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Democrats Fight, Smaller Parties Seek To Gain

By Jeff Cohen

October 24, 2011

In Hartford, Pedro Segarra is running for mayor, and his name is on the ballot twice. One of the Segarra's Democratic opponents says the mayor's dual endorsement violates local party rules and he wants the state party to intervene. But as WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, the dispute is also about who gets to play second political fiddle.

Hartford is dominated by Democrats. That means smaller parties -- Republicans and the Working Families Party -- are left to fight over lesser political fruits, like who gets the title of minority leader on the city council. In that game, an alliance with the Democrats can be extremely valuable on election day.

So that's one reason city Republicans did something you don't often see -- they endorsed Segarra, a Democrat. Mike McGarry is head of the Hartford Republicans. He says Segarra may be a Democrat, but his policies are fiscally conservative. And endorsing him might just mean a better result for Republicans in November.

McGarry: So we figured, okay why don't we endorsee the mayor and possibly we'll get some Democratic votes out of it.

Cohen: But is the idea to sort of stake your claim to the minority party status in Hartford?

McGarry: Yes. There's no question that we think that Hartford is much better served with mainstream, underline that, mainstream politics.

That's a jab at the Working Families Party, which now controls the city council's minority caucus. It could have endorsed Segarra, but, this time, it decided against playing the cross-endorsement game.

That game has ticked off some city Democrats, though.

Edwin Vargas lost to Segarra in the September Democratic primary and he's on the November ballot as a petitioning candidate for mayor. Now, Vargas says that local party rules don't allow Segarra to be endorsed by both Democrats and Republicans. His attorney, Robert Ludgin, has filed a complaint with the state party.

"What we want to have happen is have the Democratic nomination for Pedro Segarra be revoked."

John Kennelly is Segarra's attorney in this matter. He says that local and state party rules can't undo the results of the September primary.

Kennelly: That rule does not get to nullify what the collective decision was of thousands and thousands of Democrats.

Still, state Democrats are taking it seriously enough to have a formal hearing on it later this week.

Reprinted with permission of Jeff Cohen, author of the blog Capital Region Report. To view other stories on this topic, search Capital Region Report at http://capitalregionreport.wordpress.com/.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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