Class showed up in the closely watched Democratic primary in the 2nd Senatorial district. This was the first district to elect an African American — Boce W. Barlow Jr., a son of Southern black migrants to Connecticut during the era of the migration from south to north — to the Connecticut state Senate. Sen. Eric Coleman's campaign was able to bolster his incumbency advantage to ward off the challenge from his strongest opponent, Shawn Wooden, in what was also a three-way race. The other contender, former Windsor Town Councilman Lenworth Walker, was unable to mount a strong challenge.

 

Coleman's campaign focused in part on whether he or Wooden, both members of the state's small black professional upper class, could best serve the political and economic interests of the majority non-white, lower- and working-class constituency in Hartford's North End. Coleman's campaign benefited from a characterization of Wooden as the elitist, insensitive to the interests of the district. Wooden's initial support of the Hartford mayor's deal with the New Britain Rock Cats, which included the construction of a new minor league baseball stadium in proximity to the North End, motivated the characterization.

 

The irony is that both candidates could be characterized as elite because of their accomplishments. This would be lauded in other contexts by the very same North End constituents. Wooden, born and raised in the North End of Hartford, is a successful attorney and partner at the prestigious firm Day Pitney. He attended area schools, Trinity College and New York University law school. Coleman, born in New Haven, attended the private Pomfret School,Columbia University and UConn law school.

 

Class played a role in this race, but in the end, Coleman won an 11th term not because of the North End constituency, which Wooden carried. Coleman won because of his constituents in the comparatively more affluent parts of his district, Bloomfield and Windsor.

 

What does this all mean? Race and class add to the complexity of elections. Certainly there are other issues involved in electoral decisions. But in U.S. politics, race and class are like the guests a host should prepare for in case they come to the party, because it is uncertain as to how they will show up and what will happen if they do.

 

Walton Brown-Foster is a professor at Central Connecticut State University, where she teaches in the Department of Political Science and the African American Studies program.