Some Introspection after Anticipated Red Wave Falters in Greenwich

A group of Greenwich Republicans as recently as Sunday afternoon held a “Red Wave Road Rally to Victory” down Greenwich Avenue. But their confident predictions of a Republican sweep Tuesday night were wrong.

The historic wins by three Democratic State Representatives in Greenwich left many Republicans perplexed. After a century of mostly concession speeches, Democrats’ minds were blown too.

When results came in Tuesday night, flashbulbs popped in the faces of Democrats gathered at Old Greenwich Social Club.

A registered Democrat new to town declared the results were an ass whoopin’.

One local Republican who joined the Democratic crowd was happy, but requested to be excluded from the photos.

State Rep Meskers, who in 2018 was the first Democrat to win the 150th district in a century, joked that he was outdone by Hector Arzeno who was the first Democrat to win in the 151st district, ever.

Then, when Democrats learned Rachel Khanna had won in the 149th district and Trevor Crow was within 100 votes of winning back the 36th district State Senate seat, it was almost too good to be true.

The author of the Greenwich Patriots daily email blast was also dumbfounded, writing on Wednesday: “Many people are waking up, scratching their heads, and wondering what happened yesterday, not just in Connecticut, but all across the nation. The momentum and energy going into the election was really strong for Republicans, but the results obviously were not in line with expectations.”

You think?

High turnout among Republicans at the polls Tuesday reinforced the notion that 2022 would be no different than the past.

“Red Wave Road Rally to Victory” down Greenwich Avenue. Nov 6, 2022 Photo: Leslie Yager
Republican candidate Peter Sherr in the “Red Wave Road Rally to Victory” on Greenwich Avenue. Nov 6, 2022 Photo: Leslie Yager
Carl Higbie and Jill Oberlander commentated on the election live from the WGCH 1490 studio with host Tony Savino. Nov 8, 2022 Photo: Leslie Yager

In fact, Carl Higbie, commentating Tuesday night from 8:00-9:00pm on WGCH 1490 alongside former Democratic Selectperson Jill Oberlander, optimistically predicted, “local Republican incumbents will hold ground by a greater margin than they have in the past.”

Speaking to WGCH’s Jim Campbell from George Italian Seafood & Steakhouse in Byram, RTC chair Beth McGillavray listed the local issues she believed had prompted the high Republican turnout.

“There has been a lot of talk about parental rights, and what went on in the education system. And the third piece was crime and defunding of the police,” she said.

McGillavray said she didn’t believe the overturning of Roe versus Wade was an issue for Greenwich voters.

Results for Greenwich, 7:00pm, Nov 9, 2022

She said she anticipated tight races where Republicans were challenging Democratic incumbents including Bob Stefanowski challenging Ned Lamont for Governor, former Darien Selectwoman Jayme Stevenson challenging Congressman Jim Himes, and Leora Levy challenging Richard Blumenthal for US Senate.

All those races were won by Democrats, and they all happened to be from Greenwich.

Still Greenwich Republicans thought their local candidates were a sure thing.

McGillavray was confident about the prospects for Mr. Fazio, whose platform she noted emphasized the controversial state affordable housing statute 8-30g and the fight for local control of zoning. She said Fazio had already proven himself in Hartford and was the better candidate.

As for Kimberly Fiorello, Republican State Rep in the 149th district, McGillavray said, “Kimberly was rookie of the year in Hartford. She is a principled Republican and she has a real following. What was impressive about her campaign was the number of signs private citizens had in their yards in Greenwich and Stamford.”

As for Peter Sherr, Republican candidate for State Rep in the 151st district facing off against Democrat Hector Arzeno, McGillavray said, “Peter has been so influential.”

A moment later, Mr. Sherr joined her in the live WGCH interview from George, and described “lots of people, lots of enthusiasm” in his district 12.

“You could tell at the end, we had a lot of things thrown at us, including the kitchen sink, a lot of people working on us hard, but I think at the end of the day I’m hopeful we’ll be victorious,” he said. “In my experience in district 12 and district 8 – I saw a lot of new people, a lot of new faces. It was a different electorate.”

