Moving past the Aug. 12 primary

NOTE: Updated version corrects Mr. Satti's first name.

Connecticut should stop holding its primary elections in the middle of summer.

On Aug. 12, Republicans were asked to choose who should be their nominee to try to unseat the incumbent Democrat, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. It was a critical decision for a party that finds itself in Connecticut's political wasteland. Democrats control all five congressional seats and both senatorial positions, as well as both houses of the state legislature.

The governorship is one place where Republicans have seen success, controlling the executive branch for four consecutive terms until Gov. Malloy's 2010 election. One would think Connecticut's 401,000 Republicans would be very invested in picking their candidate, yet only 20 percent showed up to vote, selecting Tom Foley over Sen. John McKinney. That set up a rematch of the 2010 race.

While that lack of energy in the Republican base should cause concern for the party - 30 percent of Republican voters showed up four years ago to nominate Mr. Foley - a contributing culprit is the nonsensical election date.

People are generally not engaged in politics in the middle of summer. They are taking vacations, puttering around the yard, hitting the links, reeling in fish; in other words, enjoying the fleeting experience that is summer in New England.

If you wanted to pick a date to discourage turnout, Aug. 12 would probably be a good choice.

Connecticut is an outlier in this regard. Twenty-nine states conduct their primaries in May and June, giving the public the summer off before re-engaging in politics as autumn arrives, which sounds like the better option. A handful of states hold off until September. Connecticut joins a dozen others in thinking August is a good time to ask voters to pick candidates.

It's time to move the primary to May or June.

20th Senatorial District

The most watched state legislative election will be in the 20th District, where the Republican candidate, East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica, is facing Democrat Betsy Ritter to fill the seat long held by Democratic Sen. Andrea Stillman.

The political stakes are high. Republicans see this race as among the best chances to pick up a legislative seat and begin eroding the dominance of the Democrats in the General Assembly. In running Mr. Formica, who has proved a popular first selectman, they are fielding a strong candidate.

So are the Democrats. Rep. Ritter is surrendering her secure 38th House seat, and the position of deputy majority leader, to make the Senate attempt. Democrats at the state level, including outgoing Senate President Donald Williams of Brooklyn, aggressively lobbied her to go for it. They want to keep this seat.

Rep. Ritter proved her strength as a candidate in the Aug. 12 primary, handily defeating challenger Bill Satti, chairman of the New London Democratic Town Committee and progeny of a family with deep political roots in the Democratic Party.

While Mr. Satti won New London, as expected, Rep. Ritter prevailed convincingly everywhere else in the eight-town district, including with some lopsided numbers in Old Lyme, 252-46, East Lyme, 607-186, and her home turf of Waterford, 816-121.

Rep. Ritter has proved to be a reliable supporter for the Democrats and Gov. Malloy. Mr. Formica's challenge will be to separate himself from those policies and make a clear case for his conservative, yet moderate approach. It should be a great race that will leave many voters with a tough decision, which is always a nice problem to have.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.


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