Lamont Win May Alter Conn. House Races

The Associated Press
Thursday, August 10, 2006; 5:54 AM

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Democrats in the state's three hot U.S. House races have been largely overshadowed by the party's U.S. Senate primary, but they're hoping Ned Lamont's victory will help them in November.

Joe Courtney, who is running for the second time against Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons in the 2nd District, pointed to record voter turnout in Tuesday's primary as evidence that Democrats are motivated to vote this year.

"If we can get the turnout above 60 percent on Nov. 7, that's a good thing for me," he said. "If the three-way race continues, you're still going to have a tremendous amount of noise and energy and interest, and I think that's something we can feed off."

In the 4th District, Democrat Diane Farrell is waging a rematch of her close 2004 battle against U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, a Republican. In the 5th District, Democrat Chris Murphy is challenging 12-term Republican U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson. Both Democrats said in statements Wednesday that Lamont's victory over Sen. Joe Lieberman has energized voters.

U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Lamont's victory shows incumbents in both parties are vulnerable and "should be a flashing red light to the Republicans in Connecticut about the energy on the Democratic side."

But Republicans hope to capitalize on any lingering Democratic division over the bitterly fought primary. State Republican Chairman George Gallo said Lamont's victory came out of the extreme left wing of the Democratic party and sent a message that moderate Democrats aren't welcome.

"I'm saying that from a Republican standpoint, because, quite frankly, that's where our candidates are. We're independent, we're moderate," Gallo said.

Gary Rose, a professor of politics at Sacred Heart University, said Lamont's victory will embolden and empower the Democratic challengers and force the Republican incumbents to downplay any associations with President Bush. Lamont painted Lieberman as too close to Bush and Republicans.

"Independent voters who probably might be voting Republican normally, I think some of them are probably going to get caught up in this momentum," Rose said. "It makes the Republicans in those three districts vulnerable."

Chris Healy, the campaign manager for Simmons, Courtney's opponent, said it's too early to tell how the Senate contest might affect the other races, though he did say a division in the Democratic party will help Republicans.

"We'll know obviously in 90 days what impact it will have," Healy said. "I think everyone has lost a lot of sleep and money worrying about what's going to happen, so Rob's going to stay on his message of delivering for the district."

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