DFER-Connecticut 2018 Playbook


Connecticut, like most of the nation, appears to be on track for a Blue Wave in November 2018. In most midterm election years, with a difficult budget and unpopular Democratic Governor, you would expect Democrats to be on the defensive. The toxicity of President Trump has made it increasingly likely that Democrats will make significant gains in legislative districts, in line with national trends. This document highlights the electoral data and trends we are seeing here in Connecticut.

Importantly, a strong Democratic majority in the State Senate in 2019 could lead to significant strides for Connecticut students. With the recent retirement announcement of Senator Slossberg, the longtime Chair of the General Assembly Education Committee, the possibility of new leadership becomes a key factor. Republicans in the State Senate will likely offer more of the same status quo stewardship for this committee by elevating Co-Chair Toni Boucher, however, Democrats have signaled change must come.



Democrats in Connecticut have often struggled to motivate their voters in midterm elections while the Republican base traditionally has remained mobilized. “Down-ballot Drop-off ” among Democrats has been the reason Connecticut is considered a reliably blue state for Presidential candidates, but it has only seen one Democratic Governor in the last three decades. Hillary Clinton was the victor in 27 out of 36 state senate districts, yet the chamber was tied 18-18 in 2016. With no additional investment in spending from national Democrats in Connecticut in 2016, and a limited statewide budget, this was how Republicans succeeded in a partisan turnout operation.

There is fertile ground for Democrats to re-claim or pick up these seats while Republicans stand at a disadvantage.


2016 Presidential Performance by State Senate District




In 2017, the off-year election results were instructive in Connecticut. Democrats flipped 22 Connecticut First Selectman and municipal leadership majorities. Of irregular Republican voters, 12.5% came out, and 9.5% of irregular Democratic voters cast ballots. Given the nearly 2 to 1 registration advantage for CT Democrats, this led to twice as many Democrats coming out across the state. The momentum carried through to last month’s Special Election for House District 121 in Stratford. The district had been held by a Republican for the last 42 years but this year Democratic enthusiasm resulted in a 60 vote advantage for Democrat Phil Young. If this enthusiasm gap persists, seven Republican controlled senate seats will be in play (six of seven were won by Hillary Clinton in 2016). Democrats will only have two vulnerable incumbents to protect, and could be looking at a solid majority in 2019.


Democratic Turnout Advantage in 2017 Connecticut Municipal Elections




Several seats are in play for 2018, and while it remains early, it appears that Democrats have the edge on candidate recruitment and fundraising. The following are districts where we could see turnover.


Open GOP Seats:

Republicans have two open seats – the 33rd and the 16th. The 33rd has been a battleground in recent elections, but one that Hillary Clinton scored victory by small margins. With an open seat vacated by Art Linares, this is fully in play. The 16th had been held for a number of years by Tea Party Conservative Joe Markley who is now running for statewide office.


Challenge Districts:

Republican incumbents control the 13th, 17th, and the 24th State Senate districts. Each of these districts are home to a major urban center: 13 (Len Suzio, Meriden), 17 (George Logan, Hamden), and 24 (Michael McLachlan, Danbury).


Long Shots:

Then there are the Fairfield County seats, the 26th and 28th, that are currently controlled by Republican Senators – Toni Boucher (26 – Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton) and Tony Hwang (28 – Easton, Fairfield, Newtown, Weston, and Westport).


Democratic Defense:

On the Democratic side, the two vulnerable seats are the 4th and 12th. In the 4th Senate District, Steve Cassano is up for his 5th election to the State Senate. After a narrow win in 2016, the Democrats understand that this is a target. It also consists of two Republican State Representative districts that have strong Democratic tendencies. The 12th has been consistently Democratic but with a vacancy by Ted Kennedy, Jr, this seat could be competitive.


2016 Clinton Performance in Competitive State Senate Districts