Connecticut's congressional districts
Connecticut is divided among five congressional districts from which citizens elect the state's representatives to the United States House of Representatives. After the 2008 elections, all five of Connecticut's representatives are Democrats. Christopher Shays, previously the only Republican in the state's congressional delegation as well as the only Republican member of the House from New England, lost his re-election bid in 2008.
Current districts and representatives
List of members of the Connecticut United States House delegation, their terms, their district boundaries, and the districts' political ratings according to the CPVI. The delegation has a total of 5 members, all of whom are members of the Democratic party.
|1st||John B. Larson (D-East Hartford)||Democratic||D+12||January 3, 1999 – present|
|2nd||Joe Courtney (D-Vernon)||Democratic||D+3||January 3, 2007 – present|
|3rd||Rosa DeLauro (D-New Haven)||Democratic||D+9||January 3, 1991 – present|
|4th||Jim Himes (D-Cos Cob)||Democratic||D+7||January 3, 2009 – present|
|5th||Elizabeth Esty (D-Cheshire)||Democratic||D+2||January 3, 2013 – present|
After the reapportionment following the 2000 census, Connecticut lost one representative, reducing the state's delegation from six to five. The redistricting process was shared between the Republican governor at the time, John G. Rowland, and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly. Before the census, the state's House delegation was split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, and the solution finally agreed upon by the redistricting committee would ensure an even matchup between incumbents, the 6th District's Nancy L. Johnson, a Republican, and the 5th District's James H. Maloney, a Democrat. In the 2002 elections, Johnson defeated Maloney by a surprisingly large margin in the new 5th District.
The Connecticut district map for the 108th Congress does not look drastically different from the layouts used during most of the past century.
The 1st District still comprises the greater part of the Hartford metropolitan area. Hartford, the capital of Connecticut, is still the population center and focal point of the district, which also includes wealthy West Hartford, the center of Greater Hartford's Jewish and Asian-American communities, and working-class East Hartford, home of Pratt and Whitney. After the reapportionment, however, the district was shifted westward and now includes sections of northern Litchfield County once represented by the old 6th District, as well as stretching southward to take in a portion of Middletown and southwest to include Bristol and Southington. Long severed from the wealthier and more moderate Hartford suburbs in the Farmington Valley, the 1st District is reliably and strongly Democratic. Hartford casts large pluralities for the Democratic candidate in all races, and the former mill towns which surround the capital, such as East Hartford and Middletown, have largely retained their ethnic Democratic heritage. Republican enclaves in this district are few. Indeed, the only conceivable strategy for a GOP pickup here would involve not only depressing turnout in the Democratic stronghold of Hartford and racking up big margins in the wealthier suburbs of Glastonbury and Granby, but most importantly convincing the Italian- and Irish-American voters to abandon their Democratic home in large numbers. While Republicans have had success with these ethnic demographics in other metropolitan areas in the Northeast, there has been no indication that such a phenomenon will occur in Hartford anytime soon. Even the more upscale areas of this district, like West Hartford and the towns south of Hartford along the Connecticut River, have a long Democratic history.
Congressman John B. Larson, the former President pro tempore of the Connecticut Senate from East Hartford, has represented the 1st District since 1999. Larson serves in the House Democratic leadership as Vice Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, a position he has held since 2006. Larson was elected to Congress in 1998, succeeding Barbara B. Kennelly who vacated her seat in an unsuccessful challenge against Governor John Rowland. Larson's victory resurrected a political career temporarily suspended by a crushing defeat in the 1994 Democratic primary for Governor, in which he lost to comptroller Bill Curry despite receiving the endorsement of the state party convention. In this heavily Democratic district, Larson can continue to serve for as long as he wishes, although ambition for higher office may produce a vacancy here if a Senate seat or the Governorship were to open up in the next six years. However, Larson's influential position in leadership as well as a deep bench of ambitious Connecticut Democrats may convince him to remain in the House for a long time to come. Were Larson to retire, a long roster of Democrats would undoubtedly line up to succeed him, including former lieutenant governor Kevin B. Sullivan, 2006 lieutenant governor candidate and mayor of West Hartford Scott Slifka, Hartford mayor Eddie Perez, and newly elected state Senator Paul Doyle, a more conservative Democrat. Republicans would certainly want to make an open-seat race here competitive, but realistic options would be limited to U.S. Attorney and one-time challenger to Larson, Kevin J. O'Connor.
