Connecticut 1st District
In 1871, Mark Twain moved to Hartford to become director of an insurance company, and in time, became the Connecticut capital’s most famous citizen. And Hartford became the nation’s best-known insurance center. This was not what the Puritans who founded Hartford had in mind, but Connecticut’s Yankees turned out to be shrewd businessmen. Hartford is the boyhood home of financier J.P. Morgan and also home to the nation’s longest-circulating newspaper, the Hartford Courant, established in 1764. Thanks to the broad Connecticut River, Hartford also became a seaport. Its merchants wrote fire insurance, using the capital they had accumulated in the Napoleonic Wars to finance their ventures. One was Samuel Colt’s gun factory just south of downtown Hartford, which became one of the nation’s great arms plants.
2008 Presidential Vote
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Although each sector has downsized, insurance and arms are still economic mainstays of Hartford, Connecticut’s biggest metropolitan area. Connecticut has the largest concentration of financial and insurance firms in the nation, mostly in the Hartford area. The Hartford Financial Services Group, Aetna, and St. Paul Travelers are the largest employers, with a total of nearly 25,000 employees statewide in 2006. Across the river is the Pratt & Whitney jet engine plant in East Hartford, cornerstone of Connecticut-based United Technologies. Though its local workforce is less than one-fourth its size in 1980, it still builds engines for more than 600 customers around the world. The central core of Hartford is suffering, however, with bedraggled, high-crime neighborhoods filled with abandoned buildings, a school system that’s deeply troubled, and downtown landmarks such as the Civic Center and Broadcast House in Constitution Plaza that are in jeopardy. Many words have been written about the sad decline of this once rich city. Where 177,000 people lived in 1950, there were 125,000 in 2006. Its population is 38% African-American and 41% Hispanic, the largest share for a city in the Northeast, and heavily Puerto Rican. Beyond Hartford, the metropolitan area is more affluent but growing slowly.
The 1st Congressional District of Connecticut is centered on Hartford and upscale West Hartford. On the map it looks like a lobster claw. The claw extends west, excluding some affluent suburbs while including small towns and part of Torrington in the north. Southwest of Hartford, the district includes Bristol, site of the sprawling headquarters of ESPN, the multimedia network that revolutionized sports broadcasting and employs about 3,400 locally. East of the Connecticut River are East Hartford and more affluent suburbs. Politically, the Hartford area has long been more Democratic than the rest of Connecticut. It owes some of its Democratic character to John Bailey, an old-fashioned political boss with a scandal-free career who promoted a raft of first-class candidates. Bailey was state Democratic chairman from 1946 to 1975 and national Democratic chairman from 1961 to 1968.