Hartford Democrats Lots of competition at nominating convention, but top of slate is all male
Hartford Courant Editorial
July 22, 2011
Hartford Democrats cashiered their antiquated racial quotas for the party's city council slate last Thursday. That development — as well as more robust competition among council candidates — was the best outcome from the party's first nominating convention since former Mayor Eddie Perez's iron-fisted rule.
The worst outcome was the fact that you have to go all the way down to the office of constable before you can find an endorsed female Democratic candidate.
Gender diversity took a big hit at this convention. That's odd and troubling because Hartford has had a proud history in the past half-century of electing women to high office. These include Mayors Ann Uccello, a Republican, and Carrie Saxon Perry, a Democrat, as well as Treasurers Denise Nappier and Kathleen Palm Divine, both Democrats.
There's also a long roster of female council leaders as well as appointed corporation counsels, department heads and a city manager.
Women have been no strangers to power in Hartford. Why aren't more stepping forward to run?
Thursday's sad results speak to the need for more qualified women for local office. Current council President rJo Winch, who finished out of the running for the town committee's endorsement, is seen as divisive and ineffective.
Mr. Perez, who resigned from office last year after being convicted on corruption charges, not only discouraged challengers for his job, with the help of his political operatives, but stifled competition for council seats too. His presence is still felt, of course, because many current Hartford Democratic Town Committee members were elected with his blessing.
But that didn't stop the committee's endorsement of Mayor Pedro Segarra for a chance to run for a term in his own right. Mr. Segarra, as council president, took the reins after Mr. Perez was convicted. He is seen as the anti-Perez.
The former mayor's absence no doubt encouraged an unusually high number of candidates — more than 15 — to try for places on the council slate. That renewed interest is good for the city.
Better Way Of Choosing Candidates
Also good for Hartford is the suspension — at least for the time being — of the quota system for determining places on the council slate.
Traditionally Hartford Democrats nominated two African Americans, two Latinos and two whites. This was thought to be the best way to avert discord in multiracial Hartford. But it was not the best way to pick candidates.
At Thursday's "let-all-the-horses-run" convention, the winners formed a slate made up of three African Americans (Shawn Wooden, Kyle Anderson and incumbent Ken Kennedy), two Latinos (Raul DeJesus and incumbent Alex Aponte) and one white candidate (David MacDonald).
Candidates should be chosen for their ability, as it appears they mostly were in this case, and not racial or ethnic identity.
There was old-fashioned horse-trading in the Democratic town committee's multi-ballot, late-night tussle to endorse a candidate for city treasurer. The committee finally settled on the incumbent, Adam Cloud, who had been made assistant city treasurer by Ms. Palm Divine and then appointed by the city council to replace her when she retired in January.
Mr. Cloud has the credentials for the job as an expert in public finance and debt management. But he had to fight hard for the endorsement, even with his incumbency and expertise — suggesting that less noble political factors were at work.
Nonetheless, this nominating convention seemed somewhat less stage-managed than those in the recent past — and that's a plus for Hartford.
Now what the Hartford Democrats need are more women on the ticket.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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