The 2nd District takes in nearly half of the state, geographically, and has long been the voice in Washington for largely rural Eastern Connecticut. The redistricting process maintained the approximate historical area of the district, despite state Democrats' hope to draw the Republican representative at the time, Rob Simmons, out of a seat by partitioning the area between the heavily Democratic districts centered on Hartford and New Haven. Since the 108th Congress, the 2nd District seeps into the eastern parts of Hartford county, reaching into the suburbs north of Hartford such as Suffield, as well as some towns to the capital's east, like Glastonbury which it shares with the 1st. The redistricting committee intended to more or less retain the partisan balance of the district, which heavily favored Democrats to begin with, and swapped Middletown for Enfield, similarly sized towns with similarly Democratic heritages. The demographics of the 2nd District vary widely, ranging from the liberal and culturally diverse population centers of New London, Norwich, and Windham, to the blue-collar towns of Enfield and Vernon, to the wealthy (and traditionally Republican) villages along the coast like Old Saybrook and Mystic where many millionaires from both Connecticut and New York maintain vacation homes. Statistically, Democrats dominate the 2nd district, although Republicans have recently fared well here in both congressional and statewide elections. New London, Norwich, and the students from the University of Connecticut in Storrs consistently vote for Democrats in overwhelming margins. Former Republican strongholds along the coast and in the wealthier Hartford suburbs have been trending Democratic recently as the GOP has become increasingly conservative and regional, although most voters here have little difficulty differentiating between the national party and local moderate Yankee Republicans. While the Democratic incumbent here has a convincing advantage on paper to ward off any potentially strong challengers, Republican candidates can be very competitive as long as the local passions aren't inflamed against the conservatives in Washington.
In 2006, former Democratic state legislator Joe Courtney of Vernon defeated popular incumbent Republican Rob Simmons by a razor-thin margin of 83 votes. A disastrous year for Republicans nationwide, rather than any substantive dissatisfaction with Simmons, was the likely factor behind Courtney's victory. Since ousting incumbent Sam Gejdenson in 2000, Simmons had faced strong and well-funded competition each cycle but nonetheless prevailed by convincing margins given the generous Democratic lean of the district. Indeed, Courtney only managed his coup after failing to topple Simmons as a freshman in 2002.
The 3rd District envelops the greater part of New Haven County, surrounding the city of New Haven, the district's population center. Long representing the New Haven area in the House, the 3rd District was once limited to the city itself and the inner-most suburbs. Due to Connecticut's generally stagnant population growth, and actual depopulation within New Haven, since the reapportionment, the 3rd District now also includes the entirety of the Naugatuck Valley, a crucial component of the former 5th district. While the district does take in some of Connecticut's prime shoreline real estate, in communities such as Guilford, most of the coastal towns in the 3rd are eminently middle-class, like Milford and Stratford. The district also notably encompasses the core area of Connecticut's large Italian-American community, from the area around Wooster Street in New Haven (home of world-renowned pizzerias Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana and Sally's Apizza) to the very Italian neighborhood of Town Plot in Waterbury, Connecticut. Many in New Haven's Italian community have since departed for the surrounding suburbs, but the string of towns stretching down the Naugatuck valley from Waterbury ranks among the heaviest concentrations of Italian Americans in the country, and East Haven and West Haven both have Italian populations approaching 50% of each town's population. The state's largest Portuguese-American community, in Naugatuck, is also located in the 3rd District. The New Haven area retains an overwhelmingly Democratic heritage for the most part, although Republicans have made significant successful inroads in the ethnic communities of the suburbs. While historically Democratic, however, many of the voters here are somewhat socially conservative, especially in the Naugatuck Valley, although many years of representation by steadfast liberals may have eroded any advantage a challenger could have derived. Waterbury, Connecticut's 5th largest city, is a Democratic but very conservative city, where many of the Italian, Irish, and Lebanese voters have become increasingly comfortable voting for Republicans. After long remaining the focal point of the old 5th District, Waterbury was placed largely in the new 5th; yet, the considerably Republican and Italian neighborhood of Town Plot excised and lopped onto the 3rd, to the dismay of 5th District Republicans.
The representative from the 3rd District is Rosa L. DeLauro, the scion of an influential political family from New Haven. Before being elected in 1990, DeLauro worked as a political activist for liberal causes and an influential fundraiser for state and national Democrats, serving as chief of staff to Senator Christopher Dodd and Executive Director of EMILY's List, a pro-choice PAC. Both of her parents were New Haven Alderman, and her husband, Stanley Greenberg, is a highly reputed consultant and pollster with close affiliations to the Clintons. DeLauro has faced little opposition since 1990, when she barely defeated young state legislator Tom Scott of Milford, an anti-tax Republican who made DeLauro's strong support of a woman's right to choose a central issue in the campaign. While Republicans almost captured the 1990 open-seat being vacated by Bruce Morrison in his unsuccessful campaign for Governor, and had actually held it for one term in the 1980s, the 3rd District has become more Democratic since the Bill Clinton years and now remains and will continue to remain indefinitely an impregnable Democratic stronghold. While the socially conservative ethnic communities provide a slight opportunity for Republicans, the state party continues to be dominated by moderates who tend to fare much better in statewide races and in the other parts of Connecticut. Republicans could only conceivably compete for this seat were it to become open, and then only with a strong and credible campaign from someone like state Senator Len Fasano (R - North Haven), Derby state representative Themis Klarides, or a Naugatuck Republican like state representatives Kevin DelGobbo, David Labriola, and mayor Ron San Angelo. If Rosa DeLauro were to vacate her seat in a run for a higher office or a cabinet position in the unlikely scenario of a Chris Dodd presidency, a long list of brand-name Democrats would rush to succeed her, among them Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney of New Haven, State Senator 2006 gubernatorial candidate and New Haven mayor John DeStefano, Jr., and Speaker of the House Jim Amann, a moderate.
