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3 At Top Of GOP Pool To Replace Airey-Wilson

Town chairman to forward their resumes to Hartford's city council

Jenna Carlesso

December 08, 2010

Steven Bonafonte, Corey Brinson and John O'Connell have been nominated by the Republican town committee to fill the city council seat being vacated by Veronica Airey-Wilson.

Bonafonte, a lawyer with Travelers, Brinson, a Bloomfield lawyer who is Airey-Wilson's nephew, and O'Connell, a former city councilman, were chosen from a pool of eight candidates.

Airey-Wilson last month applied for a voluntary retirement incentive program that would add four additional years of credit toward her city pension. Under the plan, she must resign no later than Dec. 31.

At a Republican town committee meeting Tuesday, Bonafonte received six votes, Brinson received five and O'Connell, two.

Town Chairman Michael McGarry said he planned to forward the candidates' resumes to the city council on Wednesday.

McGarry called Bonafonte "spectacular," pointing to his experience as a member of the Hartford Redevelopment Agency and chairman of the city's parking authority.

He described Brinson as "a spirited, hard worker," who, despite being 29, has made a name for himself in politics. Brinson unsuccessfully challenged Jerry Farrell Jr. for the Republican nomination for secretary of the state in August.

"I was very pleased that we had such great talent and great pitches," McGarry said.

McGarry said that although O'Connell received votes, he doesn't intend to press for the nomination. O'Connell wanted to express his views on certain Hartford issues and did not consider himself a serious candidate, McGarry said.

City Councilman Luis Cotto said he and Councilman Larry Deutsch plan to meet with the candidates and any other Republicans who apply for the seat.

Under the city charter, Airey-Wilson's seat must be filled by someone of the same party in this case, a Republican.

Cotto said he hopes Democrats on the council will look to him and Deutsch who are both members of the Working Families party and the panel's minority caucus for a recommendation to fill the seat.

"It only makes sense that the minority caucus has a say in who the next minority caucus member will be," Cotto said.

Deutsch said he will consider the town committee's recommendations, but won't favor those candidates over other qualified applicants.

"The council should make its decision based on what it knows about all the individuals, regardless of the town committee nominations," he said. "A small number of people participated in that decision. Just because the town committee recommended a certain slate of people, it doesn't signify to me that that's the best from the whole city."

The council will probably vote on replacements for Airey-Wilson and Councilman Matthew Ritter, who is leaving to become a state representative, in January, some members said.

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.
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