State Rep. Art Feltman and several former city officials are expected to throw their support to mayoral challenger I. Charles Mathews at a news conference today, the Mathews campaign said Tuesday.
Feltman had been a candidate for mayor, but withdrew his bid after losing the Democratic primary.
"I ran for Mayor because the Hartford I know and love has not done well under this administration," Feltman said in a written statement. "My campaign was based on a platform of reform, good government and fiscal responsibility, values Charles understands."
Also listed on the announcement are two other former city council members, Democrat Eugenio Caro and Republican John O'Connell. The event is scheduled for 11 a.m. in front of city hall.
Mayor Eddie A. Perez won the Sept. 11 Democratic primary with 49 percent of the vote. Mathews came in second with 29 percent, followed by Feltman with 13 percent and former state Sen. Frank Barrows with 9 percent.
Barrows, like Feltman, left the race after the primary. Barrows would not comment Tuesday on whom he would be supporting, saying only that he had made up his mind and would "definitely" not be at the Mathews event.
Mathews is widely considered Perez's strongest challenger. In order to unseat the mayor, political observers say, Mathews must consolidate much of the anti-incumbent vote - described in political circles as the "ABE vote" - "anyone but Eddie." Gaining Feltman's support was considered the first step in that process.
Mathews said the endorsements show he is the consensus candidate for those who want a new direction in government.
Beside Perez and Mathews, the Democrats who are seeking the city's top slot are state Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, former Mayor Thirman Milner and political newcomer Raul De Jesus. J. Stan McCauley is the only Republican candidate for mayor.
Signs of the merger between Mathews and Feltman surfaced two weeks ago when Mathews took over Feltman's former campaign headquarters on Farmington Avenue. Mathews also operates his original headquarters, on Albany Avenue in the North End.
O'Connell supported Feltman during the primary and said Tuesday he thinks Mathews is now the most viable candidate. He spoke with urgency about ousting Perez.
"I think the Perez administration is an absolute abomination," O'Connell said. "It is corrupt. And beyond corrupt, it is dysfunctional. Another four years of Perez will bring this city to financial ruin."
O'Connell said that for anyone concerned about Perez's handling of city hall, a vote for McCauley would be wasted.
The city's 1,900 registered Republicans make up 5 percent of Hartford voters.
"Stan McCauley is a lovely guy, and there are wonderful people in the party, people that I think the world of," O'Connell said. "But I think they are misguided on this one."
McCauley said he was surprised by O'Connell's endorsement of Mathews.
"The people who are running specifically to get Eddie out of office, that is not a reason to run," McCauley said. "If people aren't going to run for Hartford, and do that with sincerity and conviction, then they are actually doing harm to Hartford."
Perez's campaign manager, Kenny Curran, said Perez would continue to focus on presenting his "record of achievement" to voters, and said the endorsement of 49 percent of the city's Democrats was stronger than any individual's support.
"I think the endorsement we got on primary day is a very strong one," Curran said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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