How Data Can Deceive

Torrington Register-Citizen Gubernatorial Results Map 2010 Susan Bigelow Gubernatorial Results Map 2010 Recently the Torrington Register-Citizen published a map of results from the 2010 Connecticut race for governor. This map is for all intents and purposes correct. Each town or city colored red or blue indicates which candidate won the city. The Register-Citizen raises several questions about the conflicting priorities of the cities versus suburban and rural towns. Yet they ignore the fact that Dan Malloy did not win by cities alone. Plenty of suburban voters chose Dan Malloy as well and we can see this in Susan Bigelow’s map. By mapping out the results with percentages Bigelow presents a more accurate representation of the state.

A Clarification About My Article in Pro Se

Recently I co-authored an article in the UConn Law student newspaper Pro Se about the changes in the House of Representatives. Due to time constraints a rough draft I wrote was edited by the other author and put to print without a final check on the article by me. The final article is mostly correct. However it suggests that as a result of the election the Republican party is the dominant party in Washington. My interpretation would be that they are merely the dominant party in the House of Representatives, as the Democrats still control the executive branch and the Senate. Though there are certainly interesting arguments to be had in regards to which way the Supreme Court leans. For reference or those generally interested in a quick and dirty summary of the changeover in the house I’ve included my original rough draft below:

Every two years the entire membership of the United States House of Representatives is up for re-election. It is typical for the House to change parties during a mid-term election and this year was no exception. Nationwide Republicans have gained 61 seats and as a result are now the majority party in the House of Representatives (five seats remain undecided as of this article). With the majority the Republicans gain more power including nominating Rep. John Boehner for Speaker. With that position he becomes second in the line-of-succession for the Presidency. Republicans will now chair the various House committees which will give them the ability to set the agenda of the body. This includes latitude to conduct investigations. Rep. Darrell Issa of the Government Oversight and Reform Committee has pledged to conduct seven hearings a week and to arm federal inspectors general with subpoena power to insure compliance with Congressional requests for information. Meanwhile Democrats have had their influence greatly reduced. By moving into the minority they lost a leadership position. Traditionally after a defeat the Speaker steps down from leadership but Rep. Nancy Pelosi made clear that she intended to stay. On November 17 she handily won her election for minority leader against the more moderate Rep. Heath Shuler. By keeping her position Rep. Steny Hoyer was left to battle with Rep. James Clyburn for the position of minority whip. Pelosi resolved the conflict by creating a new position for Clyburn that would be in between the whip and minority leader. Rep. John Larson kept his position as Democratic Caucus Chair. This means the Democratic Caucus will remain largely unchanged from the previous Congress.

My Response to Tom Foley

Today former GOP Candidate for Governor Tom Foley penned this Op-Ed piece in the Hartford Courant about his experience in running for office. He talks about the process and explains this:

Politicians win elections by making promises. Voters decide if the promises are the ones they like and whether, if elected, the candidate will make good on them. Many factors play into the calculus of the voter's choice” likability, plausibility, personal credibility, a candidate's record and the views of opinion leaders, to name a few.

Foley then proceeds to cynically describe the politics in contrast to business and insinuate the politicians habitually lie. He concludes by recommending the creation of a statute that would require politicians to be truthful.

If the former ambassador wishes to understand what happened in this election he needs to detach himself from his own race and look at things from a broader perspective. He ran a race in conjunction with Linda McMahon and together they spent millions of dollars to woo voters. The narrative they ran with was that of being outsiders. Consultants that could fix state government by not being a part of it. Such a narrative is common especially in anti-incumbent years as we’ve had. It does not sell in Connecticut.

In business when you apply for a job you send them your resume. Your employer looks at your experience, skills, and personality among other traits. Experience is what won out this year. Though Foley had been an ambassador to Ireland he downplayed that and instead focused on his business experience. In contrast Dan Malloy embraced his role as a public servant and all his years as Mayor of Stamford. McMahon played the outsider card as well and handily lost to Richard Blumenthal. The advantage that Blumenthal had is that Connecticut voters already knew him. He spoke at their kids graduations, and has been perpetually present at political events in the state.

This experience will certainly help these legislators and constitutional officers navigate the tricky waters of balancing budgets and producing policy. They can figure out how government might stay afloat amidst this changing tide and try and ease the pain. However at the end of the day the state is still in an economic crises. This crises is as much the product of the free-market as it is of the government. We need business talent and we need it in business. We need all the Republican candidates who were outsiders to go back to doing what they do best to help lift us out of this mess. Politicians cannot and will not solve this problem on their own.

Quick Comment on the Election

Sites such as the CT Mirror have been posting articles about the Connecticut gubernatorial election. Based on posts I’ve seen on twitter and facebook along these media stories it appears that people are overblowing the problems. Even with the problem ballots tossed Malloy has a win that is greater than needed for a recount. Certainly there was some negligence in Bridgeport but ultimately that negligence will not have had an impact on the final outcome. Furthermore are some people trying to blame Susan Bysiewicz, who has little control over the matter. It was probably a mistake for her to hold the press conference and put herself in front the spotlight considering she lacked control over this, but I don’t think she can be blamed for the problems that occurred over the past few days..

The Dautrich Report

Remember the controversy with UCONN Professor Ken Dautrich? The report has been released. Ultimately it appears that some state money was spent on some partisan political activity and they recommended some discipline for Prof. Dautrich. Based on the report it appears the professor at least made an attempt to keep things separate, but did not manage to actually do so.

This just goes to show how difficult it is to avoid the appearance of corruption in such a small state where people with unique skill sets end up having to wear many hats. I’m sure the experience was valuable to the students, but it is important that we do not allow state resources to be used to unfairly aid incumbents.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.