First-Time Office-Seeker Beats Longtime Political Insider
By STEVEN GOODE and JENNA CARLESSO
October 02, 2012
Newcomer Brandon McGee, who clawed his way to a tie vote after two recounts, won the Democratic nomination for the 5th General Assembly District in a revote Tuesday.
McGee tallied 1,095 votes, while his opponent, Leo Canty, got 942, according to unofficial results from Hartford and Windsor.
His journey encompassed two primary votes, two recounts, one elections complaint and hours in court.
He will face Republican Paul Panos in the general election in November.
"I went into today feeling very cautiously optimistic," McGee said Tuesday night, "but one thing that I did know — having the opportunity to be in the newspaper just about every day since August 14, being on TV, knocking on doors, going to churches — was that people were really, really encouraged by my perseverance. That resonated with a lot of people."
McGee, 28 and making his first run for public office, beat Canty, a longtime political insider and union official. Canty, of Windsor, was the party-endorsed candidate.
McGee, of Hartford, gets the nomination for a newly reapportioned district that was designed to give Windsor its first Democratic majority district in the statehouse in more than 30 years. There are about 5,000 registered Democrats in the Windsor portion of the district and 3,000 in the Hartford portion.
McGee said Tuesday that he plans to meet with the district's community leaders, including Canty, to discuss what legislation should be brought forth at the Capitol. The tax system, education and jobs are some of the key areas he said he hopes to focus on if elected.
Canty said Tuesday that if it were not for a last-minute, $38,000 cash infusion that McGee received from the Greater New England Public School Alliance, he might have won.
The group is affiliated with California-based StudentsFirst, which advocates for school choice vouchers, charter schools and abolishing teacher seniority systems.
"We had a huge uphill battle," Canty said. "If it wasn't for that $38,000 that came in, we could have won. They did a mailer and a bunch of stuff we could not do."
Canty, who also received a $1,500 independent expenditure contribution from his union, the Connecticut chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, filed a complaint Monday over the issue and said he plans to pursue it.
McGee said he is confident heading into the November election. "Hartford and Windsor are predominantly Democratic," he said. "Not to suggest we rule the world, but I think we have some solid ground here."
McGee's road to winning the Democratic primary started Aug. 14, when he and Canty tied at 774 votes each in the first vote.
A subsequent recount ordered by the Secretary of the State's office gave Canty the win by one vote when McGee lost one vote in Windsor's second district.
The unexplained loss of a vote, along with questions regarding the number of absentee ballots counted in Hartford, prompted McGee to file an elections complaint and ask for a second recount.
The disappearance of the vote in Windsor and a lack of explanation in Hartford over a one-ballot discrepancy between the number of absentee ballots delivered by the city clerk's office to the registrar of voters' office and the number counted on Election Night prompted Superior Court Judge A. Susan Peck to order the highly unusual second recount.
She ordered the recount of all votes in Windsor and an inspection and recount of the absentee ballots in Hartford. Peck also ordered that any new findings be brought to court for examination.
The second recount in Windsor restored McGee's vanished vote and the race was deadlocked again.
Peck's order to bring any new discoveries to court proved prescient, as during the Windsor recount an absentee ballot marked "deceased' was brought into question by the candidates' attorneys.
Lawyers questioned when the 91-year-old woman whose name was on the sealed ballot died, and officials were unable to verify her date of death. The next morning, the Windsor town clerk called the nursing home listed as her address and learned that she was still alive.
Back in court, Hartford elections officials were able to account for the discrepancy in absentee ballots by showing Peck an absentee ballot envelope that did not have a ballot inside it.
Then Peck took up the issue of the unopened Windsor absentee ballot and the fact that the woman was alive. With the vote tied, Peck ruled that the ballot should be opened. The event was anticlimactic though, because the vote was cast for Windsor Mayor Donald Trinks, who finished third in the primary.
A steady stream of voters stopped by the Parker Memorial Community Center in Hartford to cast their votes Tuesday.
Angela Hunter, a city resident, called McGee, director of development for the Urban Alliance In Hartford, "sincere" and "honest."
"He's very into what's he's doing," she said. "He wants to help the community. He's very motivated to get things done."
Keith Morris, who voted for McGee, said he wasn't dissuaded by McGee's youth or lack of political experience.
"He's a young guy who seems to be going in right direction," Morris said. "He's just like most of us. Let's give him a chance and see what he does."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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