Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra easily won the nomination of the cityís Democrats Thursday night, as they gathered for a party ritual of horse trading and power brokering. But as WNPRís Jeff Cohen reports, people inside the party say that this year, the nominating convention has a different feel.
First, remember that Hartford is an overwhelmingly Democratic city, and the Democratic nomination for mayor and city council carry a lot of weight.
But also remember this Ė this is the first city election in a decade that didnít include a candidate named Eddie Perez. His absence, and his influence, were noted. Here's Segarra.
SEGARRA: Thereís unpredictability. I donít know whatís going to happen tonight
COHEN: And what happened four years ago?
SEGARRA: I think there was a lot more predictability
Segarra says one reason for that is he does politics differently than his predecessor.
ďHe carried a lot of influence. He was a lot more connected I think to the members of the town committee than I have (been).Ē
John Kennelly, a Perez political opponent, put a finer point on it.
"In the past you had Eddie ruling out of a sense of fear and retribution if you didnít follow his lead. Thereís a difference between supporting somebody and threatening repercussions for failure to support somebody. Eddieís way was threatening. Pedroís way is -- It is a democratic process, I like some individuals, but it is up to you, the organization.Ē
Inside the auditorium at the cityís Bulkeley High School, others like Ralph Arena and Jan Appellof noted the difference in the feel of the evening Ė but they didnít put it all on Perez. They say it goes back at least as far as to a previous mayor, Mike Peters.
COHEN: Did Eddie wield a stronger role in this town committee than anyone else does now?
APPELLOF: I would say so. It was much more organized. It was organized from the beginning to the end. We knew exactly what was happening and whenÖ
RALPH ARENA: When Eddie came into it you had Mayor Mike who was helping him out and you donít have any of that now. Itís just different because thereís so many new people that have never been involved before. Itís not better or worse. Itís just different.
Sean Arena ran the town committee under Perez. Hereís his take:
SEAN ARENA: This time, the mayor has not gotten involved as much as the previous mayors Ė not just mayor Perez. This mayor has not stepped in, heís gotten involved somewhat behind the scenes for one or two candidates, but as far as putting a slate together he has not in public done that. .
When it came time to vote, Segarra won the mayoral nomination in a landslide. His opponents say theyíll wage a primary. Then began what looked to be a long fight, between 16 candidates for just six nominations to the city council. Hereís current councilman, and Perez critic, Ken Kennedy.
KENNEDY: No one has said, this is how itís going to happen, and Iím God-on-high ruling. That hasnít been the case at all.
COHEN: And that used to happen?
KENNEDY: I think, yes. Not to be critical, the previous mayor had a very hands-on, authoritative approach. This mayor wants the council to be the council and he wants the town committee to be the town committee. Itís returning back to a different time.
A time Kennedy calls both more transparent and chaotic.