March 16, 2007
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer
With the Gloria Gaynor disco song "I Will Survive" playing in the background, state Rep. Minnie Gonzalez strode toward a podium Thursday through a tightly packed crowd of well-wishers to make official her campaign for mayor against Eddie A. Perez.
Speaking in front of nearly 200 people at the Construction & General Laborers Union Hall, Gonzalez pitched a populist theme, saying she would look out for all of Hartford while her main opponent - Perez and his administration - will "fight to keep their corner office, fat-cat salaries and perks, sweetheart deals and old boy network."
"The time has come for us to band together to bring real changes to the way government works in Hartford," she said. "Together, we can make a difference. Together, we can take back city hall."
Gonzalez is a longtime Perez adversary and joins a crowded field of Democrats who want to unseat the mayor. Also running are former state Sen. Frank D. Barrows, state Rep. Art Feltman, former Deputy Mayor I. Charles Mathews, political newcomer Raul De Jesus and youth advocate the Rev. Patrice Smith.
Barrows, Feltman, Mathews and De Jesus attended the Gonzalez announcement. Afterward several of the candidates said the energetic crowd showed how broadly feelings of discontent with the current administration had spread. The challengers said they shared at least one goal - change leadership at city hall.
But political insiders say Gonzalez presents a particular concern to Perez, pointing out that she can steal from his base by drawing away from him her usually steadfast group of supporters in the city's Puerto Rican community.
Several times her speech was interrupted with chants from the crowd of "Minnie! Minnie! Minnie!"
As mayor, Gonzalez said she would work tirelessly to fix an education system that is dysfunctional. She said she would fight to make drug laws more fair so that the urban children are not forced into prison disproportionately when compared with suburban kids.
Referring to Perez's effort to place a magnet school on a site that state officials said was ill-suited for a school, and to a no-bid parking lot deal Perez gave to a political ally, Gonzalez said she would be fiscally responsible.
"They have failed to safeguard taxpayer dollars," she said.
Efforts to reach the Perez camp late Thursday were unsuccessful.
Those with knowledge of Hartford politics say Perez is seen as being the most vulnerable he has been since first being elected in 2001. That has prompted heavy competition as he fights for his party's endorsement and to win the Democratic primary.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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