In the end, the Hartford cross-endorsement flap was much ado about very little — and didn't work, to boot.
The city has a huge Democratic majority, so in the municipal election, the six endorsed Democratic council candidates usually win easily, as they did on Tuesday. The real fight often is over the three minority party seats on the nine-member city council, which were battled over this year by the Republicans, the Working Families Party and four petitioning candidates. Mayor Pedro Segarra had no potentially lethal opposition.
It occurred to both the Working Families and the Republicans that having the popular mayor on their ballot lines might draw a few votes. Mr. Segarra wouldn't do business with the Working Families because they nominated four council candidates. To accept their endorsement could have made it appear that he didn't support all six of his party's endorsed candidates. But since the Republicans were running only three council candidates, he accepted their endorsement.
This ignited a tempest, with all kinds of charges and complaints. One Democrat charged that Republican town chairman Michael McGarry "had something" on the mayor. He didn't; the charge was baseless, he was only trying to get some votes. He didn't get enough; three Working Families candidates took the minority seats, leaving the council without a Republican for the first time in two decades.
This doesn't necessarily bode well for Mr. Segarra, elected to his first full term after stepping in for Mayor Eddie Perez after Mr. Perez was convicted on corruption charges last year. Mr. Segarra ran on a platform of fiscal restraint, economic development and quality of life improvements — policies the Republicans largely agreed with. But to move his agenda, the mayor is going to need at least five reliable votes on the council.
The council is in transition. Only one of the Democrats who ran four years ago, Kenneth Kennedy Jr., will be on the new council. The Working Families have upped their council presence from two to three. If the Democrats are split, and there may be a battle brewing over council leadership, the Working Families members could play a key role in determining the fate of Mr. Segarra's agenda.
So Mr. Segarra has his work cut out for him. The city needs jobs, and needs to be a safe and stimulating place to live. The test of Mr. Segarra's leadership will be getting enough council members to agree with him.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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