office, certifiying the results and declaring the recount.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Approaching the witching hour...

The race in the 2nd Congressional District may be headed towards a recount - an automatic recounting of every vote cast but only in those cases where the difference in vote totals is less than one-half of one-percent.

There are some suggestions that Democratic challenger Joe Courtney may have emerged on top of a very tight race - winning by only a few hundred votes. There has been no official word from the Courtney campaign at this point.

However, three-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, did say that his campaign's total has him up by "a couple of hundred votes," with a number of towns still outstanding - and conceding that those towns "may not come in in our favor."

At this point, the election is on hold while both camps go over the vote totals. Meanwhile, party goers at Simmons campaign party headquarters are starting to thin as the night wears on.

It is expected that sometime after midnight we might know something more.

closer than what some might think...

Loud cheers erupted in the banquet room when it was learned that Rob Simmons took both Groton and Ledyard - neither of which should have come as a surprise since both are heavily military towns where the Groton sub base is located.

But district wide reports are calling this a much closer race. With 9 percent of the total district vote tally in, Simmons holds a less than 100 vote lead over Courtney, 51-49.

In other races, Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell is coasting to easy win.

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman is holding a 7-point lead over Democratic nominee Ned Lamont.

U.S. Rep. Chris Shays is a bit of surprising early lead in his battle against Democrat Diane Farrell, 55-44...

While U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson is trailing in her contest against Democratic challenger Chris Murphy. Murphy is leading 56-46.

Again...these are early results, and with the exception of the Rell/DeStefano race - none of these are yet at a point where anyone can call the outcome.

Speaking of outcomes, I need to put the blog on hold for a bit. I still have several stories to write for the newspaper this evening...and that first deadline is approaching in an hour. I shall return to the blog later this the meantime, I invite to stay with where the latest information will be posted as soon as we get it.

And the race tightens...

The results from New London haven't yet been posted here at the Simmons campaign headquarters, but word is that Courtney won the city by a significant margin. He also took Stafford and Deep River.

It's still way to early to try and make any predictions.

Fred Potter of Bozrah, however, said he remains cautiously optimistic and yet confident that by the end of the night Simmons will emerge victorious. When asked if he came to the Seaman's Inne with the purpose of celebrating, he said, "Absolutely."

But then, he also concedes that he fully expects this race to be decided by 5,000 votes either way.

Little bits...

The mood at the Simmons campaign party headquarters is growing more joyous each time reports come in from another town. As of 8:45, Simmons' staff has posted results from 10 towns - Simmons the winner in eight. Courtney took Chaplin and Lyme.

But these are the smaller towns in the district - and none of the major urban areas have yet reported - so any celebration at this point might be considered premature.

But even that reality isn't dampering the spirits of those who have come out to night in the mood for a celebration.

One down...

Simmons campaign staff posted the first results of the night at 8:20 p.m. Westbrook reported a Simmons victory by 302 votes.

The posting drew cheers from the crowd...but it's still a long night ahead.

That's one down and 64 more towns to go.

Minutes to go...

To paraphrase Billy Joel, the crowd is shuffling in.

Supporters of U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, are beginning to gather at the Seaman's Inne in Mystic where the "campaign party" is scheduled to commence at 8 p.m. - just minutes from now when the polls close.

But it will likely be hours later before any of us get a real sense of what the outcome of today's election will mean. There are three congressional races here in Connecticut drawing widespread attention - with the collected wisdom of national political pundits saying how Connecticut goes will be the early indication of how the nation goes in this year's mid-term elections.

Polls leading into today have cast all three races as dead heats. But the only poll that really matters is the one voters have cast throughout the day. Record turnouts have been reported across the state - and what that really means is up for debate. But we'll know for sure over the next couple of hours.

You do, however, get this sense of cautious optimism on the part of Simmons campaign workers. They feel confident - but not willing to come right out and say so for fear that a premature sign of celebration could be a jinx.

And here comes the rain....

