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Delegates Chosen Despite Challenge

Committee Rejects Question On Rules

March 24, 2006
By OSHRAT CARMIEL, Courant Staff Writer

It took 48 hours, some legal legwork, and a roll call vote on whether politico Nicholas Carbone should be allowed to continue speaking. But Thursday night, Hartford's Democratic town committee finally selected its group of delegates to the state nominating convention.

Incidentally, those 54 delegates overwhelmingly favor Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dannel P. Malloy, Stamford's mayor, over his challenger, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr.

But that was not the main concern of those assembled Thursday night in city hall.

Despite a legal maneuver aimed at forcing the delegation to be more inclusive, the delegates chosen Thursday - with the blessing and choreography of Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez - excluded all members of the 3rd District Democratic town committee, which is led by a Perez nemesis, state Rep. Minnie Gonzalez.

The question among detractors Thursday, as it had been all week: "Why?"

The answer from party leaders, as it had been all week: Because.

"This slate reflects the delegates selected by the leadership of the town committee," Democratic Chairman Noel F. McGregor Jr. said.

McGregor said the largely pro-Malloy delegation roughly represented the will of most of the committee members. He conceded, however, that he didn't take a complete poll.

Based on a verbal opinion he received from the secretary of the state's office, McGregor dispensed with the legal challenge issued by Carbone, a Gonzalez ally, earlier in the week. Carbone claimed the town committee was illegitimate, since it had not updated its party rules since 1983.

Carbone had threatened to challenge in court any delegation that was selected by an illegitimate town committee, unless the delegation was more inclusive. McGregor cited a ruling from the state saying that the 14-day statute of limitations to complain about an "illegitimate party" has passed.

"Because the body was elected and no one complained about it [within 14 days of the election], it became a legal body," McGregor said.

But that did not end the challenges to the committee and its business practices.

Carbone protested the hastily called, but legal meeting Thursday, saying it was not supposed to take place until Tuesday. Because of the earlier-than-expected meeting, many party members, including Gonzalez, could not attend.

Carbone's protests were often drowned out by McGregor's attempts to cut him off, which were prompted by frantic hand signals that Perez, the evening's silent conductor, was issuing to McGregor from the back of the room.

"You're out of order!" McGregor kept saying. Carbone continued to speak, but louder.

At one point, the assembled town committee took a vote on whether Carbone was out of order and whether he could continue to speak. The committee voted that he could not.

"It's like a slap in the face to the people in our district," Virginia Nunes, 3rd District town committee member, said after the meeting. "They're spitting on us."

Still, others came to the aid of the orphaned 3rd District. Members of the 1st District, most of whom were listed as delegates to the convention, voted against the very slate that they were on.

"If I say no, does that mean I'm off the slate?" asked Frank Barrows, a member of the 1st District, which includes the West End.

"It's time to stop playing this game of cutting each other, and hurting each other," Barrows said, sauntering to the front of the council chambers room like a talk-show host.

McGregor banged on a table to stop him.

"I know I'm out of order," Barrows said. "Lock me up."

Barrows continued: "The eyes are watching us throughout this state and it's a travesty."

By this time, Perez's hand motions to McGregor were in overdrive.

"I know, Eddie," Barrows said. "I see the signal. But I'm still talking."

After the meeting, Carbone listed the ways he could appeal the delegation choice - everything from deferring to the state Democratic Party to the state convention officials to the federal courts, he said.

"There might be a civil rights violation," Carbone said. "But that's in the preliminary stage of research."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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