I always look forward to writing a column right after an election, especially a state or local one. I’ll leave the analysis of the national election results to someone else. Wallingford, CT, is, fortunately, hundreds of physical miles from Washington, D.C., and hopefully several light years distant in civility from there.
There are two topics this column will address: 1) the numbers for Wallingford alone, comparing them to state results; and 2) one of the potential impacts that Wallingford is likely to see in the not-too-distant future.
First of all, let’s look at the numbers. As far as the statewide races are concerned, here in Wallingford, Republican/Independent candidates outpolled their Democrat/Working Party opponents in the races for governor, comptroller and attorney general, and came within 1 percent in the secretary of state and treasurer races. Republican Sen. Len Fasano and State Reps. Candelora and Fishbein are heading back to Hartford to represent us as well.
These results would seem to indicate that Wallingford demographics have been changing over the last couple of decades. Our heritage as a mill town has given way to that of a suburban community. While Democrats swept the statewide races and built substantial majorities in both legislative houses, that was not the case here.
As usual, incumbency is a great advantage. Mary Mushinsky won handily yet again, and it would appear that some voters split their tickets to vote for her. Her opponent, Don Crouch, did a credible job, but it is always going to be an uphill climb against Mary, who has been in Hartford since 1981. The aforementioned Republican candidates no doubt also benefited from their status as incumbents. This is not to minimize their own records in Hartford, especially Senator Len Fasano’s tremendous impact in state government.
The impact of this election on Wallingford is harder to predict, but there is one particular topic which I am afraid we will not be pleased with. The personal property tax (aka car tax for most of us) is going to be reformed. Because the state’s urban areas have such sky-high mill rates, the automobiles owned by their residents are commensurately taxed at a much higher rate than cars belonging to those living in towns such as Wallingford. By switching from a local car tax to a state one, the legislature will eliminate those differences by having a statewide tax. Two results: Wallingford residents, having a low mill rate, will pay more than we do presently — probably a lot more. Secondly, expect Wallingford to get significantly short-changed when the tax money is divvied up between the cities and towns, just as we already are when it comes to the Education Cost Sharing grants and so many other state programs.
Because the cities are essentially completely represented by Democrats, and Democrats now have every level of state political power, expect to see this issue visited early. The four largest cities in Connecticut are all on state government life support already. Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin was the canary in the mineshaft when he came out a couple of years ago looking for state government to devise some way for surrounding suburban communities to financially contribute to his city. So towns like Wallingford can expect tough sledding when it comes to getting an equitable share of state financial support.
In conclusion, let me close by saying that just this past Thursday, I read Governor-elect Lamont suggest the he is going to unify this very divided state, and that good ideas, wherever they come from, will be given serious consideration.
My, wouldn’t that be refreshing.
The only time Malloy would give Republicans the time of day was when he needed to share responsibility for an unpopular decision he had made.
Connecticut is in big trouble. Everybody knows that. I truly hope that Ned Lamont can find a way out of this morass. Like it or not, he is our governor — governor for every citizen of this state. If he listens to only those voices with whom he shares a party label, his administration will be missing out on an opportunity to build a consensus that has eluded us for the past eight years.
I wish him luck — and all of us as well. We’re going to need it.
Stephen Knight is a former Wallingford town councilor.
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