Tonight's rain might keep some from voting, but my sense is that the weather will have a minimal impact. All day long, there was this overriding sense that people are engaged and wanting to participate in the elections. So I doubt a little rain will keep those hearty New Englanders from taking part in the process.

It's quiet here at the Seaman's Inn in Mystic, where U.S. Rob Simmons will hold his "campaign party" later this evening. Simmons never refers to the night as a "victory party," not wanting to put a jinx on anything.

The TV crews have arrived and are setting up, other reporters are slowly starting to trickle in, scouting out tables in the upstairs press room to set up for what many think will be a long night.

Two and half hours to go...

I never did get I'm taking a bit of break to have dinner before the second half of the day starts.

My sense is that we're looking at a long night ahead of us. We've got a lot of close races, and a larger than usual turnout. It could be several hours after the polls close before we get a sense of winners and losers.

Statewide, predictions are the turnout will be about 66 percent, that's 8 percent higher than what we normally see in non-presidential years. The normal turnout is usually about 58 percent. For what it might be worth, the last time U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons and Democratic challenger Joe Courtney met in a 2nd District contest (2002), the winning margin of victory was 8 percent.

A few other things I've learned today...

It's not easy balancing a laptop on one knee in the front seat of my car. The steering wheel gets in the way when I'm trying to write.

Parking is also an issue. It's hard to find the cursor on the computer screen if the car is parked in a direction that allows the sun to shine on it.

After grabbing a bite to eat, we'll head down to Mystic and get set for the returns at U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons' Election Night Campaign headquarters.

What are we learning....

I've been at this a litle more than eight hours now, talking with dozens and dozens of voters. So what have we learned?

Turnout is amazing - everywhere. The average turnout for a non-presidential year is 58 percent. That figure will be easily broken today.

Voters are taking this election personally. They have a personal stake, and this is important. More often than not, voters have told me that the driving motivation for them today is the need to change the direction the country is headed.

But yet, how they're voting doesn't always reflect that.

For example, Andrew Pelletier of Salem, a registered Democrat, told me that is not happy at all with the way the country is going. And he believes it is "very important" to change Congress.

But in the US Senate race, Pelletier voted for the 18-year incumbent, Joe Lieberman. And in the US Congressional race, he voted for Democratic challenger Joe Courtney - and against the six-year incumbent U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons.

"It does seem a little contradictory," he said. "A lof it, I guess, is personal choice."

Cathy Holden of Norwich, a registered unaffiliated voter, also said changing direction - and in particular the Iraq War - was "the big reason" for her voting today. But she voted Lieberman and Simmons - the two incumbents their respective opponents have accused of supporting the Bush Administration's war.

Holden said she supported both incumbents because of the work they did to save the Groton submarine base, and she is hopeful that Democrats will take back control of Congress - she's just hoping that change comes from elsewhere in the country.

On to Salem...

Salem is one of those small eastern Connecticut communities where voters take their civic responsibilities seriously - and voter turnout is usually one of the highest in the region.

And it appears this year will be no different.

"It's been very good, very good," said Salem Moderator Catherine Teel, who predictecd that total overall turnout will like be in the 70-percent range - and probably in the upper 70s at that.

With just over 2,300 registered voters in town, more than 1,000 had already cast ballots by 4 p.m. And Teel said the expectation is that could be doubled in the final four hours before polls close at 8 p.m.

It's still too early to try and figure out what it means for individual races, but what is safe to say is that voters are taking this year's elections seriously - and with a purpose.

Strength in numbers...

A general rule of the thumb is that you take the voter turnout in the last four hours of the day will match the turnout recorded in the first turnout. In other words, take the percetage turnout as of 4 p.m. - double that, and you get a pretty good idea of the turnout will be at the end of the day.

At the American Legion Hall on Laurel Hill Avenue, turnout was running strong. Precinct 5 moderator Richard Hammer said at this point, "it's slowed." But still, there were lines of people signing in and then taking up a spot in line to get into a booth.

