"Politics is tough," Simsbury Republican Lisa Wilson-Foley observed as she conceded the 5th Congressional District party primary to state Sen. Andrew Roraback Tuesday night. A last-minute attack on second-place finisher Mark Greenberg revealed Wilson-Foley as mistaking a wild pitch for a fastball. Despite heavy spending, Wilson-Foley failed to crack 10 percent of the vote in more than a quarter of the district's 41 towns.
Both Wilson-Foley and Greenberg are done with politics after each lost in 2010 and this year. The casualties mounted Tuesday night as districts reported results. Susan Bysiewicz has been around state politics for so long that even a string of humiliating defeats and setbacks fail to convince politicos that her ambition — the only thing for which she is now known — could be doused for good. Nevertheless, it's hard to see a place for her, particularly after she refused to pull a demonstrably false ad attacking her Democratic U.S. Senate opponent, Christopher Murphy.
By her errors, Bysiewicz reduced herself from underdog to flailing pol without a discernible code of conduct. The Middletown Democrat has accumulated an astounding amount of ill-will among her fellow Democrats. That's unlikely to diminish as she hunts for opportunities to revive her dreary prospects.
The most bitter candidate in the U.S. Senate race remained the vanquished Christopher Shays. He returned to Connecticut from his waterside spread in Maryland to face fellow Republican Linda McMahon and showed himself a stranger to the party faithful. While running from his 21-year record in Congress, Shays found time to spew contempt and venom at McMahon. The party faithful gave Shays a paltry 27 percent of the vote.
Speaker of the House Christopher Donovan may have intended to deliver a concession speech at the end of his stunning reversal of fortune in the 5th Congressional District Democratic race, but that isn't how it sounded. Donovan, who won the party's nomination, was the front-runner until a federal criminal investigation into fundraising practices decimated his campaign in June. His chief fundraiser and campaign manager resigned and were arrested, accused of conniving to receive illegal campaign contributions, paving a path to victory for Cheshire's haughty Elizabeth Esty.
So Donovan hit a dissonant note early in his address to supporters when he renewed his support for changes in campaign finance laws. He might have made a more convincing advocate if his campaign had concentrated on obeying the simple ones on the books. Donovan was undone by the campaign crisis and was never able to move beyond platitudes proclaiming his ignorance of the alleged scheme that sent $27,500 into his campaign treasury.
There were other losers whose names were not on the ballot. Danbury's mayor, Mark Boughton, briefly a rising star among Republicans, was Wilson-Foley's most prominent and determined supporter, even after news broke of a federal criminal investigation into her connections to felonious former Gov. John Rowland. Wilson-Foley won Danbury, but with less than 40 percent of the vote. Boughton's prospects dimmed Tuesday.
The curious collection of former President Bill Clinton, a bewildered Kennedy, Martin Luther King III, and political personality James Carville did little for Democrat Dan Roberti in the 5th. The Kent Democrat's campaign never seemed to have a point other than to give the recent Central Park South transplant something to do.
The winners are braced for a tumultuous general election campaign. The Senate race will be especially rough. Murphy signaled that on Tuesday afternoon when he told Connecticut Public Radio, "I've spend the last 10 years fighting for the citizens of Connecticut. Linda McMahon spent the last 10 years fighting to pad her pockets."
Translation: Murphy, after a privileged youth, has spent his adulthood in politics, flogging people with business before the government to contribute to his campaigns. McMahon, in contrast, worked in a business and made a lot of money.
In Murphy's world, success outside government and politics is suspect, something to be disparaged. This has become orthodoxy on the left, where Murphy dwells. He may find McMahon knows how to make the case for a different, more congenial philosophy that values more than a life in government, showing him from a different angle that politics can indeed be very tough.