It may be time for primary changes
Something is wrong when a candidate can capture the nomination for governor of a major political party by getting only 2 percent support among all active registered voters, yet that is the trick Republican Bob Stefanowski managed in winning his party’s primary last week.
You can’t blame Stefanowski. He was just playing by the rules and he played them well enough to move into the general election by getting 29 percent of the vote in a five-way primary.
His Democratic opponent, Ned Lamont, received 172,566 votes in winning his two-person primary against Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, a number that represents 8.2 percent of all active voters in the state and 81 percent of the Democratic primary vote.
So how did Stefanowski win with such little support?
He played a different game from the start, bypassing the Republican convention and instead petitioning his way onto the primary ballot. Only voters registered with a party can participate in Connecticut’s closed system. About 32 percent of registered Republicans voted.
In the five-way race, Stefanowski received 42,041 votes, enough to easily defeat the second-place finisher, Mayor Mark Boughton of Danbury, who had the party’s endorsement but received only 30,475 votes. As noted earlier, Stefanowski’s total is a 2 percent drop in the overall bucket of eligible voters. To win in November he must broaden his support. So also must Lamont, though he begins from a bigger base and with a less fractured party.
A couple of things the major parties should consider.
We again call for primary voting to be opened to those registered as unaffiliated, the largest voting bloc in Connecticut. Let unaffiliated voters choose either the Republican or Democratic primary to vote in. This would force candidates to adopt a strategy to attract independent as well as party-registered voters, the very voters they will need to persuade in the general election. An open primary could have well changed the outcome of the five-way Republican gubernatorial race.
Consider adopting a runoff between the top two finishers if no one achieves a 50-percent or greater total in the primary. This year that would have meant a Stefanowski against Boughton runoff, forcing voters who split their votes among other candidates to choose between the outsider businessman, Stefanowski, and the seasoned politician.
Instead, Stefanowski moves on, even though seven Republicans out of 10 preferred someone else. That’s an odd victory.
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