Archive for March, 2012

Face the State Flashback: the 1958 Democratic Senate Debate
March 27, 2012

As we prepare for our upcoming senate debates to be seen right here on Channel 3,  I thought we’d show you the first senate debate we ever broadcast, nearly 54 years ago.  

It was June 3, 1958, when three men seeking the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Senator William Purtell went back and forth on the issues.    The New York Times called the debate “polite,” and the Hartford Courant, “calm.”  The ancient black and white film from our archives is a bit grainy, but fascinating to watch.

The three candidates,  William Benton, Chester Bowles, and Thomas Dodd,  all had interwined political careers.  Benton was running for the senate for the third time.    Benton was a former senator who was appointed in 1949 by then Governor Bowles, to fill an open seat vacated by Ray Baldwin’s resignation.    Benton won the seat in a special election in 1950 defeating Prescott Bush, but lost to Purtell in 1952.   Dodd was running for the second time, after a loss to  Bush in 1956. 

If you are trying to do some math with six year terms and the dates and scratching your head,  it was a confusing time with two senate elections in 1952.  Senator Brien McMahon died in June of ’52, and Purtell was appointed to fill that seat, while running for the other senate seat held by Benton.  Bush defeated Abraham Ribicoff in the race for the four years left in McMahon’s term.   Interesting how Bush, Dodd, and Ribicoff all suffered losses before being elected U.S. senator.   Dodd’s drubbing was similar to the Blumenthal McMahon margin in 2010, yet he came back to win next cycle.     No doubt the McMahon campaign is well aware of that historical footnote.

The debate was hosted by Channel 3′s Bruce Kern, and moderated by Mrs. John Lee of the League of Women Voters.     Her first name was never mentioned, and she appears to be the only woman in attendance.   Remember, this was before the time when Mad Men is set.    The topics: the Soviet Union, communism, space, and the economy.   By the way, the youngest people eligible to vote that year are now turning 75!

Tune in this Sunday at 11 for our Face the State flashback and set your calendars for our two senate debates on April 15th, for the Democrats, and April 22nd, for the Republicans.     UPDATE:  here is our flashback segment:

Senator McMahon of Connecticut
March 27, 2012

If Linda McMahon is elected to the U.S. senate, she won’t be the first Senator McMahon from Connecticut.   Very few people can remember voting for the first one because the youngest voters who could have cast their ballots for him are now 84.

Democrat Brien McMahon represented our state in the  Senate from 1945 until his death in 1952.   The unusual spelling of his name comes from his middle name “O’Brien.”  His first name was James.

According to an article in the Norwalk Hour, McMahon was on such a “meteoric rise” in Washington, that “John F. Kennedy remarked McMahon would be the first Catholic president.”    Two buildings bear his name:  Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk, and a federal building in Bridgeport.

Here is more on McMahon from Wikipedia:

GOP Candidate Won’t Write Off Democrat Controlled Hartford
March 23, 2012

Connecticut’s First Congressional District is one blue place.   The last Republican elected to congress from CT-1 was in 1956, and he was voted out a term later.    The city of Hartford hasn’t had a Republican Mayor in more than 40 years (when Ann Uccello was re-elected in 1969), and this past November the GOP didn’t even field a candidate.  

For 2012, the party has put forth two candidates to take on Democrat John Larson, first sent to Washington at the tail end of the Clinton years.   This Sunday on Face the State we were joined by Mike McDonald, who will take on John Decker (last week’s Face the State guest) in the primary in August.

McDonald, who is half Italian, is on the Windsor Town Council, and runs a security guard company.     During the taping, McDonald told me he is well aware of the difficult race that lies ahead, but believes voters are ready for change and he cited Larson as part of the problem in Washington.  

As for Hartford, McDonald said he plans on investing considerable time in the city, that has long been ignored by his party.  

Here is the interview:

Here is last week’s interview with John Decker:

Shays Confident He Will Win Convention and Primary
March 22, 2012

Buoyed by new poll numbers showing him a stronger candidate in the general election than Linda McMahon, former congressman Christopher Shays said tonight he will defeat the 2010 nominee at the state GOP convention in May, and then beat her in the primary in August. 

