Editorial / Democracy is healthy at the neighborhood level

Fairfield voters have spoken, and once again they have spoken in impressive numbers -- a 79 percent turnout.

But what exactly did they say?

In simplest terms, they said they like the status quo.

The town's electors by varying margins backed incumbents for President, for U.S. Congress, for state Senate and for state House of Representatives in all three of the town's districts.

All won re-election.

In fact, the only contest in which Fairfield did not favor an incumbent was the lone race that didn't have one -- the nasty brawl for retiring Joseph Lieberman's U.S. Senate seat. By a very slim margin, the town went for Democrat Chris Murphy over Republican Linda McMahon.

But the numbers also show Fairfield's electorate was interested not only in the glitz of the presidential race but in contests in their own neighborhoods for seats in the state legislature.

Every four years, a presidential election is the glamor race that drives voter turnout far higher than off-year or municipal elections. Tuesday's 79 percent turnout more than doubled the 36 percent turnout for last fall's town election.

Turnout topped 80 percent in 13 of the town's 21 voting districts, including a town-best 90 percent in District 5: 132.

According to unofficial returns, 29,933 Fairfielders cast votes for president Tuesday. They favored Barack Obama over Mitt Romney, 51 percent to 48 percent.

As is usually the case, fewer ballots were cast for the undertickets.

For example, the Murphy-McMahon Senate race -- despite the noise and non-stop TV commercials it generated -- was left blank on more than 1,000 Fairfield ballots. It drew 3.5 percent fewer votes than the presidential contest.

And in a spirited contest for the 4th Congressional District seat, nearly 1,400 ballots were blank -- about 4.5 percent of the total cast.

The good news for grass-roots politics in Fairfield is that more votes were cast for state representative than for Congress.

The three races for state House of Representatives garnered a combined 28,635 votes -- nearly 100 more than the far-more-glamorous seat in Congress.

In the 132nd House District, a hard-fought battle between incumbent Republican Brenda Kupchick and Democratic challenger Sue Brand generated keen interest. An impressive 79 percent of voters registered in the 132nd cast ballots in that race, which Kupchick won by 8 percentage points.

In the 134th District (which includes Trumbull), Republican incumbent Tony Hwang was a heavy favorite over Democratic challenger Heather Dean. Still 76 percent of Fairfield voters in the district cast ballots in the contest, which Hwang won with 67 percent of the vote.

In the heavily Democratic 133rd District, incumbent Democrat Kim Fawcett faced stiff criticism from supporters of Republican Chris DeSanctis. A very respectable 72 percent of registered voters in the district cast ballots in the contest, which Fawcett swept with 62 percent of the vote.

The votes cast in the state House races says positive things about Fairfield's political involvement at the neighborhood level. It is in contrast to Westpoirt -- which takes great pride in its voter turnout -- where more than 10 percent of the electorate in one state Senate district left the race blank.

The candidate on Fairfield's ballot who had the easiest night Tuesday was Republican state Sen. John McKinney (28th District). Running unopposed he received nearly 19,000 votes. But more than 11,000 voters did not vote for him, instead leaving their ballots blank.

Yes, the people have spoken. And they said Democracy is alive and well in Fairfield.