- Associated Press - Friday, November 6, 2020

This year’s presidential election bolstered Fairfield County’s swing towards Democrats, while rural and working-class portions of eastern Connecticut remained Republican country.

Just three of the 23 cities and towns that comprise the wealthy coastal communities near the New York border - a region that was known for being reliably Republican for decades - voted for President Donald Trump this year. That’s down from six in 2016, when Trump faced Democrat Hillary Clinton. And in some communities that backed Clinton four years ago, Biden received a greater percentage of support this year.

Meanwhile, many eastern Connecticut communities, some of which had supported Democratic President Barack Obama before backing Trump in 2016, held firm this year and voted for the president again by roughly the same percentage.

While Democrats benefitted from evolving demographics and voter registration in Fairfield County, they also got some help from Trump himself.

“Let’s face it. Donald Trump played hard. He said the suburbs could be overrun by violence and project housing,” said Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, who divides his time between Hartford and his home in Greenwich, in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday. “I think the suburbs across the country said, ‘That’s not what I see.’”



Lamont said Republicans in Connecticut would have performed better in this year’s election if they had “distanced themselves from Trump.” Biden easily won the state’s seven electoral votes, and the GOP failed to defeat any of the five incumbent Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Their overall numbers in both chambers of the Democratic-controlled General Assembly also shrank. Democrats, for example, won legislative seats in the Naugatuck Valley, in south-central Connecticut, which has been supportive of Trump.

J.R. Romano, chairman of the Connecticut Republicans, has watched affluent Fairfield County become more blue during his tenure. He maintains that people’s personal dislike of Trump, not his policies, is helping to fuel that change.

“What we know is, in some of the wealthier communities, it looks like the Democrats may have made gains,” he said of this year’s election results. Romano said those wealthier Republican voters “can afford to be offended” by Trump and vote against him to the detriment of middle-class voters who he contends benefit from the president’s policies.

Gayle Alberda, assistant professor of politics at Fairfield University, said she sees the once-Republican stronghold of Fairfield County changing fundamentally. She pointed to gains for voter registration gains for Democrats in Trumbull, for example, a traditionally Republican Fairfield County community that voted for Trump in 2016 but supported Biden in 2020, according to numbers posted on the Secretary of the State’s website.

Alberda said there’s also been migration in and out of southwestern Connecticut, including New Yorkers moving to the suburbs and bringing “their liberal New York values” with them.

Meanwhile, she said Trump has recruited supporters in working-class parts of eastern Connecticut who were traditionally supportive of Democrats. Whether that part of the state remains red may depend on whether the GOP redefines itself, she said.

But former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, who represented Fairfield County and was the state’s lone GOP member of the U.S. House of Representatives until he lost the 4th Congressional District seat in 2008, said the Republican Party has been wounded by Trump and its “leaders’ infatuation with celebrity” candidates.

“Connecticut may have some areas where the Republicans have a stronger voice,” Shays said. “So has the power shifted from Fairfield County eastward? Yes, but it’s not, in my judgment, because they’re really strong there. It’s just that everything has gotten weaker. Donald Trump has destroyed the Republican Party as I know it.”

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