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Hartford GOP: We Don't Have Money For Presidential Primary


March 07, 2012

HARTFORD When the Republican presidential primary rolls into Connecticut on April 24, party members in Hartford might be left without a chance to decide between Romney, Santorum, Gingrich or Paul.

The GOP registrar says the Democrat-controlled city council hasn't given him enough money to hold the primary. Salvatore Bramante said there won't be enough cash left after Tuesday's Democratic Town Committee election.

"Hartford Republicans will not have a voice in the presidential primary this year and there is nothing that can be done about it at this point," Bramante said in a written statement. "By the time legal action could be pursued, by the time that a court could become involved, it will be too late to prepare materials for a primary.

For the first time in the history of our political primary system one party has found a way to successfully freeze the opposition entirely."

Bramante could not be reached for additional comment. He had called a press conference for Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at city hall to discuss the matter, but canceled it Wednesday night, party members said.

The city council allocated $120,000 to the registrars' office during its Feb. 27 meeting. But that money was to be split, with the Democratic registrar getting about $66,000 and the Republican registrar receiving about $54,000, according to an interoffice memorandum sent from city Council President Shawn Wooden to Bramante and Olga Vazquez, the Democratic registrar of voters.

It is not clear how much was spent during the Democratic primary Tuesday.

Before the primary, Vazquez said: "I will proceed as normal to make sure the candidates are equally represented at the polls. If I exceed my amount they've allowed me, I will go to court."

Wooden said Wednesday that Bramante had originally requested $86,855 to cover costs for the April primary, and that Vazquez had originally asked for $110,133. He said he and Mayor Pedro Segarra reviewed state laws, which showed that fewer employees were needed to cover the polls than the registrars had requested.

Wooden supplied the registrars with an amended budget and staffing suggestions for the primaries.

"We arrived at this number by reconciling your request with the statutory requirements for minimum staffing at each polling place set fourth in Connecticut general statutes," he wrote in a letter to the registrars.

For example, Wooden said Wednesday, Bramante and Vazquez had asked for two assistant registrars and two ballot clerks for each polling location, when state law says that only one is needed for primaries.

"If there's ever a case for not wasting taxpayer money, the Democratic Town Committee primary and [upcoming] Republican primary are the poster children for it," Wooden said. "There's no grand conspiracy here. The council stepped up and did the fiscally prudent thing to do."

He noted that the city council also allocated $55,000 to the registrar's office for "activities related to redistricting," but said the council has not received an explanation of how that money was used.

Michael McGarry, chairman of the city's Republican Town Committee, called the $54,000 budget for the Republican primary "offensive."

"There's not enough elbow room in that budget to run the polls correctly, and we're not even sure that much money is even going to be there. We don't know what was spent [Tuesday]," McGarry said. "It's the responsibility of Shawn Wooden and the council to make sure they are funding the Republican primary correctly.

"They cannot disenfranchise the Republican voters, and they cannot make it so that you can't run the primary."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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