March 8, 2006
By OSHRAT CARMIEL, Courant Staff Writer
A brazen caravan of honking cars -
some bearing photos of state Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, one carrying
Gonzalez herself - wound down Park Street Tuesday night to deliver,
through cheers and the waving of Puerto Rican flags, a message to
Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez: You lost.
The caravan was a response to the results
of a Democratic town committee race Tuesday, a neighborhood contest
in the 3rd District that pitted Gonzalez and her slate against a
slate of 12 challengers assembled and backed by the mayor.
Unofficial results show that Gonzalez's
slate, a group of veterans who made door-to-door appeals to voters,
bested the challenge slate, which relied on television advertising,
by a significant margin.
Gonzalez and her supporters celebrated
with a late-night parade down Park Street, the city's Latino commercial
center, past the headquarters of the Perez-backed slate.
The 3rd District race, and its results,
have highlighted the acrimony between Gonzalez and Perez and, judging
from the Gonzalez camp's victory, is a sign of Latino opposition
to Perez as he seeks re-election next year.
"We kicked his butt today,"
said Ramon Arroyo, Gonzalez's husband, who wore a T-shirt referring
to Perez as "The Puerto Rican Exterminator."
"And," Arroyo said, "we're
waiting for him in 2007."
Gonzalez's 3rd District, covering Parkville
and Frog Hollow, is just 12 members of the overall 70 on the Democratic
town committee that takes office this month. The committee will
decide whether to endorse Perez for re-election next year, and the
mayor appears to have enough support in other districts to get the
Perez was victorious elsewhere in the
city Tuesday when it came to the two other contested town committee
In the 4th District, covering the heavily
Latino South Green neighborhood, a slate made up of Perez allies
won handily over a challenge slate of relative unknowns believed
to be affiliated with Gonzalez. In the 5th District, covering the
North End and downtown, a slate led by state Rep. Marie Kirkley-Bey
and newfound Perez ally Abraham L. Gilesbested a slate of challengers.
But back to the 3rd District.
Perez was at a meeting Tuesday night
of the board of education, which he heads as chairman. But Matt
Hennessy, the mayor's chief of staff, and the mayor's brother William,
who ran on the losing slate, were on hand to provide pep talks.
They said the slate had a respectable showing considering it was
assembled in haste and was going up against a slate led by a 10-year
legislator entrenched in the neighborhood.
"Don't hang your head," William
Perez said, raising his hand in a toast. "Compared to the machine
she's got, I think we did damn good."
"We didn't make it all the way,"
Hennessy began. "But we scared 'em" William Perez said.
The battle between the Perez and Gonzalez
camps is far from over. Members of Perez's slate are expected to
file a complaint with the state Elections Enforcement Commission
this week over an unusually high number of absentee ballots filed
from an apartment building at 25 Laurel St., in the 3rd District.
About 80 ballot applications from that
apartment building were distributed by Gonzalez. The mayor's slate
is saying that most of the residents whom Gonzalez helped to vote
absentee were in town and able-bodied, and had no reason not to
vote at the polls.
"Many of the people were not aware
that they had voted," said Hennessy, who with members of the
mayor's slate was at the building Tuesday morning questioning those
who cast absentee ballots. "These were not people who were
out of town or very seriously ill or anything like that."
Gonzalez said that everyone to whom
she gave an absentee ballot application needed one. The mayor's
slate, she said, is trying to compensate for not getting absentee
ballot applications to those voters first.
"Yes," Hennessy said. "If
that was her version of working [absentee ballots], she did better
Gonzalez shrugged off talk of an election
enforcement complaint. Amid the raucous atmosphere of the ground
floor of her house that doubled as her party headquarters, there
was more talk of how to give Perez his due.
"We got you elected," Gonzalez
said of Perez. "We worked every single day for you. We thought
you were best for Hartford.
"You know what? We regret
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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