Crowded Field of Candidates to Vie for Party Endorsements in Biggest Election since 1993
July 18 - 25, 2007
By ANDY HART, The Hartford News Staff Writer
In the middle of a grueling debate among Hartford’s eight mayoral candidates last Thursday night at Saint Augustine’s Church, I. Charles Mathews surprised everyone by agreeing with his main opponent, Mayor Eddie Perez.
“The Mayor is right,” said Mathews, “if you’re satisfied with the way things have been going the past six years, then he’s your guy. But if you want to go to the next level, other people who will have to take you there.”
The debate was held one week before Hartford’s Democratic Convention, which will be held at 6 pm this Thursday at Bulkeley High School. At the convention, the 70 members of Hartford’s Democratic Town Committee are expected to endorse one Mayoral candidate out of the seven who are vying for the nod and six people to run for Council out of the 13 Democrats who are seeking the party’s endorsement.
Hartford’s Republicans will hold their convention tonight, July 18, at 6 pm at City Hall. Stan McCauley, who made a strong showing at last Thursday’s debate, is expected to secure the GOP endorsement for Mayor. The Republicans are also expected to field a full slate of six candidates for City Council. Incumbent Veronica Airey Wilson has announced she is seeking re-election, as have former Deputy Police Chief Gerald Pleasant, Sr., Jorge Rodriguez, former Board of Education member Michael Lupo and former City Councilman Mike McGarry. The Republicans are hoping to re-elect Airey-Wilson and also to win the two other council seats that are reserved for minority party members. These two seats are currently occupied by Robert Painter and Elizabeth Horton Sheff, both of whom have announced that they are not seeking re-election.
While this year’s election is expected to be the most hotly contested since 1993 when Mike Peters defeated Carrie Saxon Perry in the race for mayor, political insiders say tomorrow’s Democratic Convention may prove to be anti-climactic and the real fight will begin afterward in the Democratic Primary campaign. The Primary will be held Tuesday, September 11.
Mathews said that he believes Perez has been able gain control of enough town committee members to secure the nomination, although State Representative Minnie Gonzalez, who is also running for mayor and has been a bitter opponent of Perez, will have the backing of a significant number of delegates, primarily from her own third district.
Mathews said that, by his count, 24 town committee members are City of Hartford employees and another 14 have contracts with the City and would thus be reluctant to oppose Perez publicly. However, Mathews added, “If it was a secret ballot, I think Eddie would be in trouble.”
Horton Sheff also said that “Eddie has got most of the Town Committee locked up” and that things would fall into place for him at the convention, “like a row of dominoes.”
True to form, Horton Sheff advocates a novel solution. “I don’t think the Democratic Town Committee should endorse anyone. They should leave it all up to the primary. Let all the candidates get out there and knock doors and collect signatures...it’s the only way we have shot at true democracy.”
Another mayoral candidate, State Representative Art Feltman, apparently will not attend the Democratic Convention but will hold a rally across the street at 331 Wethersfield Avenue. An e-mail sent to the Hartford News late Tuesday night states “Those of us NOT on the Town Committee feel strongly that it's time for a change! We'll hold our own un-convention for unconventional Democrats (and others) across the street and at the same time as Perez's convention.” The e-mail also states, “paid for and approved by Feltman '07, Frank Sentner, treasurer.”
Who the Democrats will nominate to run for Council is less clear-cut. Of the six Democratic incumbents (John Bazzano, Pedro Segarra, Ken Kennedy, Jim Boucher, rJo Winch and Calixto Torres), only Bazzano has decided not to seek re-election. If the five incumbents are renominated, the one remaining endorsement will be sought by nine other candidates: Craig Stallings, Lillian Arciniegas, Matthew Ritter, Eric Crawford, Maria Diaz, Beatriz Roman, Thom Page, Andrea Comer and Paul Mozzicato.
Crawford has publicly stated that he is trying to form an opposition slate to run in the primary, although he declined to say exactly who would be joining him on that slate.