Is Stamford the new “Center of the Universe?”

Or, perhaps the better question is who will be the Winners and Losers as the Malloy Administration seeks to balance the role of “delegate vs. trustee”.

Dan Malloy and Nancy Wyman

Sometimes the answer to this type of inquiry is pretty simple.  When it came to the question of winners and losers, disgraced former Governor John Rowland was famous for saying that Waterbury, Connecticut was the center of the Universe and he consistently used the governor’s office to ensure that his home city got “its fair share” of state resources. 

It was never quite clear who or what was Governor Jodi Rell’s priority.  But now, Connecticut is getting a new governor and we wait, with baited breath, to see how Dan Malloy approaches this issue.

The fact is, since the dawn of democracy, a debate has “raged” as to whether elected officials should think of themselves as “delegates or trustees” for the people.  Some, like American President James Madison argued that representatives should be driven by the expressed positions of their constituents while others, such as the English Philosopher Edmund Burke argued that voters send their elected officials to acquire the facts and determine the best course of action regardless of what the constituents may want or direct. 

While American politicians tend to straddle the fence on this issue, the majority see themselves more as trustees than delegates.  Deep down they believe Burke’s famous 1774 quote that “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”  Interestingly, Burke lost his parliamentary seat in the election following his pronouncement on the subject.

But even when acting in the role of “representative” the question remains, which constituents does one seek to represent; Does the new governor seek to follow the will of the 3.5 million residents of Connecticut, the 2 million who took the time to register to vote, the 1.2 million or so who turned out to vote, the 567,000 (or about 49%) who voted for the Malloy/Wyman ticket, the people who reside in the towns where Malloy got 50% of the vote and the list goes on.

Certainly the towns that provided the new governor with a majority of the votes cast have a significant claim to being heard, represented and helped in the coming year.  Governor-elect Malloy won 40 of Connecticut’s 169 towns (although the Democratic candidates for the other Constitutional Offices each won about 94 of the state’s 169 towns).  As a result of the Malloy campaign’s urban strategy, he was able to capture big wins in most of the state’s largest cities and received huge margins in all 11 towns with poverty rates of over 10 percent. 

Hartford led the way providing Malloy with 88% of their vote, followed by New Haven at 85%, Bridgeport 81%, Bloomfield 76%, New London 67%, New Britain 66% and Windham at 62%.  Malloy also did extraordinarily well in his home town of Stamford capturing an impressive 58% of the vote.

Of course, traditionally most politicians also pay particular attention to their campaign’s financial donors since without them, the campaign itself would have been impossible.  Even with Malloy receiving public financing, raising the funds to qualify for the state grant was an essential part of his success and a review of where those funds came from creates a very different pool of people who will likely expect to be “represented” in the battles ahead. 

Malloy’s exploratory and candidate committees received more than 5,700 campaign contributions, of which 90% were from Connecticut residents. (Donations from New York, Massachusetts and Florida came next). 

While Fairfield Country accounts for about 25% of Connecticut’s population, more than 45% of Malloy’s donors came from “downstate” and all together Fairfield Country donors provided a whopping 57% of the money Malloy raised in order to qualify for public funds.  The towns of Stamford, Greenwich, New Canaan and Darien alone accounted for more than $270,000 of Malloy’s donations.

The New Center of the Universe?
While certainly none of this is to suggest that Dan Malloy or his Administration would be driven exclusively by who provided the funds necessary to qualify for the public financing grant or even which towns provided Malloy with the margin he needed to win, there is no question that it will make good fodder for discussion and debate as the incoming Administration grapples with how to address Connecticut’s financial crisis.
A Note to Observers:  An early indication of the Malloy Administration’s approach to key constituencies will become evident when they roll out their first budget proposal.  Connecticut’s poorest cities are hoping Malloy will protect their level of state aid while advocates for the poor hope he will propose an earned income tax credit to help Connecticut’s working poor.  Meanwhile, Connecticut’s wealthiest citizens will be hoping Malloy relies on across the board income tax increases rather than building progressivity into the tax code and that he doesn’t go with the recent call by Democratic legislators to expand the state’s estate tax.
  • Okay, Jon, I understand you are engaged in punditory speculation here. But keep in mind that, before the crash, Fairfield’s 25% of the population provided about half of the state’s income tax revenue. When the county tanked, it took the state with it. Rebuilding and diversifying Fairfield County’s business base will have to be a high priority for Governor Malloy. (“Governor Malloy”–it feels good to say that!)

  • The people are the loosers as has been the case for decades. When only 20% of registered voters show up for the democratic primary and over eight hundred thousand of registered voters did not vote in the governor race—you tell me who are the winners and loosers. This does not take into consideration the 3 to 4 hundred thousand who are not registered to vote. This sends a solid message to politicians which says—the people don’t care, we the politicians can do what we want—and that is just what has happened in the last five decades. Through this process our young voters age 18-25 probably voted in the 20 percentile. They will soon take over—what does the future hold?

  • jonpelto

    Dave, I hear you and those of us from the “other Connecticut” love Fairfield County. Like so much of what I write – some of it is tongue in cheek and some is rather serioius. I will say that in the enthocentric world of Hartford, Connecticut politics here are certainly a number of people in the political world who are wondering what it means to have a Democratic governor from Fairfield County who won as a result of a successful urban strategy….

  • andrea

    Hmmmm seems to me that for a very long time, Stamford wasn’t actually considered a part of CT!
    Malloy is great and I will repeat that again and again. Besides- if he can do for the children of Connecticut what he has done for Stamford well our education system will be great!

    • jonpelto

      Andrea, i agree! (and I say we just overlook the fact that Stamford isn’t even part of Connecticut). He is a great guy and we’ll call him our own (despite that).