Real Estate Sales Executive Believed To Have Support Of Perez
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer
March 12, 2008
After weeks of heated political deal-making behind the scenes, the Hartford Democratic Town Committee elected a new chairman Tuesday, ending the six-year leadership of outgoing chairman Noel F. McGregor Jr.
Sean Arena, a real estate sales executive and a candidate widely believed to have the support of Mayor Eddie A. Perez, was elected by acclimation after his only opposition, city council aide Georgiana "Jean" Holloway, removed her name from consideration.
One of her supporters, longtime political figure Nick Carbone, told the town committee he was concerned about why her apparent support so quickly evaporated.
After his victory, Arena said he hoped that the town committee, long plagued by a reputation of bending to the will of those in power, would "turn to being a very independent body."
"That was my entire reason for running," Arena said.
Because Hartford's politics are dominated by Democrats — the city's electorate is nearly 70 percent Democratic — the town committee has always held great power over who gets elected to represent the city and who gets Hartford's Democratic support in national elections.
Perez and candidates he backs have enjoyed strong support from the committee since he took office, and Tuesday's vote proved no different.
But as late as Monday night, many believed that Arena had a political dogfight on his hands and that Holloway had support from a majority of the committee's members.
After Holloway withdrew her name, Carbone, a former deputy mayor, asked to speak before the entire committee. He told the group that as of 8 p.m. Monday, by his count, Holloway had the support needed to win the chairmanship, only to lose it after "something mysteriously happened" to her votes.
"The votes weren't there anymore, so I took my name out of the running," Holloway said after the committee meeting.
Two people who Holloway said had committed to her — Mamie M. Bell and Ludella Perry Williams — abruptly resigned from the 5th District Town Committee Tuesday night before the vote.
Williams' seat was filled by political boss Abraham L. Giles, who months ago left his district committee after he fell ill and was replaced by his wife, Juanita Giles, who still sits on the committee.
Bell's seat was filled by Miles Wiles, an employee of Giles' company, G&G Enterprises. Voter registration rolls list Wiles' home address as being the same as that of Giles.
Giles, 81, said Tuesday that many people tried to put him "out to pasture, but they found they still needed me for a little while longer, just to hang around." He supported Arena because Arena is "trainable," a quality Giles said was essential for any town chairman.
"That is one of the reasons I'm involved, is to train him," Giles said. "To be a town committee that everybody respects has to be a town committee that gets people elected, that selects people for higher office and sees to it they get elected."
Giles later said that he did not know why Bell resigned and that he replaced Williams because she had become sick and vacated her post.
"She's sick," he said. "And I'm sick, too. That's an oxymoron, huh?"
Giles, who is said to control key votes in the city's North End, landed in the middle of a controversy last year when state criminal investigators started probing the circumstances surrounding a lucrative, no-bid deal that Perez gave Giles just before Perez's recent push for re-election.
The investigation later touched Perez directly when investigators searched his home and asked questions about $20,000 that Perez paid for home improvement work that a city contractor did.
In December, a grand jury began hearing evidence about the Perez administration in Superior Court in New Britain. It has interviewed dozens of people from the city and asked for evidence on a range of topics, from the parking deals to Hartford's school construction projects.
Not all of the town committee was present for Tuesday's vote. The 7th District town committee was vacated last month after its members failed to submit sufficient numbers of signatures to the registrar's office to qualify for the new term. The 7th District's membership will be replaced in a coming meeting of the entire committee.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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