Figuring Out Your District: District 1

First in a series of articles about the five congressional districts

Connecticut has five congressional districts. Perhaps the least analyzed of these is the first district, which has reliably produced Democratic members of Congress in every election since 1959. It is Connecticut’s most Democratic district, and it’s currently held by Rep. John Larson.

Why is this district so reliable for the Dems? Let’s take a look at some maps.

First, the election results from 2006.

A sea of blue. This is typical. The demographics in the district trend heavily Democratic. The following map is culled from the swing towns map from a few weeks ago:

1stcdswingthumb.PNG

There are a lot of blue towns here, but there’s also a lot of purple (i.e., towns that may vote one way or the other, depending on the circumstances) and even a little GOP red. Looks like it should be more even than it is, right? Well, no. Take a look at a cartogram of the district showing the towns by population:

1stcdcartogramswingthumb.PNG

As you can see here, the blue (safe Democratic) towns become absolutely huge. And it’s these towns that time and again have delivered huge margins for John Larson, and for Barbara Kennelly before him. Of course, this allows us to see just how ridiculously gerrymandered this district (or the adjacent 5th district) is. The 1st skips across the top of the state to connect Greater Hartford and the river valley with a few tiny towns around… Torrington? The more conservative Farmington Valley is absent, as well. That actually says more for the 5th than it does for the 1st, which became a more conservative district with the addition of the Farmington Valley and the subtraction of Torrington and Winchester.

Take a look at how the towns break down by percentage of the vote for each candidate:

larsonbytownpercentage.PNG

macleanbytownpercentage.PNG

The town of West Hartford jumps out as the big get for both parties. It delivered more votes for both candidates than any other town. Because of West Hartford’s traditionally high voter turnout, the town produces high numbers of votes for both Republicans and Democrats. You can see this a little easier on the following chart:

1stcdtownsbyvotes.PNG

But, of course, West Hartford traditionally tilts very Democratic.

Thus, the strategy. Last time around, in 2006, Republicans nominated Scott MacLean, who was from the most Republican town in the district–Hartland. Hartland produces minuscule numbers of votes, unfortunately, and the hapless MacLean managed to lose it anyway. This time, Republicans have nominated Joe Visconti, from West Hartford. Not a bad idea. Visconti might be able to do better, and get more votes, in West Hartford since voters know him there.

…Of course, that presumes they like him. In the last election (2007) Visconti squeaked into a town council seat by polling 4,563 votes. Mayor Scott Slifka led the voting with 9,591. Will he do better than MacLean? Probably. But he obviously isn’t going to touch Larson, not even in West Hartford. His story is the story of every Republican candidate in the 1st. He won’t raise much money, he probably won’t get on TV, national Republicans will ignore him and the media will forget he even exists. Larson will end up winning by a huge margin–and in a year when Republicans are having a tough time anyway, Visconti is in for a drubbing.

But he knows that. The 1st is an impossible dream for Republicans, and a sure thing for Democrats. That’s been the case for half a century, and it likely won’t change any time soon.

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