Mr. Campbell brought up the New York Times article by Dan Barry that hit the internet a few hours before the Red Wave Rally on Greenwich Avenue and was front page above-the-fold in Monday’s hard copy.

The article talked about local Republicans being apoplectic over being associated with Trump. It described a split between Republicans and ‘Trumplicans,’ and chronicled last year’s takeover of the RTC, the installation of a new executive committee, and McGillavray replacing Dan Quigley as chair.

Campbell asked McGillavray if she thought the article would impact the election.

“The New York Times leans left,” McGillavray replied. “They pick their narrative, so you have to take everything with a grain of salt. Every two years we have an election in the caucuses and a new group got elected.”

The daily Greenwich Patriots email was even more dismissive of the national newspaper, referring to it as “Fake News NY Times.”

Republicans are the Minority Party in Greenwich

For years the number of registered Democrats in Greenwich has inched up while the Republican roster shrunk. With an influx of new residents from New York during the pandemic, the trend accelerated, though the largest group of voters are the unaffiliated.

On Tuesday, the Democratic advantage in numbers was balanced against the higher Republican voter turnout. Republicans had a 71% turnout versus a 63% turnout among Democrats.

Asked on Wednesday why he thought Democrats did so well this time around, Hector Arzeno said replied, “We were authentic and we ran on relevant subjects.”

Arzeno added that months of canvasing narrowed those relevant subjects down to, in order, gun safety, reproductive fights, inflation and how Connecticut was prepared to confront a downturn in the economy.

Underestimating the Reaction to the Overturn of Roe V Wade

On Thursday, Carl Higbie reflected on the local Republicans’ losses.

Secretary of State website, unofficial results, Greenwich only.

He said Ms Fiorello won Greenwich, but Stamford, which is also part of the 149th district, put her opponent over finish line.

As for Mr. Sherr, he said, “He didn’t have enough organization in the campaign. He worked his fingers to the bone, but he didn’t mobilize a willing volunteer force. He didn’t delegate out enough. He also made a lot of enemies on the Board of Education.”

Higbie took some blame himself.

“We, as the Republican party, underestimated the abortion issue,” he said. “We misjudged the fact that people were willing to pay more for heating oil this winter in exchange for access to abortion. That was even my greatest personal miscalculation.”

Second, he said “Negative campaigns work….Rachel Khanna campaigned hard negative on Kim and it worked.”

Higbie also pointed a finger at what he described as the Republican establishment, and said for years they were the “commanders” and that he and other Republicans were the “doers.”

“The doer’s are now the commanders,” he said. “We got so fed up with doing the legwork and being told who to vote for.”

“The takeaway from this is that the new Republican party is even more energized against this establishment,” Higbie said. “We are doubling down. We are not going back to legacy Republicans.”

“I fielded close to 100 phone calls from people who came out to (the January) caucuses for the first time and voted. They are so angry at the establishment. They’re each going to bring 10 friends to the caucuses. That’s the takeaway.”

For now, the town awaits a recount on the race for State Senate in the 36th district between Ryan Fazio and Trevor Crow whose campaign focused on reproductive rights.

As of Wednesday night the Secretary of State website had Crow shy of 98 votes from Fazio. *Crow: 21,353. Fazio: 21,451. The 36th district includes Greenwich, and parts of Stamford and New Canaan.

The recount process commences Thursday morning.

Everyone with the recent memory of the multi-day recount in the Greenwich BOE election in 2021 knows recounts can be complicated. At that recount to determine whether Cody Kittle or Meghan Galletta would win a seat on the BOE, shouting erupted among poll observers and volunteers, and the police were called. At one point Galletta was ahead by 11 votes. By the end of tallying the next morning, Cody Kittle was ahead 36 votes. Ballots were subject to interpretation when, for example a voter filled in more than one candidate’s oval. Someone else put a write-in candidate’s in the wrong part of the ballot.

This story will be updated when there is news about the Fazio-Crow recount to share.

From the Secretary of State website, unofficial Stamford results, Wednesday, Nov 9, 7:00pm
From the Secretary of State website, unofficial New Canaan results, Wednesday, Nov 9, 7:00pm
From the Secretary of State website, unofficial Greenwich results, Wednesday, Nov 9, 7:00pm