Last weekend, I attended the Democratic State Convention in Hartford. In a sea of energetic sign-waving Democrats from 169 cities and towns, I was a delegate from the 5th Congressional District and this was my first statewide convention.
The first order of business at the opening session on Friday was to nominate United States Senator Chris Murphy for a second 6-year term.
There was a lot of excitement as Connecticut’s Senior Senator Richard Blumenthal made the nominating speech for Murphy. It was clear that our senators have a deep friendship and admiration for each other, as did the 2000 Democratic delegates in the room who unanimously endorsed Murphy with a rousing cheer, pledging their support in the November election.
Both of our senators are national spokespersons for a variety of issues facing this country. One of the most important of those issues is promoting commonsense gun control measures to keep our children and teachers safe from gun violence.
The next day (Saturday), the convention was busy with the nominations of Connecticut’s constitutional officers (governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of the state, comptroller, attorney general, and treasurer).
This was where things got interesting. There was a groundswell of support for minority candidates. Diversity was the rallying cry as strong candidates of many different ethnic backgrounds made an impressive showing. It struck me that this was a very different convention from the Republican convention last week where diversity was clearly not a driving force.
The first major challenge to the endorsed ticket was the race for lieutenant governor that pitted Ned Lamont’s pick Susan Bysiewicz (who dropped her bid for governor to join the Lamont ticket) against union negotiator Eva Bermudez-Zimmerman who offered a spirited challenge.
It was clear from the energy in the room that Bermudez-Zimmerman had many very passionate supporters who were waving signs and shouting “Eva, Eva, Eva!”
When it came time for the voting, Bysiewicz started off strong with over 70 percent tallied. But soon the tide shifted, and Bermudez-Zimmerman closed the gap to 55-40 percent in the final tally. The issue of ensuring a diverse ticket propelled Bermudez-Zimmerman, and she also enjoyed the endorsement of labor supporters who spoke eloquently on her behalf. As a result of the strong showing of each candidate, they will square off in a primary on August 14. This will be a race to watch as both have formidable backing from state Democrats.
Next up was the race for attorney general, which was highly contested among four qualified candidates. On the third ballot, Stamford state Representative William Tong won the party endorsement over Bridgeport attorney Chris Mattei and state Senator Paul Doyle. All qualified for the August primary.
Finally, the state treasurer position was a tussle among three candidates with former Hartford City Council President Shawn Wooden emerging as the party endorsed candidate. The two other candidates: former Wall Street trader Dita Bhargarva from Greenwich, and Arunan Arulampalam, a Hartford attorney, received enough votes for a primary. This will be another race to watch in August.
There was one funny thing that happened at the beginning of the voting. A new system was in use (replacing the tedious town-by-town verbal balloting). This was a computer-generated system that showed the real-time balloting results on a huge screen. The first numbers reported added up to more than 100 percent. But the glitch was soon discovered and corrected (some delegates from the previous day were incorrectly included in the Saturday voting).
There was no Russian interference here!
At a time when our state is in such dire financial straits, I found it surprising how many well-qualified candidates were willing to take on the challenge of governing. In my 23 years in municipal elective office (city council and mayor), I have seen boom years and lean years. I can tell you it is much easier to legislate when money is available than when it is not.
Looking ahead, all I see are painful choices and difficult decisions that — at every turn — will be unpopular no matter who wins the elections in November.
I wish all the candidates well and hope voters will carefully weigh the candidates’ vision, plans, and promises. Connecticut’s future is at stake.
Michael S. Rohde is a former mayor and city councilor of