( - promoted by ctblogger)
This year's municipal elections have displayed a disturbing level of incompetence and internal dissension among Democrats that should be troubling to Dan Malloy and his political team going into next year's gubernatorial election.
In New Haven, the Democratic Town Committee - "under new management" since the pro-City Hall machine was deposed in 2011 and 2012 -- missed a key filing deadline that nullified all the party's candidate endorsements, forcing even endorsed candidates to petition onto the primary ballot. For a few days, local party leaders -- who had mistakenly mailed the paperwork to the Secretary of the State rather than the city clerk's office - formed a circular firing squad; but ultimately not a single member of the DTC's executive committee was held accountable for this monumental lapse in competence. In Norwalk the hopelessly divided Democrats failed to endorse a mayoral candidate after multiple ballots. The Democrats' inconclusive convention took place a few weeks after a violent fracas between the chair of the Democratic Town Committee and a disgruntled Democratic Board of Education candidate, that ended only when police were called to the scene. In Danbury, where Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one, Democrats could not even field a candidate to challenge incumbent GOP Mayor Mark Boughton. In Stamford, Democratic mayoral candidates are poised to wage an extremely expensive primary battle that will make defeating probable Republican nominee Michael Fedele much more difficult in the state's most GOP-friendly big city. Bridgeport and Hartford do not have mayoral elections this year, but Democratic mayors in both cities are currently embroiled in damaging scandals: in Bridgeport regarding the construction at taxpayer expense of a driveway to the seaside mansion of a politically connected developer (not to mention an embarrassing meltdown of the mayor's "education reform" efforts that has been well-chronicled by Jonathan Pelto), in Hartford over the almost unbelievably stupid misbehavior of the mayor's now-former chief of staff and the increasingly dysfunctional relationship between the mayor's office and the city council (both controlled by Democrats).
Only in Waterbury - where Mayor Neil O'Leary is seeking a second term -- have Democrats managed to avoid embarrassing themselves this year. But there's still plenty of time for them to commit some sort of colossal fuck-up before November.
Are Democrats in the big cities simply too complacent to be competent and well-behaved? Except for Stamford, Democrats are not in danger of losing their dominant position in any of the big cities. (In the three largest cities, Republicans do not control a single city council seat.) But without meaningful inter-party competition, the party leaders in the big cities have little incentive to get their act together. GOP irrelevance and Democratic incompetence are interdependent: unless and until the GOP learns to compete in urban areas, local Democratic party organizations will continue to wallow in mediocrity. If the GOP continues to suck at "rebranding" to make itself viable in cities, can the Working Families or Green Party perform the function of keeping Democrats honest that the GOP cannot?
Meaningful inter-party competition might be conducive to good governance, but it would be wrong to chalk up the Democrats' fumbling and bumbling merely to complacency. The local party organizations in the worst shape are in Norwalk and Danbury, where there is meaningful two-party competition. Those two midsized Fairfield County cities have long-serving GOP mayors who have effectively divided and demoralized Democrats, showing that an effective GOP can be just as dangerous for Democrats as a pathetic and ineffective GOP.
The fecklessness of Democratic party leadership in the cities may not imperil Democratic victories at the local level (except in Fairfield County), but it could have a major impact in statewide elections. Dan Malloy will win the cities in his 2014 re-election bid. But with the state's urban Democrats in disarray, will he be able to achieve the margins - in 2010, Malloy achieved an astounding 18,000 plurality in New Haven alone - that he needs to pull off a victory?