A candidate who had been fighting to unseat Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez is now throwing his support behind the incumbent, saying that the way to help Hartford is to unite behind Perez and not continue "bashing" him.
But the decision by former state Sen. Frank Barrows, who lost the Democratic primary for mayor in September, stunned some of his closest friends and political supporters, who said the endorsement of Perez was a total reversal in position.
Barrows, they said, had been one of the most vocal critics of Perez.
"When Frank told me this, I was completely blown away," said Thom Page, a candidate for city council, close friend of Barrows and fellow member of the city's 1st District Democratic Town Committee. "All of us were just blown away."
John Kennelly, also a member of the 1st District town committee, said he was surprised, thought not shocked, by Barrows' decision.
"The temperature I take in this city is that Eddie is widening a lead on Charles Mathews, and it is not surprising that people try to get on a bandwagon as things progress," Kennelly said Monday.
"Why is that gap widening? The gap is widening because Eddie Perez's opponents have not been vocal enough about the issues that matter to voters," Kennelly said.
Barrows, a former state senator, was one of several challengers who lost to Perez in the September primary. Perez won 49 of the vote in that race, followed by former Deputy Mayor I. Charles Mathews with 29 percent, state Rep. Art Feltman with 13 percent and Barrows with 9 percent.
Both Feltman and Barrows dropped out of the race after the primary. Feltman backed Mathews.
Barrows said Monday that he recognized that some might find his change in position contradictory, but to continue fighting with Perez would not help the city improve. Barrows said he felt Perez shared his views on fighting crime and improving education.
"My whole philosophy is to get this city squared away and make it the city it used to be," Barrows said. "You have to start uniting together, instead of going after each other all the time.
"You can't just keep on going on and bashing people," Barrows said. "At some point, you have to say, `What can we do together?'"
Mathews said Monday that he was disappointed and puzzled by Barrows' decision to back Perez, considering the history and Barrows' recent statements about needing change in city government.
"He indicated throughout the campaign that the only reason he was in the race was to get Mr. Perez out of office," Mathews said. "I think it is a bit odd that all the sudden he would support Mr. Perez."
But Mathews said Monday that he was not worried about losing Barrows' support. Most of Barrows' campaign workers have already joined Mathews' camp, he said. Perez praised Barrows in a statement, saying the former senator's support means a lot to me personally and means a lot to my campaign," Perez said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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