2/26 Special Election Previews

Five legislative special elections today, all Democratic defenses in Connecticut. Additionally, Chicago has a mayoral election and New York has a public advocate election, although neither will be covered in this piece.

Connecticut State Senate District 3 (Democratic Defense)

Candidates: Saud Anwar (D), Sarah Muska (R)

Overview: We start in Northern Connecticut, just east of Hartford. This seat opened up when Democrat Timothy Larson resigned to join new Governor Ned Lamont’s administration as Head of Higher Education. The seat seems like it should be a Democratic hold, as Hillary Clinton won by a 59–37 margin here in 2016. Additionally, Larson won 60–40 in 2018. Despite this, Democrats have put a lot of effort into defending the seat, in part because the national Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) are big fans of their nominee, Saud Anwar, who is 2013 became the first Muslim mayor in the state after being elected as the mayor of the city of Windsor. Anwar narrowly lost in a State House bid in 2016, but should have a better chance this time around. However, Republican Sarah Muska, who is a member of the financial board of East Windsor, has run a decent campaign and could always pull off a shocker. That being said, I don’t see Anwar losing this.

Rating and Prediction: We rate this seat as Safe D. I’ll say Anwar wins with 60% of the vote.

Connecticut State Senate District 5 (Democratic Defense)

Candidates: Derek Slap (D), Bill Wadsworth (R), Mark Stewart Greenstein (ACP), Jeffrey Przech (I)

Overview: We now flip sides to the western suburbs of Hartford, in what should be the most simple Democratic hold of the day. This seat opened up when Democrat Beth Bye resigned to join new Governor Ned Lamont’s administration to lead the Office of Early Childhood. Hillary Clinton won this seat by a 64–31 margin, while Bye carried it 65–35 last year. The Democratic nominee is State Representative Derek Slap, who represents District 19 in the State House. The Republican nominee, Bill Wadsworth, is also fairly credible, having served as a State Representative up until 2014. Two independents are also running but neither are strong contenders. Overall, Slap seems like a pretty strong favorite due to the relative inelasticity of the district in recent years.

Rating and Prediction: We rate this seat as Safe D. I’ll say Slap wins with 65% of the vote.

Connecticut State Senate District 6 (Democratic Defense)

Candidates: Rick Lopes (D), Gennaro Bizzarro (R)

Overview: We now move a tad south to New Britain, in a district Hillary Clinton won by a 60–37 margin in 2016. This seat opened up when Democrat Terry Gerratana resigned to join new Governor Ned Lamont’s administration as Advisor on Health Strategy. She won by a 62–38 margin last year. State Representative Rick Lopes, who represents district 24, is the Democratic nominee and does seem like a heavy favorite in this race. His opponent, Gennaro Bizzarro, did run a good campaign and come close to winning Lopes’s house seat in 2014, but even under what were more favorable conditions for Republicans at that point, came up short. As a result, it’s hard to see Lopes losing in this climate.

Rating and Prediction: We rate this seat as Safe D. I’ll say Lopes wins with 60% of the vote.

Connecticut House of Representatives District 39 (Democratic Defense)

Candidates: Anthony Nolan (D), Jason Catala (D), Kat Goulart (R), Mirna Martinez (G)

Overview: We now move to a lower chamber election in New London. This district, which opened up when Democrat Chris Soto resigned to become Lamont’s legislative director, is the most Democratic district being contested today, with Clinton having won 75–20 in 2016 and Soto not facing a challenger last year. However, there is an intriguing layer to this election in the presence of a couple legitimate candidates who aren’t backed by either party. The Democratic Party endorsed candidate in this race is city councilman Anthony Nolan, and he’s definitely the favorite. However, a second Democrat, Jason Catala, obtained enough signatures to make the ballot. His presence could cause a split in the Democratic vote, although it’s not really a conservative enough area for that to matter. The other interesting factor is that Green Party candidate Mirna Martinez is fairly competitive and has even been endorsed by Bernie Sanders’s Our Revolution group in an area where the Greens often perform well.

Rating and Prediction: We rate this seat as Safe D. I’ll say Nolan wins with 50% of the vote.

Connecticut House of Representatives District 99 (Democratic Defense)

Candidates: Josh Balter (D), Joseph Zullo (R)

Overview: Finally we close in East Haven, with by far the most intriguing contest of the night. This district opened up when Democrat James Albis resigned to become an advisor to the Energy and Environmental Protection Committee. The district could be a prime Republican pickup opportunity, as Donald Trump won 54–43 in 2016. That being said, it probably still tilts Democratic, as Albis won 58–42 here last year and Barack Obama won 58–41 in 2012. Both parties have fairly strong candidates for this seat. The Democratic nominee is Josh Balter, a navy veteran who ran for a local State Senate seat in 2018. The Republican candidate is Joseph Zullo, the East Haven town attorney. Both candidates have been well organized and fundraised well, although Balter supposedly has had a slightly more extensive door knocking plan. One notable thing about this election is that both candidates have commended eachother for running clean campaigns focused on issues. Either could win, but I’d lean towards Balter.

Rating and Prediction: We rate this seat as Tilt D. I’ll say Balter wins with 52% of the vote.

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