HARTFORD —— Recent maneuvering over cross-endorsements in the upcoming election is part of the fight to control the three seats designated by law for minority parties on the city council.
In a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 18 to 1, Democrats have traditionally had a lock on six seats on the council. The remaining three seats traditionally went to Republicans, but the equation changed in 2009 when the Working Families Party captured two of those seats, leaving the Republicans only one.
In a bid to strengthen their hand in November, Republicans last week announced they would only run three candidates for the council and cross-endorse three of the Democratic candidates.
The idea was in part to lure some Democrats to vote for Republicans, perhaps denying Working Families at least some seats on the council, Republican town committee Chairman Michael T. McGarry said.
"We cannot compete with the Working Families Party," McGarry said. "They're union financed."
Although the three Democratic council candidates initially accepted the Republican offer, they quickly backtracked when other factions in the party objected. Adam Cloud, the Democrat running for treasurer, also turned down Republicans.
"It seemed to be the general consensus that it could be damaging to the six-member Democratic slate," said council member Kenneth Kennedy, who was cross-endorsed along with Alexander Aponte and Kyle Anderson. He said the endorsements were rejected "for the sake of party unity."
Democratic Mayor Pedro Segarra was also cross-endorsed and has accepted, so his name will appear on both the Democratic and Republican lines on the ballot. McGarry said Republicans had no major policy differences with the mayor.
"I look forward to working with anyone who wants to work with Democrats to move our agenda forward," Segarra said.
McGarry said the cross-endorsement strategy was discussed with some Democrats for months, motivated by a mutual desire to minimize the impact of the Working Families Party, which sometimes advanced views to the left of the Democratic majority.
"Every single Democrat on the current council approached us and said, 'We've got to get rid of these guys,'" McGarry said.
But Kennedy said that while he has been frustrated with "different members of the council from time to time," there was no "grand scheme" to undermine the Working Families Party.
""I think Mike [McGarry] is mistaken," Kennedy said. "I have not had that conversation with him."
The Working Families Party also offered to cross-endorse Segarra, but the mayor balked when the party decided to run four candidates for council, seeking the potential of knocking off a Democratic candidate.
Jon Green, executive director of the Working Families Party, said it considered running anywhere between three and six candidates.
"We simply decided to endorse candidates who we thought best represented our values, people who had a history of activism and standing up for ordinary citizens," Green said.
He said the party is still an underdog in the race and running a larger slate makes the campaign more of a challenge.
"But in a city where political wheeling and dealing is the norm, we think it's OK to just let the voters decide," he said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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