Precinct 6 voters also cast ballots at the American Legion Hall (as do those living in Precinct 7), and turnout there was just as strong. Polls workers say that as of 3 p.m., over 400 voters cast ballots in Precinct 6 - almost 25 percent of the eligible voters - suggesting overall turnout in the city's smallest voting district will exceed 50 percent by the time all is said and done.

Strength in numbers...

A general rule of the thumb is that you take the voter turnout in the last four hours of the day will match the turnout recorded in the first turnout. In other words, take the percetage turnout as of 4 p.m. - double that, and you get a pretty good idea of the turnout will be at the end of the day.

At the American Legion Hall on Laurel Hill Avenue, turnout was running strong. Precinct 5 moderator Richard Hammer said at this point, "it's slowed." But still, there were lines of people signing in and then taking up a spot in line to get into a booth.

Precinct 6 voters also cast ballots at the American Legion Hall (as do those living in Precinct 7), and turnout there was just as strong. Polls workers say that as of 3 p.m., over 400 voters cast ballots in Precinct 6 - almost 25 percent of the eligible voters - suggesting overall turnout in the city's smallest voting district will exceed 50 percent by the time all is said and done.

Moving on...

Lunch seemed like a nice idea, too bad it didn't happen. Shortly after posting that last entry saying it looked like a good time for lunch, I was called into the newsroom to take care of some house cleaning matters.

So, since I'm now in Norwich, maybe it's time to take the pulse of Norwich voters - and possibly grab a bite to eat along the way.

Norwich is a solid Democratic, blue-collar community – and Democrats are expected to win here. But it’s not just winning that will be important – it’s winning big. Democrats need large margin of victories here to offset Republican wins elsewhere.
U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman won Norwich in the Aug. 8 Democratic primary, but Democratic nominee Ned Lamont has a fairly solid backing in the city going into today’s general election.
And Democratic 2nd District challenger Joseph Courtney, who won Norwich four years ago, needs to increase his margin of victory here this year in his bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons.

Voters are talking with their ballots...

21-year-old Rachel Rieger of Preston said she doesn't understand why people think younger voters are not involved.

"It's strange since all my friends vote," she said as she exited the Preston Town Hall where she cast her votes in this year's mid-term elections. A registered Republican, Rieger said she is quite comfortable with "the way things are," and sees no reason to change the direction the country is headed. She voted U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman and U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, mostly because of their work in saving the Groton submarine base. She use to work at the Nautilus Museum next to the base.

But Leilani Parker, a registered Democrat, isn't happy with the direction the country has been taking - and she voted Democrat this year, even though in the past she has supported Simmons.

"Granted he saved the base, but I looked hard at Rob and he just supports George Bush too much," she said. She conceded she doesn't knbow much about Simmons' opponent Joe Courtney, but voted for him because she wants a change in Washington.

As is the case at many polling places throughout the region today, organizations are setting up shot outside in the hopes of capitalizing on the large turnouts. Outside the Preston Town Hall were two members of the Preston VFW Post, handing our poppies in exchange for donations.

"Just wanted do a little volunteer work to help veterans," said Austin "Chris" Hudson, a post member and veteran who lives in Groton.

I think maybe it might be a good time to grab some lunch.


Next stop….Preston. And it appears that voter turnout is running strong here as well. Traffic on Route 2 near the Preston Town Hall, the lone polling place in town is heavy, with cars lining the driveway leading to Town Hall and Library.

If there was a community that one might describe as Republican, or Republican-leaning, it would be Preston. A small community, one of many in the 65-town 2nd Congressional District, Preston has a history of strong voter turnout. It will be interesting to see if there is any leanings among voters towards wanting a change in the direction of the country in how folks here are voting today.

Ledyard visit...

School is NOT in session at the Ledyard Center School, meaning all those cars in the parking lots are voters coming out in huge numbers.

"It's been fantastic," said Moderator Patricia Weiner. "It's just been steady since 6 a.m. this morning - and everything is running smoothly."

