Connecticut 3rd District
The beginnings of Connecticut’s defense industry date to more than two centuries ago, in 1798, when Eli Whitney, a young Yale graduate, won an order from the young United States government to produce 10,000 muskets at $13.40 each. Six years before, Whitney had invented the cotton gin, which revolutionized the South but for years embroiled him in a patent suit. On the musket contract, he was determined to make a profit right off, so he set up a system of interchangeable parts and invented a milling machine and gauges: the birth of standardized American manufacturing. It also launched New Haven, established more than 150 years earlier as a religious haven for strict Puritans, as a manufacturing center; Whitney set up his factory along a small, rapidly flowing river just north of town. For the next 150 years or so, New Haven mass-produced rifles, clocks, locks, hardware and toys—anything its tinkerers and entrepreneurs could fashion. Few factories remain in New Haven, and the state’s defense contracts are modest compared to those of the city’s heyday. The factory that produced Winchester rifles and guns for 140 years closed in 2006. The Sikorsky plant in Stratford failed to get the contract to produce the new Marine One helicopter. In recent years, southern Connecticut around New Haven discovered a new source of prosperity in scores of small technology and biomedical firms. Minority population grew rapidly in New Haven County from 2000 to 2007, with a 29% increase for Hispanics and a 46% increase for Asians.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
But the city itself, with significant crime rates and many neighborhoods scarred by abandoned homes, has shrunk in population: It had 164,000 people in 1950 and 124,000 in 2007. Nearly 29% of its children live in poverty. Yale, with its Gothic spires and redbrick halls, has always been the visual focus of New Haven and is now its largest employer. Some local revival has been sparked by a state development program that has turned old retail and office buildings into residences and by $1 billion in investments by biotech firms. New Haven also has a more recent claim on history: It was the birthplace of George W. Bush in 1946, and he lived his first two years on Hillhouse Avenue in a building that now houses the economics department.
The 3rd Congressional District of Connecticut covers the New Haven metropolitan area, which has long since spread beyond the narrow city limits into what were once Yankee villages and countryside. New Haven proper cast only 13% of the district’s votes in 2008. For many years, the 3rd was a marginal district, changing partisan hands in the 1980s as well as in the 1940s and 1950s. But it is now a strongly Democratic district. In recent presidential contests, Barack Obama got 63% of the vote here in 2008, and John Kerry won 56% in 2004 against fellow Yale graduate Bush.