Kevin Rennie: Voters' 'Great Rebuke' Of Trump Begins

Voters gave us a glimpse of the Great Rebuke that is taking shape in reaction to the loathsome demagogue's first year in the White House. It is part of our strength that our tradition of frequent elections allows voters to express their disapproval and dismay in peaceful and emphatic measures.

Disapproval of Donald Trump and supine Republicans did not show itself in every contest. Protest votes never do. But in many states, including Connecticut, it can be found in enough results to be a trend that no one should doubt. Municipal campaigns are the ones in which you most often see voters crossing party lines and splitting their tickets. There was much less of that Tuesday than usual.

In many places, the stigma of being a Republican was enough to cause Republicans to lose control of local boards that they have often won in the past despite being outnumbered by registered Democrats. In low turnout elections, which municipal elections almost always are, if one party can energize just a chunk of its members it can be decisive. It was in many towns on Tuesday.

In the Hartford area, Glastonbury was the prime example. Republicans have enjoyed decisive control of the town council for two decades. The difference this year was that, in affluent towns along the East Coast, Democrats and Democratic-leaning unaffiliated voters were not voting for Republicans as they often do in local elections.

Fairfield County saw the Democratic vote surge in many areas that had been reliably Republican in local elections. Republicans suffered unexpected defeats or close calls in places they are accustom to winning in off years. Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei, seeking a record sixth two-year term, saw his usual thumping margin of victory cut to just several percentage points.

Here's a cautionary tale for those Trump-loving Republicans. In New Canaan, about as Republican as a town gets in Connecticut, enthusiastic Trump supporter Kevin Moynihan eked out a win by 33 votes for first selectman in a place where the contest would not be close in a normal year. In the town of Fairfield, the Democrats trounced the Republicans by taking control of the Representative Town Meeting.

Mark Boughton, the mayor of Danbury and a Republican expected to run for governor, won another big victory. The traditionally Republican towns around Danbury saw Democrats win, ousting Republican incumbents. The extent of Boughton's win may improve his chances in the ferocious and crowded race for the Republican nomination for governor.

The same cannot be said for Trumbull's Tim Herbst. The disputatious Republican had a close call in 2015 and would likely have lost this year, so he did not run for re-election. Instead, he is concentrating on a bid for governor. His Trumbull Republicans suffered humiliating losses. The voters may have been sending a message to the rest of Connecticut. No one should be surprised if Trumbull Democrats use their new authority to scrutinize the details of Herbst's administration.

There was another cautionary tale two states away. New Jersey's Chris Christie is the nation's most unpopular governor, narrowly beating our own Dannel P. Malloy for that distinction. Christie's Republican lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, bore the brunt of voters disdain for the obnoxious incumbent in her doomed bid to take his place. Guadagno could never shake the stench of Christie. She lost to a retired Wall Street baron by 13 points. New Jersey does love its rich Democrats, though not always for long.

Guadagno's unhappy fate ought to cause Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman to take note. With a weak Democratic field seeking the party's nomination to succeed Malloy, it must be tempting for the 30-year veteran of public office to mount a bid for governor.

Malloy's legacy of failure would be a burden for his nodder-in-chief of the last seven years. Thousand of voters found a way on Tuesday to express their disdain for Donald Trump. It does not mean they have deluded themselves into thinking that seven years of terrible decisions haven't imposed a dire cost on Connecticut.

The state, for example, has suffered three consecutive months of job losses while the national economy continues to expand. A year can bring many changes in a vibrant democracy, but the last seven have not brought much good to Connecticut.

Kevin Rennie is a lawyer and a former Republican state legislator. He can be reached at kfrennie@yahoo.com.

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