There are five voting booths at the school, each one filled with a voter - a dozen more voters waiting on line for a booth to open, and even more voters at the door of the gym waiting to register.

Outside the school, Karen Younger is manning a table selling raqffle tickets for the Ledyard High School non-alcoholic, drug free granduation party - and business has been good. "They sold ab out 50 tickets before I got here at 10, and we've sold another 10," she said.

For $10 a ticket, you get the schance to win a $2,500 gift certificate from Klingerman Travel - and use it to go anywhere. (I'm already thinking where I might use it - because now they've sold 11 tickets.)

Ledyard is still using the old mechanical voting machines, but Bjaorn Otterness said he wished the town was using one of the new optical scanners. Confined to a wheelchair, the newere technology would make voting easier for him.

As for voters and the election, lots of mixed reviews.

Steve Eichelberg, an unaffiliated voter with self-described conservative leanings, said he wasn't motivated by the call for change in the direction of the country, casting his vote for U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman and U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons.

But Chris Hanera said he was looking for change, casting his ballot for Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Ned Lamont and Democratic congressional challenger Joe Courtney - even though he has supported Simmons in the past.

"I think it's time for change in Washington," he said, "And what I'm trying to do is send a general message to Washington that it's time they do things differently."

It's time to head up Route 2 and see what's happening in Preston.


School isn in session at the Ledyard Center School, and teh parking lots are filled wuth voters arriving and departing. State Rep. Tom Reynolds, D-Ledyard, is at the gate waving to voters. He's running unopposed in his re-election bid to the General Assembly.

Ledyard is a critical community in determining the outcome in the 2nd Congressional District race.
Four years ago, when Democratic challenger Joseph Courtney made his first bid against incumbent U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, there was some controversy coming out of Ledyard. Democrats there were backing the candidacy of Jeff Benedict – and threatened to throw their support to Simmons if Benedict lost the Democratic nomination.
Benedict did lose – and Simmons took Ledyard easily in the 2002 campaign, on his way to an 8-point win over Courtney. In fact, Simmons has always done well in Ledyard.
There is no controversy this year among Democrats. But does that bode well for Courtney this time? Let’s go see.

The war in Iraq...

It's an issue on people's minds at the Mohegan Fire Station.

"It's a tough call," said voter Doreen Newman. "I don't have the answer. I think we did what we wanted to do, but now it's time to come home. It's time for a change."

Outside the polling place, volunteers for Democratic nominee Ned Lamont and incumbent U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman were wearing signs and passing out literature as a steady stream of voters came to cast ballots.

"Turnout has been crazy," said Kathy Morosky, a Lamont volunteer who took up her position at the polling place at 5:30 a.m.

"I've never seen anything like it," added Henry Banas of Ledyard, wearing signs indicating where to find LIeberman's name on the ballot. "There were lines of people waiting to get in first thing this morning.

Among those voting was John Hong - his first time voting.

"It waqs good," he said. "I got the power."

Now it's off to LOedyard.

New technology....

Montville is one of 25 communities testing the new optical scanner in this year's election.

"It's going very good," said Election Moderator Donna Carlson at Montville Town Hall where voters in Districts 1 & 6 vote. "I think voters like this system better than the old mechnical machines."

Turnout this morning has been steady, but no real rush.

Christina Baukus, a registered unaffiliated voter, said she wasn't motivated by all the talk about the Iraq War in making her decision.

"I'm more concerned with local issues," she said, "and what the candidates are going to do for the town."

Baukus said she voted for Republcan Alan Schlesinger for U.S. Senate because she believed after 18 years it was time for a change, but wasn't impressed with Democratic nominee Ned Lamont's position on issues. She also voted to keep U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, giving him credit for his efforts to save the Groton submarine base.

Outside the polling place, Ray Tondreau of Preston was wearing a number of Democratic candidate signs, waving at voters as they entered Town Hall to cast ballots.

"I haven't really talked to anyone," he said, "but I am geting a lot of thumbs up."

Time to move on...let's go see how things are at the Mohegan Fire Station on Route 32.