During a taping of Face the State with Dennis House, set to air Sunday on WFSB  Hartford, Shays called McMahon’s last campaign a “miserable failure,” and blamed her for dragging down the GOP ticket.  He said Republicans will start to desert McMahon because of the new Quinnipiac University poll numbers.    The poll found McMahon leads Shays 51% to 42%  in the race for the primary, but in the November election matchups, Shays runs neck and neck with either former secretary of the state Susan Bysiewicz or congressman Chris Murphy,  while McMahon  loses to both by double digits.

“The reason I can win this, is because Republicans want this seat.  They haven’t had it in 30 years.  They know I can win, they know she can’t win. ”    Former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays (CT-4) on Face the State with Dennis House 

Shays told me among those who are telling him McMahon can’t win, are those who have already endorsed her.    The two, along with the other Republicans, will face off in a debate on April 22, to be seen right here on Channel 3.

The last Republican elected to represent Connecticut in the U.S. senate was Lowell Weicker.    The only other Republican elected in the past 50 years was Prescott Bush.   Shays also talked about voters in Connecticut tiring of one party rule.

You can watch the entire interview with Shays this Sunday morning at 11, and we also have analysis on the race from Rick Green of the Hartford Courant and Ray Hackett of the Norwich Bulletin.

UPDATE:  Here is the interview with Christopher Shays

Analysis from Rick Green and Ray Hackett:

Face the State Flashback: My First Senate Race
March 22, 2012

After being a reporter for 23 years, I’m pretty used to interviewing members of congress, senators and governors, along with the men and woman who wanted the jobs those politicians held.     I wasn’t always comfortable doing that.  In fact, my first time interviewing a senator was downright intimidating, but I learned quite a bit from that experience.

It was late 1989, and I was cub reporter and anchor at WREX-TV in Rockford, Illinois.     I was assigned to interview a giant in the senate:  Senator Paul Simon, the bow tie wearing one-time presidential candidate.    He was about to launch his re-election campaign and there was a scrum of reporters to cover it.    I did some research and prepared some questions.   When Senator Simon approached me, he said “Hi Dennis, I’m Paul Simon.”

I’ll admit, I was blown away by the fact that he knew my name.   I was just a rookie reporter at a small station in a big state with five television markets!  I was really impressed.    In a way, it disarmed me, and I may have asked some wimpier questions because of Simon’s warm, avuncular way.

After I spoke to him, the senator approached the next reporter, and I noticed an aide whispering in his hear, “that’s Steve Jones (I can’t remember the actual name,) from the Register-Star.”     “Hi Steve,”  bellowed the senator, “I’m Paul Simon,”   I guess I wasn’t so special after all.

In this week’s Face the State flashback, I will take you back to 1989-90, when I covered my first U.S. senate campaign, a learning experience if there ever was one.     You’ll see a clip of one of my interviews with Senator Simon.    I was so bad of a rookie, I cringe when I watch it.

I also have a clip from an interview with Simon’s opponent, Congresswoman Lynn Martin, a Reagan disciple, who would go on to be Labor Secretary under the first President Bush.     I interviewed her hours after my grandmother died, and I remember she gave some comforting words.

I also learned a few lessons that day:   make sure your socks are high enough, because no one wants to see your hairy shins on television, and never address an elected official by his or her first name.

Before the interview, Martin told me to call her “Lynn.”   I was a 20-something, just learning the ropes, so I did what she told me.      Later as the viewers of Northern Illinois watched my report, my boss Dennis Horton, watched in horror as I called a sitting member of congress (older than my mother)  by her first name.   I was told never to do that again and I have never forgotten that lesson.

You can see the entire flashback  this Sunday morning at 11, only on Face the State on Channel 3.   UPDATE:  Here is the segment:

Denise D’Ascenzo Celebrates 26th Anniversary at WFSB
March 19, 2012

It was March 19, 1986 when Denise D’Ascenzo began her first day of work at Channel 3, coming to us from Cleveland.     No news anchor in Connecticut television has been on the air consecutively at the same station longer than Denise.    Meteorologist  Bruce DePrest has been here longer, but he is just  one of those weather guys!  

I’ve known Denise since I first started in 1992, and we’ve been good friends ever since.    We’ve anchored some  big stories together, and never tire of discussing the news.   Back in the days of Broadcast House we had dinner together, and walked around the city between newscasts.    Even though we are serious journalists, we love to play jokes on each other,  laugh at stupid things (we never get tired of the movie “Dumb and Dumber,”) and honestly enjoy every day we come to work.    We’ll admit, work isn’t as much fun if one of us is off.  

