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Greater Hartford Labor Council Won't Support A Mayoral Candidate

By Jenna Carlesso

July 11, 2011

Officials with the Greater Hartford Central Labor Council say the council won't put its support behind any of the candidates for city mayor.

At a meeting last week, members of the council met to cast their votes for the candidate they would support. Democrat Edwin Vargas -- a former teachers' union member -- garnered about 60 percent of the votes, while incumbent Mayor Pedro Segarra, also a Democrat, picked up about 40 percent, said Leo Canty, vice president of labor council.

To earn the endorsement, a candidate must get two-thirds of the votes. Neither candidate qualified.

"That means the labor council will not work for a candidate -- but locals are free to do so," Canty wrote in an e-mail to Hartford union members last week.

Canty said he received a call from Phil Sherwood, Segarra's campaign manager, last week during which Sherwood made "veiled threats" that Canty would face repercussions for not supporting Segarra.

"He pretty much told me that they were disappointed and angry at me for leading a charge to do that to Pedro," Canty said Monday, "which was a surprise to me, because I wasn't leading any charge."

Canty said he supported Vargas because of his track record and because "his head is in the right place in terms of getting things done."

Regarding his telephone conversation with Sherwood, Canty said, "It's just not the kind of politics that I like. You shouldn't be voting for somebody based on what might happen to you."

Sherwood denied making threats.

"I called him up and said I was disappointed, but under no circumstances directly or indirectly did I make any threats," Sherwood said Monday. "If he continues to assert such he should be more specific in what those threats were, or apologize."

A copy of the e-mail that Canty sent to union members is below:

TO: Unions with members in Hartford

FROM: Leo Canty

DATE: July 8, 2010


The Hartford Labor Council went through our usual interview and deliberation process in determining if we would make an endorsement in the upcoming Mayoral Primary. On Wednesday July 6 we met and cast our votes - there will be no endorsement - Ed Vargas was the front runner and his candidacy missed the 2/3 endorsement threshold by a few hundred votes out of the 12,000 + that were cast.

That means the Labor Council will not work for a candidate - but locals are free to do so.

The day after the election - I received a call from Pedro Segarra's campaign manager Phill Sherwood - (while at the time on vacation in Venice Italy) - who proceeded to chew me out for playing a key role in messing up the Hartford Labor Council endorsement for Segarra. I was accused of fronting the effort to work against Segarra and threatened with various dire consequences regarding appointments and union issues when "Pedro was elected" in response to. I know Phil Sherwood from previous campaigning and Sherwood expressed high levels of disappointment by my actions and felt the need to call me, voice his views...and let me know about the consequences of my actions against his candidate..

I appropriately argued and told him that I was incredibly displeased by that call - and he can threaten all he wants...... it just made me question more if Segarra is not the right candidate for Hartford and sounded like an incredibly desperate campaign approach.

I explained to Sherwood I cast my local union votes in particular because of Segarrra's bold position seeking to move 2500 of my union's members to Hartford with his " UConn Health Center goes to Hartford" proposal. Segarra never contacted us - we are the largest union at UCHC and in the top tier of GHLC locals and would have huge impact and consequences with a move like that which should legitimately be at least discussed with those affected by it - . But, Sherwood then blamed me for not contacting Segarra in advance of his newser announcing his bold plan - like I could read their minds that they were going to announce a plan like that. - More questions about the candidate's validity...and the campaign approach.

In addition to the threats - he went into a defaming diatribe about Vargas. Sherwood proclaimed "Vargas was a homophobe" campaigning on an anti gay platform against Segarra and that Vargas "met with the Metro Alliance and claimed he was "The Business Candidate" and was prepared to cut the school budget."

I don't need to defend Vargas because I have known for 35 years Ed's deep commitment to Hartford, it's children, it's unions, and all of it's people without bias. I know it won't be a struggle for Ed to make decisions on behalf of working families and be an ardent advocate for unions - and we have few people like that anywhere in elected office. Vargas served on my International Union Human and Civil Rights Committee and has been directly involved in guaranteeing rights for everyone and in my union specifically against any bias from sexual preference. To hear Sherwood's charge is most insulting - but that's politics - and the kind I truly despise..and the kind of politics I hate to see in any campaign or elected office.

I am a big advocate for labor involvement in politics and continue to be. In this campaign with all of my Labor Council union brothers and sisters I only spoke kind words about Segarra and offered my view why I believe we need more real - true - dyed in the wool labor supporters in elected positions.

... BTW I did not lead any charge or make one call or twist any arm to vote for Ed ( he's not happy about that) or say anything in any way shape or form derogatory about Segarra. I merely offered my views in our process about this election and why we need labor people in office ....I was on the prevailing side as a significant majority of the votes cast in the Labor Council election went for Vargas and maybe the premise that we actually do need union folk in office - but the endorsement of the concept missed 66% by a couple of .points. So we campaign on our own if we wish.

I write this in case anyone else got the same kind of call or threats from the Segarra campaign - I know of at least 1 other call. You need to know this because it was a slap at me and at my commitment to union political action and my respect for the process I believe to be important. We lose everything if we vote in fear of threats and consequences -

Anyway - it was bad in my book - really not good things to say - to me or anyone

Please contact me if you have any questions or had the same kind of experience - it's good to know about these things.

Feel free to share my comments with anyone you choose

Leo Canty

(O) 860-257-9782 (C) 860-794-6075 (H) 860-285-8467

(O) 35 Marshall Rd Rocky Hill CT 06067 (H) 27 Devin Way Windsor CT 06095

E-Mail unionleo@aol.com

...A big fat corporate Hartford CEO, a union guy and an elected official were at a table at a charity fundraiser where they served 10 cookies on a plate for the dessert item. The CEO grabbed 9 of them and leaned over to the official and whispered.. better move fast before that union guy steals your cookie....

Reprinted with permission of the CityLine blog of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the CityLine at http://blogs.courant.com/cityline/ and the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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