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Is Democratic Gov. Lamont turning eastern Connecticut red?

I rode a philosophical hobby horse for the 2020 election season here in eastern Connecticut, suggesting that Republicans needed to either endorse or denounce the presidential candidate at the head of their ticket.

None of them did either, and, while the results were mixed, the party did surprisingly well in eastern Connecticut in the Trump-dominated election of 2020. They did much better, in fact, than Republicans in the rest of the state, who also remained mum about their president.

It turns out the region is full of good ticket-splitting voters, who voted strongly against Trump in most shoreline towns, but also supported Republican state legislature candidates in some of those same towns, a fracture we didn't see so much in other parts of the state, where there was more of a solid blue wave.

I'll concede that some of the winning Republicans in shoreline towns, despite a strong showing by presidential candidate Joe Biden, were good candidates and played the race well.

I would add they were good not only at hiding from Trump but from some of their party's own policies in the state, against a higher minimum wage, paid family leave and police accountability in the time of Black Lives Matter.

Greg Howard of Stonington, the police and youth league volunteer who turned the 43rd House District red, was popular with voters. Incumbent Sens. Heather Somers of Groton and Paul Formica of East Lyme, seasoned candidates, also ran good campaigns.

But I also believe that the Democrats' stumble in eastern Connecticut had a lot to do with the failings of the head of the party in the state, Gov. New Lamont, who kept kicking dirt in the faces of eastern Connecticut voters right up to the election.

Really, how can't eastern Connecticut voters hold it against Lamont that he hung New London Mayor Michael Passero out to dry, promising the city would benefit from turning State Pier over to rich utilities for their profitable offshore wind development before then negotiating a deal without providing anything for the poor host city.

Worse, after he signed the pier deal and lost any leverage to help the city, the governor told the mayor he was on his own to negotiate a host city deal, which of course remains not done.

Or maybe eastern Connecticut voters are mad at the way the Democratic establishment tried to hide the scandals of a Connecticut Port Authority, which runs New London's port, from offering hush money to keep departing employees from speaking to the news media and, in the case of Attorney General William Tong, refusing to release whistleblower complaints about corruption at the agency.

Democratic Sen. Cathy Osten did squeak out a win in the 19th District but only after directly criticizing the governor in a debate with her opponent, suggesting Lamont has been wrong not to sit down and talk with the region's two casino-owning tribes about sports betting and online gambling.

Maybe some of those eastern Connecticut voters who voted for Biden and against Democratic candidates for the state legislature are among the thousands of casino employees from eastern Connecticut who are tired of seeing the governor treat their employer so badly.

It is certainly true that Osten, the only local Democrat who called out the governor, is one who wasn't punished on Election Day here.

The successful eastern Connecticut Republicans deserve credit for their wins. But they probably owe some thanks to the Democratic governor who not only hasn't helped the region but seems determined to undermine us.

As COVID-19 cases began to spike here more than in the rest of the state, Lamont more or less shrugged, and for the first time in the pandemic, suggested municipalities could set their own rules. To me, that best sums up the attitude toward our region by the prince of Greenwich.

I'd say the Democratic governor can claim a lot of credit for the growing red tint to the political map here.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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