The 4th District is the political region of Connecticut's famous "Gold Coast" — the string of prosperous enclaves along the shore of Fairfield County, home of many Manhattan elite and various other celebrities. While the rich towns of Greenwich, New Canaan, Stamford, Darien, Ridgefield, Fairfield, Wilton and Westport may typify the luxurious stereotypes of Connecticut formed by many outsiders, the district is also home to one of the state's poorest communities, Bridgeport, the largest city in Connecticut. Before the redistricting, the 4th included exclusively the few towns on the Long Island Sound from New York to Bridgeport; it now extends northward and eastward to take in the suburbs of Danbury as well as many towns that once constituted the heart of the old 5th district. In so doing, the reapportioned district after 2002 followed many Republican natives of lower Fairfield County who had relocated further into Connecticut for economic reasons.
The representative of the 4th District is Jim Himes who worked for 12 years at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. before leaving to head Enterprise Community Partners, a group that worked to combat urban poverty. Himes defeated longtime Republican incumbent Chris Shays in the November 2008 election.
The district has a long history of moderate and independent Congressmen, with Shays succeeding Representatives such as Stewart McKinney (who had died from AIDS, in 1987) and Lowell P. Weicker (who became estranged from the Republican Party following his service on the Senate Watergate Committee). Shays, widely regarded as a social moderate, fended off strong challenges from Westport Selectman Diane Farrell in 2004 and 2006, before local demographic shifts and a national mood favoring Democratic candidates resulted in his narrow defeat. Potential Republican candidates include Lieutenant Governor Michael Fedele from Stamford, State Senator (and son of the former Congressman) John P. McKinney of Southport, and state House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero of Norwalk.
The 5th District is an approximate combination of the former 5th and 6th Districts before the 2000 Census. The district was designed as the result of a compromise among the redistricting committee as an evenly divided territory into which a Republican and a Democratic incumbent were both drawn. The new 5th largely maintained the distinguishing feature of the old 5th – the I-84 corridor connecting Danbury to Waterbury, and then stretching southeastward to Meriden. And similar to the old 6th District, the 5th takes in most of Litchfield County and the towns of the Farmington Valley in Hartford County. In the presidential politics the district is the most amenable in the state to backing Republicans, as it voted slightly for John Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000, but on the whole provides both parties with ample opportunities and no overwhelming advantage. The suburbs of Waterbury, the small towns in Litchfield County, and the wealthy Farmington Valley, are all traditionally Republican and generally conservative outposts. Meriden and the city of New Britain, located at the eastern fringe of the district, are both strongly Democratic towns that reliably give large pluralities to the Democratic candidate. The partisan balance, however, is even more difficult to determine given the differing ideological views around the district. The Farmington Valley Republicans as well as those in the wealthy enclaves in the Litchfield Hills have, like many Northeastern suburbs, become increasingly moderate on social issues and more amenable to Democratic overtures. Yet the ethnic communities centered around Waterbury and Danbury, are traditionally Democratic, but consistently conservative on social matters, and have provided winning margins for Republicans here. Thus, races here are difficult to handicap and are heavily influenced by the national mood of the electorate and the dominant issues of the election cycle.
The representative for the 5th District is Elizabeth Esty. Previously, it was Christopher S. Murphy, a former state Senator and representative originally from Southington. Prior to the 2006 election, Murphy moved across the border to the 5th District town of Cheshire, and scored an impressive 56%-44% upset victory against 24-year Republican incumbent Nancy L. Johnson of New Britain. Both Murphy and Johnson are social liberals, but the influence of the Iraq War (which Johnson strongly supported) and the dour national prospects for Republicans, provided the boost that catapulted the onetime longshot bid of Chris Murphy to victory in November. The 5th District therefore provides the most fertile ground for Republicans eyeing a reversal of their huge losses in 2006, but Murphy's reputation as an indefatigable campaigner and shrewd strategist made for unsuccessful runs by State Senator David Cappiello and State Senator Sam Caligiuri in 2008 and 2010, respectively. In the November 2012 race, Republican State Senator Andrew Roraback of Goshen lost to Elizabeth Esty of Cheshire.
Historical and present district boundaries
Table of United States congressional district boundary maps in the State of Connecticut, presented chronologically. All redistricting events that took place in Connecticut between 1973 and 2013 are shown.
|1973 – 1982|
|1983 – 1992|
|1993 – 2002|
|2003 – 2013|
- "The national atlas". nationalatlas.gov. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
- "Digital Boundary Definitions of United States Congressional Districts, 1789–2012.". Retrieved October 18, 2014.