It wouldn’t be exactly accurate to describe Tuesday night’s municipal election results as a “red wave,” but it certainly went about as well as could have been imagined for local Republicans.
With nearly all votes counted Wednesday morning, the GOP had taken a commanding 7-2 majority on the Town Council, maintained a 6-3 majority on the Planning and Zoning Commission, and will take control of five of the seven seats on the Board of Education.
Taking stock of what happened Tuesday evening, it’s the margin of victory in some races that stands out the most. First District Republican incumbent David Veleber, who pulled out a narrow win two years ago, easily earned re-election this year over Democratic newcomer A. Fiona Pearson. Republican Don Walsh, who lost to Democratic incumbent Jeff Falk in 2017, convincingly ousted his rival this time.
And while the Democrats ran only two At-Large candidates, it was still surprising to see longtime Councilor Patti Flynn-Harris, the second-leading vote getter amongst At-Large candidates in 2017, fail to earn another term.
The two bright spots for the Democrats? Jim Jinks winning the Second Council District and Anne Harrigan staving off a Republican sweep on the Board of Education.
What message do the results send? It’s hard to say, especially given that, while the percentage of voter participation seems to have risen from where it was two years ago, the majority of registered voters in Cheshire — roughly 60 percent of them — still decide to stay home during municipal elections.
It is, however, worth noting that residents seem comfortable with the direction of the community at the moment. Frustration usually drives people to the polls, and if voters believed Cheshire was on the wrong path, you’d expect turnout to rise dramatically. That hasn’t happened, not in several years, and that sends the clear message to those elected on Tuesday to stay the course.
One is also left to wonder how big a role the debate over school facilities played in the election night results. What should be done with Cheshire’s aging schools was without question most pressing issue discussed throughout the campaign and dominated debate between both Town Council and Board of Education candidates.
Did Democrats suffer from the perception that their candidates were more likely to approve expensive proposals for how to tackle the problem?
And what, if any, role did state or national politics play in influencing votes? While most understand that the actions of politicians in Hartford and Washington, D.C. have little to do with the day-to-day operations in Cheshire, politics is an all-consuming hobby for some, and the antipathy they feel for a particular political party can impact how they vote on the local level.
But again, these questions come without tangible answers. There are no exit polls to review, no data to pore over. All we are left with are the results of this year’s election, one that sends the clear message that Cheshire is still mostly “red” when it comes to local politics.