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Ist District Champion Fending Off Insider Challenge

Kevin Rennie

July 11, 2010

There are only 10 primaries for party nominations in the state's 151 House of Representative districts. That Democrat Ken Green, who represents the 1st Assembly District, which comprises portions of Hartford and Bloomfield, is among those being challenged is one of the surprises of this election year.

Green's energy and persistence in serving his constituents stand out among his colleagues. One reason for his hard work may be that large parts of his district include the urban poor. Their problems and solutions involve government more than the troubles and aggravations that visit the middle and affluent classes.

The poor and struggling often turn to their elected officials to help them through the thicket of public and private bureaucracies. Green has an enviable reputation for following through. Someone who calls with a problem will find an advocate who stays with an issue to its conclusion. For constituents who contact their legislators, there are no small problems. Green treats them with respect and determination.

Green doesn't fob off a constituent on a staff member or legislative liaison and then move on to the next cheerful public event. He makes the calls and attends the meetings to find answers and solutions. He is persistent, which is another way of saying that some people in government find him difficult.

A social worker, Green's been at the center of issues involving youth during his 16 years in the General Assembly. Young people, however, don't often vote in primaries so Green's commitment does him little political good. That's not what motivates him.

Green can be blunt in a business that fears candor. He complained this spring that Gov. M. Jodi Rell's nomination of 10 lawyers to seats on the Superior Court included no minorities. He persisted with his complaint, raised the issue in a public meeting of the judiciary committee and even by voted against one of the nominees because he felt her testimony showed she wasn't qualified.

That sort of honest assessment of what a legislator witnesses at a public hearing is so rare that Green deserves to be re-elected for that alone. Legislators will mutter among themselves about a nominee who stumbles through answers and displays a frightening lack of knowledge about the position they are seeking. They will almost never share their reaction when a microphone's on, and they rarely cast a dissenting vote. That takes guts. Green's got them.

Green serves as co-chairman of the legislature's housing committee, an assignment that not many of his colleagues yearn to hold. Housing issues, however, matter a lot in Hartford. This year, Green pursued an idea that seemed fair and devoid of controversy as it moved through the legislature: Let public housing residents form tenant organizations and select someone to sit on public housing boards. Local officials now make the choice.

Here sense and the mysterious ways of government collided. The bill passed with overwhelming support in both houses of the legislature. Then it was vetoed by Gov. Rell. The legislature failed to take a vote to override the veto when it met last month. It appeared that it had the votes but not the will.

Working against the veto override vote was the lobbying firm Brown Rudnick, which is run by former Speaker of the House Thomas Ritter. House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, opposed taking an override vote with an insistence that startled some of his Republican colleagues. Cafero is a lawyer at Brown Rudnick and enjoys a close relationship with Ritter.

The vote never happened. Green's up against another Ritter in his re-election campaign. He's facing Matt Ritter, son of the former speaker and a member of Hartford's city council. He won the party's endorsement for the legislative seat in May. He appears to enjoy considerable support in Hartford's predominantly white West End.

Green is up against it. Interests who know how to work the levers of politics and government want that seat returned to a third generation of Ritters. Green is in the way. That he is the hardest-working and most effective member of the Hartford delegation to the legislature ought to matter more than it does in the inscrutable ways of Hartford's Democratic politics and furtive connections at the Capitol.

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.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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