Election 2018 recap: What comes next after the Democrats big wins?
A blue wave swept through Ridgefield for the second straight year last Tuesday night.
Democrats won eight of the 10 contested races in the Ridgefield vote, losing only the General Assembly races for the 111th and 138th districts in Connecticut’s House of Representatives.
Republican John Frey captured re-election from Democratic challenger Aimee Berger-Girvalo to represent the 111th District. Republican incumbent Michael Ferguson won the 138th race in town — 274 to 249 votes, but ultimately lost it to Democrat Ken Gucker in out-of-town elections.
For Republicans, the difference was the Democrats’ ability to inspire young Ridgefield voters to come out to the polls on Election Day.
“They got the vote out. And part of that was getting young people engaged and registered to vote … they did a better job of it than we did,” said Bob Cascella, treasurer of the Republican Town Committee.
“We got to brush ourselves off, clean out the headquarters, have a nice holiday season, and then get back to work — we have a pretty big municipal election next season,” Cascella added.
Democratic Town Committee Chair Alex Harris also pointed to voter turnout as helping blue candidates.
“The truism among Democrats is that if we show up, we win … it’s an oversimplification but there’s some truth to that,” he said.
Besides Frey’s triumph and Ferguson’s win in Ridgefield’s fourth voting district, Democrats won every other race.
For governor and lieutenant governor, the town narrowly picked Democrats Ned Lamont and Susan Bysiewicz over Republicans Bob Stefanowski and Joe Markley, with 6,385 to 6,167 votes.
In the United States Senate race, Democratic incumbent Chris Murphy beat back Republican rival Matthew Corey with 7,621 votes to Corey’s 4,990.
In the House, Congressman Jim Himes also handily won Ridgefield in his re-election bid to represent Connecticut’s 4th District, beating Republican Harry Arora with 7,531 votes to 5,169.
Democratic newcomer Will Haskell, a 22-year-old Westport native, unseated Republican incumbent Toni Boucher, gathering 6,596 Ridgefield votes to Boucher’s 6,144.
For secretary of the state, Democrat Denise W. Merrill beat Republican Susan Chapman 6,836 votes to 5,623.
Attorney General-elect William Tong, Treasurer-elect Shawn Wooden, and Comptroller Kevin Lembo all swept up votes in Ridgefield before sealing statewide victories.
Paint the town purple
Voter affiliation suggests Ridgefield, historically a Republican town, is gaining registered Democrats and losing registered Republicans.
There are now 5,708 registered Democrats in Ridgefield, compared to 5,267 reported in The Press last year.
Republican voters number 6,032 — down slightly from the 6,085 recorded last year.
Unaffiliated voters are still the largest group, with 6,635 registered without any party affiliation, up from 6,461 last year.
This year, 246 voters are registered with a third party, which includes the Greens and Libertarians.
Of the 18,575 voters registered as of Election Day, the town recorded 12,910 voters as having cast a ballot. That includes the 88 voters who registered on Election Day.
Both sides of the aisle admitted that President Donald Trump’s near-daily provocations likely helped propel voters to the polls.
“I think it’s a referendum on the Republican Party as a whole,” said Harris, when asked about Trump on election night. “Ridgefielders, and I think people all across Connecticut, see in Trump a vile, vulgar individual — but he’s one person. In the Republican Party they see monolithic multitudes falling in lockstep with that vile individual.”
Cascella also admitted that being associated with Trump had driven voters away.
“I would say this, President Trump has a way about him. I don’t always appreciate how he says things,” he said. “[He is an] easy guy not to like.”
‘Proof of concept’
Beyond Trump, Harris pointed to two factors he thinks will sustain the blue wave in future elections — First Selectman Rudy Marconi’s presence in office, and the maturing of younger voters.
Marconi, he said, is a “proof of concept” that Democratic candidates can provide “excellence in office.”
“Rudy made it safe for voters in Ridgefield, who had never done so before, to vote Democratic,” said Harris.
Harris pointed to research by the statistician Nate Silver, which suggests that at a certain point, younger voters’ habit of turning out to vote will stick as a habit.
He believes that among young voters there’s a greater awareness “that you can’t just show up once every four years.”
But he also admitted that blue voters have a “spottier record” for turning out in “non-presidential years.”
“Partially, that’s the party organizing and communicating better with voters,” Harris said. “Democratic voters, in and of themselves, have a renewed sense of seriousness.”
Cascella also acknowledged that the Ridgefield Republican Town Committee has to do a better job at appealing to younger voters.
“I think we have to get people engaged in our party at all ages,” he said. “We need to get some more young people that are conservatives involved.”
That doesn’t just mean getting young Republicans to vote or run for local office, he said, but also getting them involved in town issues, and encouraging them to share their expertise with officials.
“Maybe you have knowledge to share with our Republicans who are on one of those commissions,” he said. “I want to get new ideas I want to get fresh ideas.”