Voters To Head To The Polls, With Governor's Race Too Close To Call

Fred Sellberg sets up voting machines in the gymnasium of Mountain View Elementary School in Bristol in preparation for Tuesday's election. (JOHN WOIKE)

Connecticut voters will decide the state's next governor, choose a new U.S. senator, and determine whether Republicans gain any of the state's five congressional seats, now all held by Democrats.

The governor's race is expected to be the closest in more than a decade. And in a U.S. Senate race that has already cost more than $50 million, Democrat Richard Blumenthal is fighting to maintain his 9-point lead against Republican Linda McMahon.

At least two congressional incumbents, Democrats Jim Himes in the 4th District and Chris Murphy in the 5th, face tough challenges in a year when a Republican wave is expected across the nation.

Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, the state's top elections official, predicted a voter turnout of 60 percent to 65 percent.

• List Of Schools Closed For Election Day

"Sixty is what we generally get for a mid-term election,'' she said.

In 2002, the turnout was 56.5 percent; in 2006, about 60 percent. In contrast, the 2008 presidential election, when candidate Barack Obama energized many voters, had a turnout of 78 percent.

In an election-related development Monday, Stamford-based World Wrestling Entertainment made a last-minute decision to drop plans to hand out wrestling gear at polling places. An attorney for WWE Chairman Vince McMahon received a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice that cautioned that paying citizens to vote is a criminal violation. McMahon, husband of former WWE CEO Linda McMahon, had announced the giveaway last week after it was established that voters could wear WWE gear to the polls.

Linda McMahon ran into problems of her own Monday when a late-morning stop at the University of Connecticut turned into a clash with student protesters and allegations that one student had shoved a female McMahon supporter.

Late Foley Surge

In the governor's race, the voting begins as Republican challenger Tom Foley appears to be surging in a bitter gubernatorial battle against Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy. After being behind in all public polls since the general election campaign began in August, Foley has taken the lead in three polls in the final days.

The latest Quinnipiac University Poll of likely voters, released Monday, showed Foley with a 3-point lead over Malloy. But the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points, meaning that Foley's lead is "statistically insignificant,'' said pollster Douglas Schwartz.

"We had a lot of movement in the last week,'' Schwartz told reporters at the state Capitol. "We saw a shift over to Foley. ... It's the first time that he has the lead, but I have to emphasize that it is within the margin of error. It is too close to call. Malloy can certainly still pull this out."

Even on the eve of the election, there was potential movement because 6 percent of voters surveyed by Quinnipiac were still undecided and 11 percent said they could still change their minds before voting.

Malloy's supporters, such as former Lt. Gov. Kevin B. Sullivan, say that the well-oiled machinery of the ground game will provide a solid, get-out-the-vote effort that will match the successful effort that allowed Malloy to come from behind and defeat Greenwich cable TV executive Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary in August. Malloy's team believes that history will repeat itself less than three months later.

"In the past few days, some polls have had us up, some down, and some within the margin of error,'' Malloy campaign manager Dan Kelly said Monday. "Today's Quinnipiac poll shows us down 3 points — the same deficit we faced the day before the primary. We are confident that Dan's strength as a closer, coupled with our ground game, will result in a victory tomorrow."

Dating to his days as Stamford mayor, Malloy has a documented history of coming from behind in races. He had been far behind when he lost by 1.5 percentage points to New Haven Mayor John DeStefano in the 2006 race for governor.

Candidates will be crisscrossing the state today as both Republicans and Democrats try to bring out the vote.

Malloy is scheduled to vote in his Shippan neighborhood in Stamford at 6:15 a.m. before reaching the Stamford train station at 6:45 a.m. He then will head to polling places in Stamford, Bridgeport, Danbury, Newington and other communities before heading to Hartford to watch the results after the polls close at 8 p.m. Foley will be voting at the Western Greenwich Civic Center shortly after 6 a.m. and then taking a tour of polling places in Fairfield County that will include Malloy's voting spot on Shippan Avenue in Stamford.