Quick pit stop...

The car is now gassed up and we’re ready to hit the road. We’ll head up I-395 and the first stop this morning will be Montville.
Montville is a Democratic town, with a strong independent streak. It has its own Independent Party which, over the years, has drawn from Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters to win local elections.
Turnout is important here – and the mood of voters might give us an insight as to how things will be shaking out later tonight.

A b ig showing...

First impression...turnout is definitely going to be high today. There's a steady stream of voters at the East Lyme Community Center where poll workers said it has ben pretty constant since the doors opened at 6 this morning. And there's been no let up.

Now that I've done my civic duty, it's time to fill up the gas tank and see what's going on elsewhere.

Let's do it....

It's time to get going, the beginning of the last leg of this race - and it most certainly has been a long, strange trip to say the least.

Over the course of the day, I am pleased to bring you along on my Election Day journey - in search of needles hidden in haystacks. Polls will be closing in about 12 hours, and over the next several hours we're heading out to talk with voters. What I'm hoping to learn is what kind of mood they're bringing to the polls today - some sense of how things might end up later tonight.

And along the way this morning and afternoon, I'll try and provide some history of what's happened in the past. Hopefully from that we might learn something.

First stop this morning will be the East Lyme Community Center - that's where I vote.

So, let's hit the road and get this day going.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Shameslessly promoting again...

We go national again today with another guest appearance this afternoon on MSNBC - around 3 p.m. or so. If you're near a TV and you might be interested, tune in.

And...have you ever wondered what a political reporter actually does on Election Day? Probably not...but the editors here at the Norwich Bulletin thought maybe you'd like to know. So...starting tomorrow morning, and throughout the day - all day - I'll be blogging my normal routine on the big day. Basically, I spend a good part of the day traveling from polling place to polling place throughtout eastern Connecticut, talking with voters and poll workers.

So...we'll see here you tomorrow.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Maybe it's just me....

But did anyone else raise an eyebrow about today's scheduled Veteran's Day Parade in Hartford? I realize that in the heat of a political campaign, one might lose sight of what day it is, but the last time I checked, Veteran's Day is the 11th of November - next Saturday.

So what's with a Veteran's Day Parade today - six days early?

A cynic might suggest they had to hold it today in order to get a full contingency of political leaders and would-be leaders to attend. After Tuesday, there might not be the same incentive to march.

A secret revealed....

It appears that it is spaghetti that Democrats favor when it comes to favorite food choices - or at least that would be the impression one might get considering today's activity on the campaign trail.

The Colchester Democratic Town Committee is holding it's annual spaghetti dinner this evening, and Democratic candidates are lining up for the pasta fest.

Scheduled to drop by later today are US Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, 2nd District challenger Joe Courtney, Democratic US Senate nominee Ned Lamont, Democratic gubernatorial candidate John DeStefano - and others.

Still wanting it both ways...

U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, is still trying to have it both ways - saying one thing but then doing something just the opposite.

Last week at a debate in Enfield, Simmons was asked why he isn't supporting GOP Senate candidate Alan Schlesinger - to which he responded, "I AM supporting Alan Schlesinger."

But then on Saturday, the Simmons campaign launches a new radio ad pairing himself with US Sen. Joseph Lieberman, portraying the two of them as like-minded, independent moderates working together in contrast to the partisan pairing of Democratic nominee Ned Lamont and his own challenger, 2nd District Democratic candidate Joe Courtney.

It's not the first time in this campaign that Simmons has "claimed" that he is supporting Schlesinger, and then turned around and does everything he can to link himself to Lieberman - no doubt tryng to capture whatever coattails Lieberman has here in the 2nd District.

Classic politicking....listen to what I say, but don't look at what I'm doing.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The weekend push...

Candidates in this year's election are making the weekend push. Here's some of the visits planned in eastern Connecticut.

