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National Education Reform Group Spends Money In 5th State House District Primary

Backs McGee's Campaign


October 01, 2012

HARTFORD An educational reform group affiliated with California-based StudentsFirst has spent an additional $5,600 on Brandon McGee's campaign in the 5th state House District Democratic primary, which goes to a re-vote Tuesday.

Great New England Public Schools Alliance filed the independent expenditure report with the state Elections Enforcement Commission Friday evening.

The expenditure was for Washington D.C.-based SKD Knickerbocker, a poltical consultant, for advertising and direct mailing, according to the filing.

Great New England Public Schools Alliance last week also spent about $32,000 on McGee, the Hartford candidate in the 5th District race. He is facing Windsor candidate Leo Canty.

The initial independent expenditures report filed Wednesday with the state Elections Enforcement Commission lists StudentsFirst as the top contrubutor to the group. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Steve Perry, principal of the Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, are also listed on the filing.

The filing shows that the group paid Swtichboard Communications of Washington D.C. about $2,300 for a phone bank and the Civic Census Group of Washington D.C. about $29,600 for canvassing services supporting McGee's candidacy.

Because state election laws prohibit the candidates from raising any more money for the campaign and both had less than $2,000 left after the first primary, the influx of cash in support of McGee could be significant.

"I didn't spend $32,000 on the entire campaign," Canty said Friday, adding that his campaign has switched to printing literature in black and white because they can't afford to use color anymore.

Canty, a longtime high-ranking officer in the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said he "never envisioned that we'd have to take on a national right-wing organization."

"I'm honored that they'd try to take me out," he said.

StudentsFirst, led by Michelle Rhee, the former head of the District of Columbia's public schools, has advocated successfully in several states to abolish seniority systems that protect veteran teachers from layoffs, and supports the expansion of charter schools and tax-funded vouchers that families can use to send their children to private and parochial schools.

Great New England Public Schools Alliance Director Jeri Powell said in a statement Friday that the organization supports McGee because he is "a pro-education, pro-student candidate who will continue to bring meaningful reform to Connecticut."

"The state has made great progress in the past year toward enacting common-sense policies that put the needs of kids first," Powell said. "Brandon McGee is the kind of candidate who will continue that work so that all kids can attend great schools staffed by great educators."

McGee said Friday that he has no control over who chooses to make an independent contribution in the race. He also said that he is pro-education reform but not anti-union.

"I believe in public education and teachers unions," McGee said Friday.

On Monday the Canty campaign released a statement critical of McGee for not calling on Great New England Public School Alliance to stay out of Windsor and Hartford.

Canty also received outside support from a group called AFT Connecticut Political Committee, based in East Haven. The group paid Grass Roots Strategies of Hartford $1,500 for canvassing for Canty, according to documents filed with the SEEC.

The 5th district primary has been recounted twice, with the second recount ending in a tie. The winner Tuesday will face Republican Paul Panos in November.

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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