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A Cautionary Tale for GOP in Feb. 27 Special: Turnout Matters

March 7, 2018 By Staff
A Cautionary Tale for GOP in Feb. 27 Special: Turnout Matters

The GOP lost a state representative's seat in Stratford that it had held for decades. One lesson from the race, for both parties? Turnout matters.

On February 27, Democrat Phil Young defeated Republican Phil Cabral by a mere 63 votes in a special election to fill the 120th Assembly District seat held by former State Representative and current Mayor Laura Hoydick (R-Stratford).

The Connecticut Democratic Party celebrated the news as a rejection of “Trump’s playbook of scare tactics and those of the leadership in the Connecticut Republican Party.” Connecticut Democrats also pointed to national headlines about the special election.

Despite Connecticut Democrats’ presentation of the news – Republicans are, in fact, outperforming Democrats in Connecticut’s special elections since Donald Trump’s inauguration, according to FiveThirtyEight – there’s a cautionary tale in last month’s special for both parties: turnout matters.

The Republican Hoydick won re-election to the seat in 2016, when 11,981 turned out to vote in the 120th Assembly District.

In 2018, only 3,171 turned out to vote, and it appears more Republicans than Democrats stayed home, allowing Democrats to flip the seat.

According to turnout data shared with Reclaim Connecticut by a source in local politics, Democrats beat Republicans on turnout in six of eight key precincts. Here’s how turnout broke down in Stratford, by precinct:

  • Straford 01: GOP turnout 27.2%; Dem turnout 29.0%
  • Straford 02: GOP turnout 25.0%; Dem turnout 25.3%
  • Straford 05: GOP turnout 11.7%; Dem turnout 14.2%
  • Straford 06: GOP turnout 23.8%; Dem turnout 21.3%
  • Straford 07: GOP turnout 26.5%; Dem turnout 27.9%
  • Straford 08: GOP turnout 28.2%; Dem turnout 30.7%
  • Straford 09: GOP turnout 27.5%; Dem turnout 30.8%
  • Straford 10: GOP turnout 25.7%; Dem turnout 21.9%

It’s unclear where the blame lies in the 120th Assembly District, but with control of the governor’s mansion and control of both chambers of the state legislature up for grabs in November 2018, the future direction of the state may come down to which party turns out its voters better.