Democratic Lt. Gov. candidate Mary Glassman will attend a New London Dinner/Rally at the Italian Dramatic Club, 79 Goshen St. tonight, 6-7 p.m.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John DeStefano will be in Colchester Sunday at the Democratic Town Committee Spaghetti Supper with US Sen. Chris Dodd 5-5:50 p.m. at the St. Joseph's Polish Society Club on South Main St.

Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will campaign with 2nd District Congressional candidate Joe Courtney in Colchester Sunday 4-5 p.m. at his campaign headquarters and then again at the St. Joseph's Polish Club on South Main (4:30 p.m.)

Star power III

One final thought on the Ben Affleck visit to UConn Friday.

Affleck and UConn Basketball Coach Jim Calhoun are both Democrats, committed to seeing Democrats like Courtney elected to Congress.

One difference, however, is that Affleck is also supporting Democratic nominee Ned Lamont for Senate while Calhoun is supporting incumbent U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman.

A bigger difference...Calhoun gets to vote in the Senate contest...Affleck doesn't.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Having a sense of humor is so important...

You expect a politician to continue to tell you that no matter what the polls are saying, no matter how far behind their opponent they are....and no matter how little time is left to try and close that gap...momemtum is on their side and they're going to surprise everyone on Election Day.

Most political pundits and those who watch these things a bit more closely than your average voter will tell you that Gov. M. Jodi Rell appears headed to easy victory on Tuesday. But don't tell John DeStefano that....

From the DeStefano campaign today....

Star power II....

Back from the University of Connecticut rally with Ben Affleck. It was short and sweet - but for the several hundred college students who attended, it was worth every moment.

"It made my UConn career," said Corey Autori, one of the many who turned out to catch a look at Affleck.

Prior to the rally, there was a press availability upstairs in the Student Union where we in the media had a chance to talk with Affleck. I asked him just how important "star power" is, and what real impact it really has on the outcome of elections.

Affleck conceded that he doesn't really expect anyone is going to vote for someone just because he's backing them, or says they're a nice guy. The reason for him coming is that he is committed to changing the direction the country is moving in, and believes that candidates like Joe Courtney can make that difference.

But more importantly, he said, it's about motivating college students to act.

"They can change their lives, and change the world," he said. "The (political) party in power has a lot of people to hit the road, cabinet secretaries, the president - but I guess he hasn't been here to UConn - the first lady. When you're not the party in power, you've got to dig deep - and here I am."

Star power....

Paul Newman is doing a TV and radio commercial for Ned Lamont .

Ben Affleck, actor, writer and director, is making a campaign stop at UConn this morning in support of 2nd Congressional District challenger Joe Courtney.

Interesting...but how much "star power" really means is up for discussion. I doubt that either of these gentlemen will have much of an influence on how people vote, but they might provide that little extra bit of motivation to get people to vote.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Five days....and counting

If it's Thursday, it must be the US Senate race.

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman brings his "delivery" tour to eastern Connecticut today to tout his success in delivering the goods for the region. The highlight of the tour will be a campaign stop outside the U.S. Navy Submarine Base and featuring former Base Realignment & Closure Commission Chairman Tony Principi, the former Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Democratic nominee Ned Lamont and Republican challenger Alan Schlesinger will be in action as well, sharing a stage at Quinnipiac University for a live television debate. The one-hour forum will be broadcast on Fox 61 beginning at 7 p.m.

The polls show a tight race with Lieberman out front and Schlesinger making some small movement upwards - but still in single digits. The question is, however, how many potential voters are there who are still up fro grabs at this point. My sense is that people have made up their minds on this one, and there's very little left for the candidates to pick up. It's all defense at this point - holding on to what you got.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

More from the pundits....

The political "experts" are being asked what are the key races to watch Tuesday to get a sense of how the night will go in terms of control of the U.S. House of Representatives. (Democrats need to pick up 15 seats to win back the control they lost in 1994). Here are a couple of thoughts that might prove interesting for us here in Connecticut.

John Zogby, highly-respected pollster, is picking as "bellweather" states the House races in New York's 26th District, Illinois' 6th District and Connecticut's 2nd District (Simmons/Courtney).
"If Democrats win, then it's curtains for the Republicans."

