The death penalty has become a hot-button issue in Connecticut elections, fueled partly by the high-profile trial of a man who killed a mother and her two daughters during a burglary of their home, the Wall Street Journal reports. Next week, a jury will decide whether Steven Hayes should be put to death or get a life prison term for his part in the killings. A new Quinnipiac University poll says more than three-quarters of registered voters support the death penalty for Hayes–higher than the nearly two-thirds who back capital punishment in general.
Republican candidates in Connecticut–one of two northeastern states with the death penalty–seek to highlight their hard-line stances to separate themselves from Democrats. In the governor’s race, Republican businessman Tom Foley has dared his Democratic rival, Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy, to push his plan to abolish capital punishment. GOP Senate candidate Linda McMahon accused her foe, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, of flip-flopping on the issue. “There are a set of swing voters who will base their vote not on the recession, but on this emotional issue because of that [Hayes] case,” said Gary Rose, chairman of Sacred Heart University’s government and politics department. “It’s never had this level of importance.”