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
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
"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.
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