David Johnson, founder and CEO of Strategic Vision, picked all three Connecticut House races as key among a dozen or so to watch.
"If Republicans can hold on to two of the three in Connecticut, and two of the three in Florida, it means that the losses may not be as great as feared - although control of the House could still go to the Democrats."

And someone I know who knows a bit about the 2nd Congressional District - Norwich lawyer Glenn Carberry who twice ran for the seat (1988 and 1992) as a Republican challenger.

"(Republican) pollster Neil Newhouse has been polling the 2nd District for more than 25 years. Back in 1988, eight days out from the election, he told me exactlyby how much of a percentage I was going to lose. He was dead right," Carberry said recently.

Over the years, I've talked with Newhouse. He told me in 1994 that former Congressman Sam Gejdenson was in for the fight of his life. Gejdenson emerged the victor on Election Night that year by 4 votes over Ed Munster. In 2000, Newhouse told me Gejdenson was finally going down. He did, losing to Simmons by 1-percent.

Newhouse, who is the Simmons campaign pollster, is the only pollster thus far this year giving the incumbent the edge by a margin larger than the margin of error. (His most recent internal poll shows Simmons up 50-43 over Courtney.)

On tap for today...

I said in the previous post, yesterday was hectic - and today isn't shaping up as being any easier. Here's a quick look at what's going on:

At 4 p.m., in Waterford, Democratic gubernatorial candidate John DeStefano will hold a press conference outside the Millstone Nuclear power plant station to criticize Republican incumbent Gov. M. Jodi Rell for failing to act on her promise to conduct a study of potential contamination resulting in exposure by young children in the surrounding area.

At 7 p.m., in Enfield, U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, and Democratic challenger Joseph Courtney will meet at the Enfield High School for a 90-minute debate hosted by students. It is either the 10th or 12th meeting between the two in this campaign, depending on who you talk to and what events you count. What I do know for certain is, it is the LAST.

At 8 p.m., in Willimantic, two-time Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader will be the featured speaker at a $10 per person, $5 for students, fundraiser to benefit the Green Party. Nader will also formally endorse the gubernatorial candidacy of Green Party candidate Clifford Thornton.


Tuesday was a crazy day - all out and no time to add anything here. So we'll try and add some items this morning because today isn't looking any saner.

The other night, just before dinner, my home phone rang. A young man on the other end of the line told me he was conducting a poll for the upcoming elections. (I didn't catch what organization he was working for.) He asked if I would mind answering some questions - assuring me it would only take a few minutes. I said sure.

First question was how likely was it that I would be voting Tuesday - extremely, very likely, probably or not a at all. I said extremely.

Second there anyone in your household who works for an advertising company, media company, newspaper or political campaign. I said yes.

He said...thank you, have a nice night...and hung up. Just what I needed to hear - my opinion doesn't count.

Okay, new polls out today.

The Quinnipiac University Poll:
U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman holding a 12-point lead over Democratic nominee Ned Lamont, 49-37 - down from the 17-point lead in the last Q-poll with the shift coming from the unaffiliated ranks. GOP candidate Alan Schlesinger inching up to 8 points.

Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell losing a bit of ground, but still holding a commanding lead with less than a week to go over Democratic challenger John DeStefano, 59-33.

The Day of New London/Journal Inquirer poll shows Democratic challenger Joseph Courtney holding a slim 1-percentage point lead over 2nd District Republican incumbent Rob Simmons, 48-47 with 11 percent undecided. Well within the margin of error to again classify this race as "up in the air."

Just a thought, but in the last poll, the number that jumps out at me is the undecided. With only six days remaining, and both candidates very well known, that's a high number of folks who haven't yet made a final decision. It suggests that voters are struggling with the idea that in order to make that change in the direction of the country - that poll indicates a vast majority want - that they'll have to start it here by changing their congressman. It suggests that is proving to be a difficult choice.