Low turnout sets stage for big election

It's now on to the main event.

Tuesday's state primary produced no upsets. But there were a couple of surprises, among them former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy's large margin of victory over Ned Lamont in the Democratic race for governor, 58 percent to 42 percent. Mr. Malloy had trailed in the polls since winning the convention in May, but by the eve of the primary he had closed to within the statistical margin of error.

Still, no one, including Mr. Malloy, apparently saw such a big victory coming. Core Democrats, including public labor unions, were apparently more comfortable with the experienced mayor than the businessman, Mr. Lamont.

Four years ago Mr. Lamont, in taking on Sen. Joe Lieberman on an anti-Iraq war platform, inspired many in his party. No such inspiration was apparent in this campaign. In the end, to try to save his political skin, Mr. Lamont went extremely and unfairly negative against his opponent, suggesting he was letting handlers make the calls and not acting true to his own ideals.

After outspending his opponent 4-to-1, about $9 million in all, and still losing, this could mark the end of Mr. Lamont's political aspirations.

While Mr. Malloy rides momentum into the general election, the Republican winner in the governor's race, Tom Foley, barely hung on, squeezing out a narrow victory over Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele after being far ahead in the polls just a few weeks ago.

The Day endorsed both Mr. Malloy and Mr. Foley, and this should be a good contest. The Democrat says he's serious about cutting government spending, but without adversely affecting services to those most in need and while investing in education. Mr. Malloy must explain how he can do all these things.

For his part, Mr. Foley's contention that he can close a $3.5 billion budget gap without some new tax revenues is not credible. On the other hand, voters may consider this pragmatic businessman to be just the guy to slash state spending.

In the race to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, we fear things will be very ugly. Political outsider Linda McMahon won Tuesday's GOP primary handily and will face Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic nominee. Ms. McMahon is ready to spend upwards of $30 million of her fortune, accumulated as former CEO of the WWE wrestling empire, to bring down her opponent's approval ratings.

Expect to hear plenty about those video clips of Mr. Blumenthal embellishing his Vietnam-era military record. And look for Ms. McMahon to depict Mr. Blumenthal as anti-business, rather than consumer crusader.

Meanwhile, the Blumenthal campaign will remind voters that Ms. McMahon accumulated her wealth in an industry that has denigrated women and individuals with special needs, exploited wrestlers and has a history of steroid abuse.

We'd urge the candidates to stick to the issues, but would probably have more luck asking the sun not to set.

Most disappointing was Tuesday's turnout; about 25 percent of eligible Democrats and Republicans voted. While Aug. 10 is a lousy time for an election and negative campaigning may have turned off voters, the lack of participation is still distressing and inexcusable. Everyone seemingly complains about the economy and the state budget crisis, but few could bother to vote.

Citizens need to pay attention and participate, because elections have consequences.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Pat Richardson, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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