Politics-as-usual ended Oct. 29 when the snow started falling.
The unusual October snowstorm and the widespread power failures it caused ruined the traditional get-out-the-vote push in the last week before Election Day.
There wouldn't be any knocking on doors, last-minute phone calling and public appearances.
"I campaigned door-to-door Saturday until the snow got too heavy," incumbent
town council candidate Jeff Kotkin said. "A few concerned voters told me to be sure I got home safely."
He did. Since then, Kotkin said, he's been too busy to do any more campaigning — that's because he works at
, which has had its own storm problems to deal with.
Last Sunday, he pitched in with other officials to set up Wethersfield's emergency shelter. John Console, also seeking re-election to the Wethersfield council, has spent time helping at the shelter this week "as a volunteer, not as a candidate." The storm, he said, disrupted "a final blitz to go door-to-door in certain areas."
It's a similar story statewide. The snow and blackouts stopped the campaign train in its tracks.
With more than half of
without electricity after the storm, any candidate hoping to switch to phone-calling when door-knocking got too hazardous was out of luck, said
, a city school board incumbent seeking re-election said Wednesday.
"Everything is on computer these days and a lot of people have phone service bundled with their computer providers, so you couldn't call them because there's no service," he said. "It looks like we may have a few days to go out before Election Day. All sides will likely make a big push."
First Selectwoman Mary Glassman, who is seeking re-election, said Wednesday she has suspended her campaign to focus on the safety of residents.
"We've canceled all political door-knocking, political fundraising, political fliers — we've canceled everything.
"We've basically stopped campaigning and are focusing on giving our residents the help that they need. We're operating the shelter 24 hours a day, meeting with our emergency operations center daily. We're just running the shelter — sleeping at town hall, doing whatever we can do," she said.
has done much the same. Anthony D'Angelo, the party's campaign manager, said that this weekend the main message the party will deliver is to remind people to vote.
How Will Voters React?
The impact of such an unprecedented impediment to last-minute campaigning is hard to decode for local elections, which usually see the lowest turnout.
Two years ago, 36 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the November municipal election. The tide could recede even further on Tuesday as voters across Connecticut cast ballots in towns and cities that are still recovering from the storm, and in some cases, still don't have electricity.
"Voting in local, off-year elections is already a pretty low priority for the average voter. If you don't have power, water, or heat, it's going to fall even farther down your list of priorities,'' said Vincent G. Moscardelli, an assistant professor of political science at the
"So while it's certainly possible that voters could take out their frustrations on local officials, it seems to me that the voters most likely to do so — that is, the ones who still don't have power — are also the ones who are least likely to turn out in these circumstances."
Traditionally, low turnout benefits incumbents, and closing or moving polling places because of storm damage or power failures would guarantee that fewer people will show up to vote.
On the other hand, extensive research by Princeton Profs. Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels indicates that voters will take out their frustrations from so-called acts of God on incumbents, Moscardelli said.
"The research demonstrates that voters regularly punish incumbents for acts of God, including droughts, floods and shark attacks. I see no reason to think October nor'easters would be any different," he said.
Left cold and in the dark for days, unable to vent their frustration with utilities or the state, angry voters are left with only one target — their local elected officials who likely have been sharing their miseries.
Or, conversely, gratified by the warmth and sustenance received at the local shelter, they could vote as a show of support.
"If you get a larger turnout because of this, it's because of two things: People who are upset or people who are very happy with the town,'' said
Democratic Mayor Anthony LaRosa, who is seeking a fourth term. "I do know people who've been through the [town emergency] shelter are very happy."
LaRosa acknowledged that the final week of campaigning has been different from any he has experienced in his 10 years on the council.
"I'm shaking a lot of hands, but I'm not talking politics,'' he said. "It's, 'Do you need anything?' 'What can I do?' It's not like knocking on doors."
Jeffrey Murray, a first-time Republican council candidate in Rocky Hill, said the election should have been postponed one week.
"I heard on the radio that a lot of towns aren't prepared,'' he said. "We just got our own power back [Wednesday]. It's hard to campaign and talk to people when their power is out.''
Murray said he resumed campaigning Thursday. "I've actually put a lot of effort in this. We were out every night and were out Saturday until the storm got too bad.''
He said he has no doubt voter turnout will be affected.
"People are going to be scrambling, buying groceries, getting refrigerators cleaned out. I just have to hope for the best."
Amanda Falcone, Ken Byron and Julie Stagis contributed to this report