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Green Upbeat About Chances In Primary

But Incumbent Faces Tough Challenge From Endorsed Democrat, Matthew Ritter

By JENNA CARLESSO

July 28, 2010

HARTFORD Two months after losing his party's endorsement, state Rep. Kenneth Green said he's feeling "very upbeat" heading into what could be his most difficult primary for the 1st District seat since his 2002 race against Barnaby Horton.

This time, Green, a 16-year incumbent, finds himself in a hard battle with Matthew Ritter, an opponent 30 years younger, who, like Horton, has a well-known name in local political circles. Green is also fending off claims that he's out of touch with constituents.

Green said he's been going to door to door in Hartford and Bloomfield talking with residents about their concerns, which run from unemployment to public safety.

"The response I get has been very positive," said Green, 57, who lives in Hartford. "People are aware of the issues I've been fighting for. There's been very few criticisms."

But some Democrats in the district, which includes the city's West End and a portion of Bloomfield, are telling a different story, saying Green's detachment was the reason the veteran politician was passed over for the endorsement at their nominating convention in May.

Green has said the move caught him by surprise.

"I was disappointed. It didn't appear to be a real open process," he said, saying delegates expressed no concerns to him about his representation.

Marc Needelman, co-vice chairman of the Bloomfield Democratic Town Committee, said Green surfaced in Bloomfield after Ritter, a member of the city council, began campaigning for Green's seat in April.

Needelman said Bloomfield Democratic leaders reached out to Green a few years ago and encouraged him to attend more meetings and events in town.

"We kind of held out our hand to him and he didn't respond until Matt announced he was running this year," Needelman said, "and even then, Matt has been present three to four times more than him overall."

During Ritter's time campaigning in Bloomfield, he's forged relationships with many members of the town committee and town council, Needelman said. By contrast, he said, Bloomfield communities have felt "neglected" by Green.

"I think the overwhelming majority of active Bloomfield Town Committee Democrats support Matt Ritter," he said. "It's not a reflection of [Green's] personality or character; it's about representing the entire district."

Green dismissed charges that he was an absentee representative.

"I've been able to successfully juggle full-time work and legislative leadership," Green, a school social worker, said in June. "That shows the kind of commitment I have." Green is a member of the legislature's finance, revenue and bonding and judiciary committees, and is co-chairman of the housing committee.

Ritter said he's feeling confident heading into the primary. The 28-year-old Hartford resident, son of former House Speaker Thomas Ritter, said he's making another round of door-to-door campaigning in the district.

"We've hit every home, most homes twice and some three times," he said. "I think it's created a real buzz.

"I believe the general feeling is that the state Capitol is at a crossroads and the same old way of doing business is not what voters are looking for," Ritter said. "I think that'll show on Election Day."

John Kennelly, who serves on the Hartford Democratic Town Committee, said Ritter's biggest challenge in the upcoming primary will be name recognition.

"Ken has represented these people for 16 years. He just has a natural advantage of being an incumbent," he said.

Kennelly said, however, that he has seen a groundswell of support for Ritter. Some members of the Hartford Democratic Town Committee have even accompanied Ritter on the campaign trail, helping him knock on doors.

"The state is facing unprecedented economic and social challenges," he said. "We need a newer, younger perspective to think about these problems in a new way."

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.
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