But Two Contenders Didn't Even Seek Democratic Nomination
July 20, 2007
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer
Incumbent Eddie A. Perez, as expected, won the Hartford Democratic party's endorsement for mayor Thursday with little competition.
The endorsement - won on the first vote by a 3-1 ratio over his closest convention challenger - assures Perez the top line on the ballot in a Sept. 11 primary that appears certain.
Two of his main Democratic opponents - state Rep. Art Feltman and former Deputy Mayor I. Charles Mathews - already have vowed to challenge Perez in the primary. Neither had his name submitted for nomination, saying that the convention's result was preordained because the town committee is controlled by those loyal or indebted to Perez.
Of 70 members of the committee, 68 were present.
Perez received 43 votes (63 percent) compared with state Rep. Minnie Gonzalez' 14 votes (21 percent) and former state Sen. Frank D. Barrows' 8 votes (12 percent).
Three committee members present abstained.
After receiving the nomination, the mayor hugged supporters, who chanted his name and chanted "Four more years."
Perez said he was proud to accept the endorsement and proud for the opportunity "to lead this party to victory."
A slate of six city council candidates, all who appeared to have the backing of the Perez campaign, were also endorsed. All but one were incumbents. They were James Boucher, Kenneth Kennedy Jr., Pedro Segarra, Calixto Torres, rJo Winch and newcomer Matt Ritter, the 25-year-old son of former House Speaker Thomas D. Ritter.
The younger Ritter took the place on the ticket of city council President John Bazzano, who decided not to run for re-election.
Feltman did not attend the convention, held at Bulkeley High School, and instead threw his own "un-convention," a rally for Perez foes, across the street.
After Perez won the endorsement, Feltman described it as "unsurprising" and said that town committee members were simply "giving back to their master his due. This is what they owed him."
Mathews attended the convention, where he distributed a letter saying he understood many town committee members felt pressured to vote for Perez and that he would continue his fight to the primary.
But Kenny Curran, campaign manager for Perez, was skeptical of Mathews' reasoning, suggesting Mathews may have taken himself out of the running at the last minute because he knew he was going to lose.
"I think it raises questions as to why he waited until the day of the convention to decide he didn't want the nomination, when for all intents and purposes he was seeking it up until today," Curran said. "It's similar to the fact that he moved into the city at the last minute to run for mayor."
Mathews, who returned to Hartford in 2005 after living in Florida and Chicago for more than 10 years, said he was not going to "engage in a dialogue with a staff person for the mayor."
"The mayor needs to speak for himself," Mathews said. "He needs to stop hiding behind his 35-plus staff people and hiding behind his campaign person, who is simply trying to manipulate and spin the press."
Mathews said his campaign always knew Perez had loaded the town committee with supporters, and although they kept close watch on vote totals leading up to the convention, Mathews saw no purpose in "exposing the folks who are supporting us" only to have them face retaliation from Perez later.
"We are going to save our troops to fight another day, and the other day will be the primary," he said.
Although the convention held few surprises in its results, it was not without controversy.
Before any nominations were made, former Deputy Mayor Nick Carbone, who supports Gonzalez, questioned whether city employees or city contractors who sit on the town committee should cast votes. He was met with a chorus of boos.
Carbone read from the city's ethics code and distributed a list of more than a dozen town committee members who owed their livelihood to city hall. He said those on the list "should abstain from voting because of a personal conflict of interest."
He suggested he would file the list with the city's ethics commission if those on it did not refrain from voting.
As the voting went forward, none of those on the list heeded Carbone's warnings.
Curran said the move by Carbone was "another example of a distraction from the real issues of the day."
The mayor has six Democratic challengers: Feltman, Mathews, Barrows, Gonzalez, political newcomer Raul De Jesus and the Rev. Patrice Smith, a youth advocate.
Perez has raised more campaign money than any of his opponents, bringing in $371,000 since January.
His closest rivals in terms of campaign funds are Feltman, who has raised $83,000, and Mathews, who has $58,000.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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