That question and others were the subject of heated debate Monday as J. Stan McCauley, Republican candidate for mayor, said he was "prohibited" on Sunday from marching in Hartford's Columbus Day parade. He said he was only told at the last minute that he could walk at the end, behind the "last police car."
"Obviously, there is a different set of rules, depending on who you are," said Kevin Brookman, McCauley's campaign manager.
But the parade's main organizer, Al Marotta, said that every candidate who asked to march in the parade, and who is not an officeholder, was given the same option - to walk at the back of the parade. The goal was to de-politicize the event, he said.
"I didn't tell anybody they couldn't march, because it is a public street," Marotta said.
And herein lies the question - was the red, white and blue campaign bus of City Council candidate Paul Mozzicato at the back of the parade? What about mayoral candidate I. Charles Mathews, who walked alongside the bus with former Mayor Mike Peters?
If you ask Marotta and Mozzicato, the retrofitted school bus and those marching with it were, indeed, at the back of the parade, followed only by the city's fire department.
If you ask McCauley, the bus's placement proved that he was excluded, and is yet another reason to overthrow "single-party rule" after 38 years of Democratic domination. He blamed Marotta, a former Democratic city councilman.
What's more, McCauley said, Matt Ritter, a Democratic city council candidate, marched alongside Mayor Eddie A. Perez, near the front of the parade.
"We were told right from the beginning that it was a nonpolitical event, which is why we couldn't participate," McCauley said. "Not only is Mr. Mozzicato a candidate, and not only was he in the parade, but his bus was in the parade. It's a special painted bus. It is very nice. It makes my little `McCauley For Mayor' sign on the back of my bike seem insignificant."
"But the Mozzicato bus was in front of the fire chief, so I don't know how that is the back of the parade," McCauley added. "And Matt Ritter was in the front, so I don't know how that is toward the back."
Fire Chief Charles A. Teale Sr. said Monday he had asked that his men and vehicles be positioned at the rear of the parade. Mozzicato's bus was right in front of the city's fire department, as close to the back as anyone could get without wearing fire gear or driving a fire engine.
Ritter said he did not ask Marotta for permission to participate, but "just showed up and marched."
And Mozzicato said Monday he asked to be in the parade and was fine wherever Marotta placed him. He also said he invited McCauley to join him after seeing the Republican candidate riding a bike at the edge of the parade route. McCauley said Monday he remembers the invitation, but didn't want to be rude by "inserting" himself into an event for the public.
"I invited him to join us," Mozzicato said. "He waved to me, and I said `Come in with us,' because we heard rumblings about what was going on with him. But he didn't join in. Maybe he was just making a statement."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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