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Segarra Doesn't Get A Labor Endorsement

Union Official Questions Mayor's Campaign Tactics

By Jeff Cohen

July 11, 2011

With the field of candidates in Hartford's mayoral race thinning, some Democratic insiders are already calling the race for incumbent Pedro Segarra. But not everyone is. As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, Segarra did not get a recent endorsement of the Greater Hartford Central Labor Council.

More than 12,000 members of the union organization affiliated with the AFL-CIO voted on whether to endorse a candidate. Segarra got about 40 percent of the vote. Edwin Vargas, one of his remaining opponents and a union veteran, got around 60 percent.

That means no formal endorsement from the organization -- which needs a two-thirds majority to get behind a candidate.

Leo Canty is a vice president of the labor council, whose member unions represent workers in and around the city. He says Vargas was a known quantity, while Segarra -- who took over last year after the resignation of Eddie Perez -- is still relatively new.

"A lot of the folks I talk to just have no clue as to who Pedro Segarra is other than he kind of landed as mayor, by a circumstance that really wasn't of his doing."

There's an interesting twist to the story. After the vote, Canty sent an email to fellow union members saying that he heard from Segarra's camp. That email was provided to WNPR by the Vargas campaign.

Canty says Segarra's campaign manager Phil Sherwood called him...

"...to tell me how disappointed he was in my activism and how there is going to be some consequences. They were very nebulous -- nothing specific, like he said he was gonna come after...But it was clear in my mind that there were some kind of threats going on there and I just don't think that that's how this is supposed to work."

Reached by phone, Sherwood said he made no threats and that Canty can't point to specifics.

Still, Canty said the phone call gave him pause.

"If you think that you can win on the merits of your candidacy, then you don't need to win on the fear factor. And he was definitely trying to throw a fear factor my way."

The city's Democratic Town Committee meets next week to endorse a candidate. Meanwhile, Segarra has announced the support of the city's two state senators and four of its six representatives.

Below is a copy of the email referred to in the story.


TO: Unions with members in Hartford

FROM: Leo Canty

DATE: July 8, 2010


The Hartford Labor Council went through our usual interview and deliberation process in determining if we would make an endorsement in the upcoming Mayoral Primary. On Wednesday July 6 we met and cast our votes there will be no endorsement Ed Vargas was the front runner and his candidacy missed the 2/3 endorsement threshold by a few hundred votes out of the 12,000 + that were cast.

That means the Labor Council will not work for a candidate but locals are free to do so.

The day after the election I received a call from Pedro Segarra痴 campaign manager Phill Sherwood (while at the time on vacation in Venice Italy) who proceeded to chew me out for playing a key role in messing up the Hartford Labor Council endorsement for Segarra. I was accused of fronting the effort to work against Segarra and threatened with various dire consequences regarding appointments and union issues when 撤edro was elected in response to. I know Phil Sherwood from previous campaigning and Sherwood expressed high levels of disappointment by my actions and felt the need to call me, voice his viewsand let me know about the consequences of my actions against his candidate..

I appropriately argued and told him that I was incredibly displeased by that call and he can threaten all he wants it just made me question more if Segarra is not the right candidate for Hartford and sounded like an incredibly desperate campaign approach.

I explained to Sherwood I cast my local union votes in particular because of Segarrra痴 bold position seeking to move 2500 of my union痴 members to Hartford with his UConn Health Center goes to Hartford proposal. Segarra never contacted us we are the largest union at UCHC and in the top tier of GHLC locals and would have huge impact and consequences with a move like that which should legitimately be at least discussed with those affected by it . But, Sherwood then blamed me for not contacting Segarra in advance of his newser announcing his bold plan like I could read their minds that they were going to announce a plan like that. More questions about the candidate痴 validityand the campaign approach

In addition to the threats he went into a defaming diatribe about Vargas. Sherwood proclaimed 天argas was a homophobe campaigning on an anti gay platform against Segarra and that Vargas 杜et with the Metro Alliance and claimed he was 典he Business Candidate and was prepared to cut the school budget.

. I don稚 need to defend Vargas because I have known for 35 years Ed痴 deep commitment to Hartford, it痴 children, it痴 unions, and all of it痴 people without bias. I know it won稚 be a struggle for Ed to make decisions on behalf of working families and be an ardent advocate for unions - and we have few people like that anywhere in elected office. Vargas served on my International Union Human and Civil Rights Committee and has been directly involved in guaranteeing rights for everyone and in my union specifically against any bias from sexual preference. To hear Sherwood痴 charge is most insulting - but that痴 politics and the kind I truly despise..and the kind of politics I hate to see in any campaign or elected office.

I am a big advocate for labor involvement in politics and continue to be. In this campaign with all of my Labor Council union brothers and sisters I only spoke kind words about Segarra and offered my view why I believe we need more real true dyed in the wool labor supporters in elected positions.

BTW I did not lead any charge or make one call or twist any arm to vote for Ed ( he痴 not happy about that) or say anything in any way shape or form derogatory about Segarra. I merely offered my views in our process about this election and why we need labor people in office .I was on the prevailing side as a significant majority of the votes cast in the Labor Council election went for Vargas and maybe the premise that we actually do need union folk in office - but the endorsement of the concept missed 66% by a couple of .points. So we campaign on our own if we wish.

I write this in case anyone else got the same kind of call or threats from the Segarra campaign I know of at least 1 other call. You need to know this because it was a slap at me and at my commitment to union political action and my respect for the process I believe to be important. We lose everything if we vote in fear of threats and consequences -

Anyway it was bad in my book really not good things to say to me or anyone

Please contact me if you have any questions or had the same kind of experience it痴 good to know about these things.

Feel free to share my comments with anyone you choose

Leo Canty

Reprinted with permission of Jeff Cohen, author of the blog Capital Region Report. To view other stories on this topic, search Capital Region Report at http://capitalregionreport.wordpress.com/.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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