Alma Rutgers (opinion): Greenwich Blue Tsunami



Giant red wave? It was barely a pink streak, purplish in the blue waters of the country. So much for the polls and the experts. In Greenwich, it was a blue tsunami.

When the local election results were known Tuesday night, Republicans in Greenwich were in shock, stunned to realize they had lost all three State House seats and the state Senate race was close enough to trigger an automatic recount. Greenwich Democrats, meanwhile, were jubilant in their victory celebration. It was a Democratic sweep with Rachel Khanna, Steve Meskers and Hector Arzeno winning 149e150eand 151st seats in the state assembly.

For more than a century, since 1912, Greenwich’s representation in the State House has been exclusively Republican, a fact taken for granted that only changed in 2018, when Meskers won the 150e district, a seat he has held ever since. It is the neighborhood of Greenwich with the most favorable Democratic registration.

Anti-Trump political activism was strong after Donald Trump was elected in 2016. The 2018 election that carried Meskers to victory also placed a Greenwich Democrat in the state Senate for the first time in years. 1930. It was a short tenure. The brutal resignation of Alex Kasser from 36e senate district seat midway through his second term paved the way for Republicans to reclaim what had been a Republican seat for more than three-quarters of a century. This year’s close race between Republican incumbent Ryan Fazio and Democrat Trevor Crow, however, reveals that the seat is no longer solidly Republican.

How to explain these Republican losses?

The changing nature of Greenwich’s electorate is a factor. Once upon a time, registered voters were overwhelmingly Republican. Today, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans, and unaffiliated voters outnumber registered party voters. Another likely factor is that Democrats have a more appealing message on issues such as reproductive freedom, voting rights, protecting democracy, encouraging diversity, gun safety, funding for education, inclusive policies, affordable health care and environmental protection.

And then there’s the Trump factor. It cannot be overlooked. The Greenwich electorate never liked Trump.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton won 56.5% of the vote for Greenwich, compared to 39.1% for Trump, a difference of more than 5,000 votes. Until then, the only elections in living memory where Greenwich had voted for a Democratic presidential candidate were in 1964 for Lyndon Johnson and in 2008 (but not 2012) for Barack Obama. In 2020, Joe Biden got 61.4% of the vote for Greenwich against 36.6% for Trump, a difference of 9,000 votes.

“Trump has lost his bid for re-election,” former Republican Town Committee (RTC) chairman Dan Quigley wrote in an op-ed after Biden beat Trump in Greenwich. “It’s time for him to move on, and it’s time for Republicans to get away from him.”

To most observers, it would seem like a good strategy to move on from a locally unpopular, twice impeached former president who failed to win a second term and incited an insurrection. Indeed, keeping away from Trump has always been the RTC’s strategy. In every election since 2016, local Democrats have attempted to slap the toxic MAGA label on local and state Republican candidates, who have repeatedly rejected the label, pushing back against any association with Trump. Local and state races had nothing to do with Trump, they claimed. By distancing themselves from MAGA, they managed to appear free from Trump’s taint. And they continued to win despite the change in registration numbers.

So far.

In the January caucuses, a minority of Republicans, in an action consistent with Steve Bannon’s playbook for local takeover, took control of the RTC, ousting Quigley-type Republicans. The party now consists of what Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time editorial page editor John Breunig dubbed the Trumplicans, a term Dan Barry used in his November 7 New York Times front-page article. . The Trumplicans are embracing a MAGA-inspired agenda, including an assault on Greenwich Public Schools, baseless accusations about the school curriculum, and attacks on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Trumplicans in the Republican minority?

Trump’s losses in Greenwich in 2016 and 2020 point to significant anti-Trump Republican votes. Similarly, Tuesday’s losses suggest significant Republican votes against these Trumplican candidates. In a recent column, Breunig asks us why Trumplicans are celebrating strong Republican turnout. They don’t seem to realize that this only made the blue tsunami stronger.

Alma Rutgers served in the city government of Greenwich for 30 years.

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