Friends Become Foes in Senate Race Friends Become Foes in Senate Race
By RENA EPSTEIN, Hartford Guardian Writer
Will you think about voting on Tuesday, August 8th?
It will be 95 degrees. You’ll think about keeping cool. Maybe go to an air-conditioned movie, or plan a weekend at the beach.
But if you live in the 2nd senatorial district, you just might run to the voting booth. In that district, covering parts of Hartford, Bloomfield and Windsor, an interesting Democratic primary is taking shape.
On one side of the ring is the incumbent Eric Coleman, 55 years old and seeking his 7th term.
In the other corner is Anthony McCann, 49 years old and making his first bid for elected office, after spending half his life in politics toiling “behind the scenes.”
These men are no strangers. According to McCann, they met 25 years ago in Hartford, working on Thirman Milner’s mayoral campaign in 1981. Milner beat the odds and became New England’s first African-American mayor. McCann went on, at the youthful age of 25, to become Mayor Milner’s executive assistant. Coleman, just entering his thirties, served six terms as State Representative starting in 1983, followed by six terms in the Senate starting in 1995. Coleman enters this race with his party’s endorsement. McCann enters with the support of his former boss, and reports that Milner has signed on to be Senior Campaign Advisor.
Both candidates pride themselves on their records of public service. Coleman holds the distinction of being the first African-American chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. As a result of his tenure on that committee, he says, there are now “more women and persons of color serving as judges than ever before.” Recently he was appointed Deputy President Pro Tempore of the Senate. In that role, he says, he can better serve his constituents because he has greater “access to information…more interaction with the governor,” and he helps decide which legislative issues hit the Senate floor, and when.
McCann is a financial services analyst who currently serves as Commissioner of the Hartford Redevelopment Agency, helping, in his words, to “steer development in the city.” McCann also boasts an impressive list of Democrats he helped propel to office, including Carrie Saxton Perry, Hartford’s first black female mayor. As McCann throws down his gauntlet, he warns, “I made news behind the scenes…[now] I want to impact and be a change agent…Nobody will campaign like I am…I know how to win.”
Both men share a concern with guiding youth along the right path. To this end, McCann helped launch a life skills–mentoring program, sponsored by the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, that helps middle-school boys considered “at risk.” Coleman believes he sets a positive example for youth by being a “moral public servant.” He also has taken into his home a total of 16 foster children at various times over the years.
But that’s where the similarities end. McCann’s rallying cry is that it’s time for a change. He argues that after 22 years of Coleman, the people “deserve more than one person to speak for them.” For his part, Coleman argues that he “still feel[s] effective…don’t let anyone kid themselves…seniority is…an asset.”
McCann maintains that the key to progress in the 2nd senatorial district is “unification.” In his campaign announcement, he pledges to “help jump-start communications between the three towns that make up our district. Simply put, the town chairpersons of Hartford, Bloomfield and Windsor need to talk…The escalation of criminal activity, lack of sustained educational systems and, certainly, expanded employment opportunities are but the least we need to combine and attack, strategically together.” McCann stresses that “we are neighbors and should be seated at the same table…thinking, what’s best for…Bloomfield, Windsor and Hartford.”
While McCann sees unification as the tool that can solve many problems, Coleman believes that the main answer is “jobs…the free flow of guns and drugs is a by-product of unemployment. Even our educational system is adversely affected…[because] youngsters in school need that motivation to fulfill their potential…To the extent that we can grow small business…they will become employers in the community…[We can provide] tax incentives for businesses to hire from the community.” Coleman also thinks some unnecessary legal barriers prevent the hiring of ex-offenders. He would explore removing those barriers when appropriate, to reduce high unemployment and recidivism rates in that population.
As summer temperatures rise and this primary battle heats up, you will hear more from these candidates. Differences in personality or style may strike you. Coleman comes across as a seasoned veteran who prides himself on the reputation and relationships he has built up in government over 23 years. McCann, a bit more of a maverick, says, “I have friends in all three towns…[but] I don’t owe anybody anything. [I can be] truly a servant of the people.” In the end, McCann says, they are “two bright educated men…[who] want to serve the public…that’s the definition of democracy.”
He left out one thing. It’s democracy only if you, the people, go out and vote.