A Lieberman Political Party That Opposes Lieberman
By MARK PAZNIOKAS | Courant Staff Writer
September 16, 2008
Even casual observers know that Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut has invested significant time and political capital in electing John McCain president.
So, it only follows that the Connecticut for Lieberman Party would be squarely for McCain, right?
It's not even for Lieberman.
Not any more.
Welcome to the world of third-party politics.
Led by John Mertens, a Trinity College engineering professor with a passion for independent politics and a disdain for Joe Lieberman, a few dozen voters have resurrected the senator's old ballot line.
After losing the Democratic primary in 2006, Lieberman ran for re-election as a petitioning candidate. To get his own ballot line, Lieberman took the initial steps to create a new party, Connecticut for Lieberman.
But he abandoned the name and the embryonic party as soon as he won.
John Orman, a Fairfield University political science professor and Lieberman critic, tweaked Lieberman by holding party functions under the Connecticut for Lieberman banner.
"I followed John Orman's antics. I thought it was quite amusing," Mertens said. "Then it hit me — Connecticut for Lieberman has ballot access."
Ballot access is everything in third-party politics.
Mertens tried to run for U.S. Senate in 2006 as a candidate of the Independent Party, but elections officials refused to give him ballot access, saying that the existence of two local Independent parties rendered the name unusable for statewide office.
(State officials say there now is only one Independent Party, and it can have statewide access.)
Mertens contacted Orman and proposed using Connecticut for Lieberman as a real political party. Orman agreed, on the condition that Mertens become chairman and take over the effort.
As the marketers would say, Mertens has "re-purposed" the old brand into an anti-Lieberman vehicle that is running a half-dozen candidates for state legislature this year and has endorsed Barack Obama for president.
Five of the six candidates have Trinity connections. The sixth, Robert Adkins of Waterbury, is an Independent Party member cross-endorsed by Connecticut for Lieberman, Mertens said.
Bryce Snarski-Pierce is a Trinity senior running in the 4th House District, which includes the Trinity campus. Mertens is running in the 20th House District in the Elmwood section of West Hartford. Two others are alumni and another is a former faculty member.
On its website, the party describes itself: "The CFL is an independent, anti-war, anti-corruption, pro-fiscal responsibility, pro-democracy party, that stands for individual liberties and real problem-solving in government."
Mertens said that the party looks forward to endorsing a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2010, when Christopher Dodd is up for re-election.
If Lieberman were to run again in 2012, the senator could look forward to being opposed by a nominee of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party. A spokesman said that Lieberman has no comment on the new direction of his old brand.
Tim McKee, an activist with the Green Party, which also ran a candidate against Lieberman in 2006, said that an anti-Lieberman party whose name indicates support of Lieberman strikes him as a joke.
"We've been trying to build up respect for third parties. If this is just a prank, please cut it out," McKee said. "Only the political junkies like us are the ones who get the joke."
Mertens said he was surprised by McKee's reaction.
"This is not a prank," Mertens said. "It is a takeover. This party has real value."
Even if it was for Joe Lieberman before it was against him.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at