Here is Denise from December 1996,  announcing she is having a baby

In the spirit of teasing, (that is one of the hallmarks of our friendship,)  I will enthusiastically remind Denise that this anniversary means we  have employees at WFSB who were not even born when she started here!   

Here is Denise’s cake from last year’s silver anniversary.   No cake for the 26th..she’ll have to wait for the 30th  for that.

Face the State Flashback: 1988 Connecticut Presidential Primary
March 16, 2012

The presidential campaign finally came to Connecticut this week, but it was a snooze.   Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney went to Stamford for a private fundraiser, but no cameras were allowed, and his campaign chose to pass on a public appearance in a state that has a primary next month.    Local Republicans in this very blue state were disappointed, as were reporters who’ve been clamoring for just a morsel of the excitement already enjoyed by their colleagues in New Hampshire, Florida, and a host of others states.

I,  along with other politicos, have been lamenting the lack of attention Connecticut seems to be getting in the presidential process in recent years, so this week’s Face the State flashback takes us back to another time when our state was a must-make campaign stop.   

This was a far cry from 1988, when Ronald Reagan’s two terms were up, and both parties had a big field of candidates.   Most of them came to Connecticut to campaign for our primary, some several times.

We have two reports from March of 1988.    Bertha Coombs was covering a visit by then Vice-President George Bush, and  Ginny Musante was assigned to a visit by then Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.    As you’ll see, supporters of both candidates were not at all pleased with what happened during those campaign visits.

You can watch the Flashback right here:

Also read:

Jepsen Coming Into His Own as Attorney General
March 16, 2012

George Jepsen has been on the job as attorney general for a little over a year now, after replacing Richard Blumenthal, who held that post for 20 years.   Jepsen runs a vastly different operation now, away from the glare of the television cameras.   Blumenthal’s frequent television appearances became a running joke in political circles and the Senator always seemed to enjoy the friendly ribbing.

This weekend, General Jepsen is in front of the Face the State cameras, talking about everything from his recent mortgage settlement, to his political future.     We also talked politics, and defended his predecessor and took a swipe at Linda McMahon.

update:  Here is the interview

You can watch the entire interview, this Sunday morning at 11, on Channel 3.

Larson Gets a Challenger in CT-1
March 15, 2012

1st District Congressman John Larson now has a challenger in his quest for an eighth term:   political newcomer John Decker, Republican of West Hartford.   The 45 year old  financial planner made the announcement during a taping of Face the State with Dennis House, set to air Sunday on WFSB Hartford.

Decker, who is also a board member of Business for Downtown Hartford, acknowledges his race is an uphill battle, but says this is the year the heavily Democratic district can turn Republican.   The last time the GOP won that seat was 1956, when Edwin May rode President Eisenhower’s re-election coattails to win an open seat vacated by Thomas Dodd, father of former Senator Chris Dodd.     May was voted out of office two years later.

Decker told me, despite the tilt to Democrats, voters in CT-1 are facing serious problems and want change.

“They are concerned about the deficit, the cost of living, oil, food, etc.  These are concerns that politicians who have been there for years and years and years are missing.”

During the taping, Decker pulled out a letter he received from Congressman Larson after President Obama’s inauguration.  In it, Larson wrote he would reduce the deficit created during the previous administration.    The deficit has since doubled, and Decker cited that as one of the reasons he is running.

Decker has consulted one of the highly regarded Republican leaders in the district, former U.S. Attorney Kevin O’Connor.  O’Connor lost to Larson in 1998, but raised the bar for the GOP it this oddly shaped district, that includes Hartford and several of its suburbs, along with towns in the Litchfield Hills.

Decker will kick off his campaign next week with an event planned for downtown.

UPDATE:  Here is the interview:

Here is Decker’s Republican opponent:



2012 Hartford St. Patrick’s Day Parade
March 10, 2012

Thanks to the thousands of people who came out to the parade!  Here are some pictures taken by me, Denise D’Ascenzo, her daughter Kathryn, Hallie Jackson, WFSB Creative Services Director Greg Thomas, and some great Channel 3 viewers!    Kevin Hogan drove his 1959 MGA and I hauled out my 1965 Buick Electra for the trek.



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