House Rep. Ken Green and City Councilman Matt Ritter Face Off in the Aug. 10 Primary
A tough primary for the city’s incumbent in the state House of Representatives
July 27, 2010
After eight terms and 16 years representing Hartford in the state House of Representatives, Democrat Ken Green is facing perhaps his greatest challenge ever for re-election from Hartford City Councilman Matt Ritter, whose father Thomas Ritter is a former Speaker of the House. The two face off in a primary on Aug. 10.
“I consider any challenge to be a serious challenge,” says Green, acknowledging that Ritter has “greater name recognition” than the Connecticut for Lieberman party candidate, Mark Friedman, who ran against him two years ago.
In addition to name recognition, Ritter also has the endorsements of the Democratic town committees in both Hartford and Bloomfield (District 1, which Green represents, includes the West End of Hartford and Bloomfield) despite Green’s long tenure in the legislature. Ritter won the endorsement by a combined vote of 13-3, with all eight votes going his way on the Hartford town committee.
Although committee members in both cities did not return calls for comment, Ritter says he received their overwhelming support because he reached out to them, something Green didn’t do.
“I didn’t know anybody on the Bloomfield town committee, I just picked up the phone and called,” says Ritter. “There was a woman on the town council there, one of the delegates, who said ‘I’ve never spoken to your opponent in six years, so you have my support.’”
Normally, says Ritter, incumbents maintain close relationships with town committee members, asking them for their ideas and suggestions, and they stop doing so at their own peril.
“You can’t underestimate the value of picking up the telephone and calling someone or having a cup of coffee,” says Ritter.
But Green says he has the support that really counts — from his constituents — and to prove it he has covered the walls of his office on the fourth floor of the Legislative Office Building with plaques and certificates of appreciation given to him by various groups and organizations in the city over the years.
“I have quite a good record, I believe a stellar record,” says Green.
Green also dismissed the overall importance of the town committees, saying the delegates who serve on them don’t speak for the communities at large.
“Thirteen people should not decide who your representative is, it should be the entire community,” says Green. “Especially 13 people that if you asked people in the community they don’t even know who they are. If you ask anybody to name four people on the town committee I would guarantee you no one outside of some political folks would be able to do that.”
Ritter, says Green, should stay focused on the job he already has as a Hartford city councilman.
“You’d think a first-term city councilperson would try to focus on some of the issues in the city in terms of jobs, public safety, crime, the budget, and issues with the mayor’s office,” says Green. “You would think those on city council would be more focused on how are we going to turn the city around instead of political aspirations.”
Ritter says, however, he was approached to run for the House of Representatives by constituents dissatisfied with Green’s performance.
“When it became clear to people there were alternatives, someone willing to run, people contacted me and I said I would,” says Ritter.
And his endorsement by the town committees with an overwhelming margin of the votes is important, says Ritter, despite Green’s dismissive attitude. The vote on the town committees is a sort of “referendum on the incumbent,” according to Ritter, which Green lost.
“The town committee didn’t change overnight, the same people who endorsed him for the last decade are the same people who decided to go with me,” says Ritter. “If you don’t communicate with people as a politician [you’ll lose their support]. It’s not a lifetime contract. It’s a two-year contract and people will change their minds.”