Democratic Hopefuls Field Questions From Town Committee
July 12, 2007
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer
Hartford's Democratic candidates for mayor spoke before their party's town committee Wednesday, answering questions and offering visions for Hartford's future.
The town committee will decide which candidate to endorse at next week's party convention, although a Democratic primary on Sept. 11 seems a certainty.
Incumbent Mayor Eddie A. Perez is being challenged for the endorsement by former state Sen. Frank D. Barrows, state Rep. Art Feltman, state Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, former Deputy Mayor I. Charles Mathews, political newcomer Raul De Jesus, and the Rev. Patrice Smith, a youth advocate.
Candidates interviewed Wednesday were asked six questions, ranging from their ideas of the city's biggest liabilities and assets to what they thought about the strong-mayor form of government.
And they all were asked, why you?
Predictable themes carried the night, with candidates touching on the same basic issues - fighting crime, improving education, helping the overtaxed and developing the city's economic base. They drummed home the idea that, as mayor, they would listen to the people - whom they agreed were among the city's biggest assets.
But Perez, Feltman and Mathews seemed to separate themselves from the group, primarily because of their command of the issues and their ability to delve deeply into them. They spoke with authority about policies they hoped could fix the city's ills.
The remaining candidates often gave short, sometimes vague answers.
Perez spoke first. The incumbent mayor touted his record and asked for support to continue what he described as the city's positive momentum, from his effort to build new schools and fight crime to what he says is increased homeownership in the city. He described this election, and his victory, as critical to the city's future.
"What is at stake is the movement forward we have been making," Perez said.
But each of the challengers said it was time for change. And they all characterized Perez as a dictatorial leader with a thirst for power and a practice of misusing it.
Mathews, in answering a question about the strong-mayor form of government, said he remains a supporter of it. But, he said, no one ever dreamed "we would have a strong mayor who would want to be king." Mathews called for stronger checks on the authority of the mayor, no matter who is elected.
Smith was the only Democratic candidate who didn't attend the event. All but Feltman, who said he preferred people's votes in the primary election, said they were seeking the party's endorsement.
"I believe in a direct primary," he said. "I believe the nominations of the Democratic Party occur not in an auditorium but in the voting booths on Sept. 11."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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