Cheshire Democratic Town Committee Chairman Ernie DiPietro's take on the presidential election and its impact on local Connecticut campaigns
Ernie DiPietro, in his 25th year as chairman of the Cheshire Democratic Town Committee, has seen it all when it comes to local, state and national elections, or at least he thought he did until this presidential election cycle. I recently sat down for a one-on-one Q&A session with the chairman of the CDTC for his take on the current presidential election cycle.
Dan Nowak: What is your take on the current presidential election?
Ernie DiPietro: When the primaries started, I don’t think anyone anticipated what we are seeing today. You have two candidates with issues. But Hillary Clinton’s experience and temperament, I think, gives her a big edge. Donald Trump set the tone from the start. He was a symbol of change and he took advantage of being a Washington outsider. People, Republicans, gravitated to that and they embraced his scary rhetoric and temperament in the primary. He revved up Republicans to the point where he got votes from 11 million people. It’s impressive when you think of what had to be done to put together that apparatus. But he has alienated many people, including people from his own party, with his rhetoric and actions. It started when he said (Arizona Republican Senator John) McCain is not a hero because he got captured. Voters, including Republicans, are hedging their bets when it comes to Trump because they know he could turn toxic at a moment’s notice. Hillary Clinton is certainly the better, safer option.
Dan Nowak: Do you see Trump and his rhetoric and issues helping Democrats and impacting Republicans in state Senate and House of Representative elections?
Ernie DiPietro: Are Republicans vulnerable because of all the negatives associated with Trump? I have my doubts because I think the country is so divided. Democrat candidates should not, and from those I’ve talked to don’t, expect this to be a landslide event for Dems because of Trump. If Republican state politicians embrace and support Trump, sure, it could make some kind of an impact in their district. But people in both parties will likely stay true to form. You are seeing a lot of Republican candidates, many in Connecticut, hesitant and hedging their bets on Trump. On the state level I think it is still the personalities of each candidate that matter the most and how effective those personalities connect with state voters.
Dan Nowak: If Republicans aren’t vulnerable because of Trump, does it at least make the campaign process easier for Democrats?
Ernie DiPietro: Democrats can not take anything for granted. They have to work as hard as they ever have to get elected. Like I said earlier, it comes down to personalities and how candidates’ personalities connect with voters in their district. Like every state and local election, there is nothing like going door-to-door. When you knock on a door and say “Hi, I’m Ernie DiPietro,” voters appreciate your effort to connect with them and they hear your campaign message on a personal level. It’s important to do the other things, putting up lawn signs, running newspaper ads and taking advantage of technology and its social media. Phone calling continues to be a part of the election process but you are lucky to reach a third of those you call. Technology has given us caller ID and if your call is identified as a political call odds are that phone call won’t be answered. Nothing is more effective or important than going door-to-door when it comes to getting votes. People feel good and important if you stop and personally talk to them.
Dan Nowak: How do you see the remaining days in the presidential election leading up to Election Day on Nov. 8?
Ernie DiPietro: Policy issues continue to take a back seat to personal issues for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. People do not inform themselves on issues like they did in the past. They rely on the electronic media and soundbites and that’s the scary part of this presidential election cycle. The confusing thing with Trump is when policy issues are offered they are not fully explained. The average voter hears Trump say he will build a wall and they will pay for it. Voters need to realistically consider who would pay for the wall, and they don’t go that extra step, because it’s unlikely Mexico will pay for it. Both candidates continue to have their issues. When they take a step forward something happens to take them a step or two back. But I think common sense will prevail. Donald Trump’s negative rhetoric and issues, his temperament and lack of civility, gives Hillary the edge moving forward. But this has been such a wacky presidential election who knows what will emerge between now and Election Day.
Dan Nowak is chairman of the Cheshire Democratic Town Committee's Communication Relations/IT Committee, a volunteer position. He is a Cheshire Parks and Recreation Commissioner and has been a sportswriter at the New Haven Register for 36 years.