Ex-Council Member Mathews Plans Today To Announce Run Against Perez
January 10, 2007
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer
I. Charles Mathews, a blast from Hartford's political past, is expected today to announce his candidacy to run against Mayor Eddie A. Perez in the 2007 election.
Mathews, a former deputy mayor in Hartford, joined a growing list of candidates seeking to oust Perez, who on Tuesday made official his bid for re-election by registering as a candidate with the city clerk.
Mathews, 61, joins former Democratic state Sen. Frank D. Barrows, and state Rep. Art Feltman, D-Hartford, in challenging the mayor. All three have struck similar themes in entering the race - saying Perez has closed himself off from dissenting opinions and has left the public disenchanted.
"People are pushing for change," Mathews said Tuesday.
But the mayor's supporters say any challengers running against Perez have a steep hill to climb, having to answer questions about their own political pasts and face Perez's record of accomplishments. Under his watch, they say, the city has built schools, put more police on the streets and pushed downtown development.
As Matt Hennessy, the mayor's chief of staff, said Tuesday: "The mayor has a record of achievement. Things the public can see and touch."
Mathews is expected to make his announcement at 11 a.m. today at Uptown Flava, 3155 Main St.
Mathews was once one of Hartford's most powerful political figures, serving three terms on the city council in the 1980s. His last term ended in 1991 when he was deputy mayor, which under the city's old charter was one of the most powerful positions at city hall.
Mathews said his candidacy will concentrate on a revision of the city's strong-mayor charter, fine-tuning the document to provide enhanced checks and balances against the mayor.
Mathews wants to focus city dollars on a handful of issues - jobs for city residents, improved education for its children, economic development downtown and in local neighborhoods and revitalizing some of the city's most downtrodden areas.
"Here is the bad news: despite new schools, kids are still failing to receive a quality education," Mathews said. "Despite downtown development, most city residents are not getting jobs, or are having a hard time getting jobs. Despite all the new home ownership, people are concerned about their quality of life and new taxes that come year after year. And despite more police officers on the street, there is a real fear of crime."
"Those are the issues we have to address," he said.
Mathews was raised in Boston but came to Connecticut and graduated from Greater Hartford Community College and Wesleyan University. He got a law degree from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and served in Washington, D.C., as counsel to a special committee for the U.S. House of Representatives investigating the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.
Mathews returned to Hartford, getting a job as an attorney for United Technologies Corp., where he worked for nearly two decades, until 1996. Mathews left the city again to take a job as a vice president at the Quaker Oats Co. in Chicago. He worked there for four years before moving to Tampa Fla.; he returned to Hartford in 2005.
Mathews said he returned to the city, not to run for mayor, but because he considers it home. Two of his three sons still live in the area and most of his longest-standing friends are here, he said.
Mathews said that as he reconnected with the Hartford community, he started to hear a chorus of disenchantment with Perez. The sentiments lined up, Mathews said, all saying that the mayor had isolated himself from the people and that change was needed at city hall. Some of Hartford's more politically connected citizens urged Mathews to run for office, he said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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