New Haven Democrats gave Chris Murphy a rousing show of support for his U.S. Senate campaign—even as his opponent claimed some of them as her own backers.
The event took place Sunday at the East Rock home of U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro. It marked the launching of Murphy’s campaign organizing drive in the third U.S. Congressional District. He’s running for the 2012 Democratic nomination of the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Joe Lieberman.
Some 80 Democrats, many of them elected officials and influential activists, crammed the downstairs of the home DeLauro shares with Democratic strategist Stanley Greenberg. As Dan Malloy learned in the 2010 gubernatorial elections, New Haven Democrats, the state’s largest and best organized bloc of urban votes, are the big prize in statewide elections. Both Murphy and his leading opponent for the Democratic nomination, Susan Bysiewicz, have been calling and calling ward-level Democrats for months seeking their support. (Click here for a report on a Bysiewicz visit to the local party’s town committee last February.)
Murphy drew an impressive turnout at DeLauro’s home Sunday. Leading state legislators like state Sen. Majority Leader Marty Looney and Reps. Toni Walker, Roland Lemar, and Gary Holder-Winfield all spoke in support of his campaign. And 16 members of the city’s 30-member (all-Democratic) Board of Aldermen showed up, including many of the newly elected labor-backed activists who represent a formidable vote-pulling force.
“I think we have the entire Board of Aldermen here!” DeLauro proclaimed while introducing Murphy to the crowd from a perch on a stairway.
That turnout is less impressive than it looks, Bysiewicz argued afterwards.
“Just because you see people at an event, I think it means people are paying very close attention. I don’t think it’s clear at all who has an edge in New Haven,” she claimed.
In fact, she said, she has the support of a majority of the Board of Aldermen. She released a list of names.
That list included Douglas Hausladen, the new downtown alderman. Hausladen showed up at Sunday’s Murphy event.
He said afterwards that he’s supporting Murphy, not Bysiewicz.
“She called me a while ago and asked for my backing. I told her I thought it was too early,” Hausladen said. He said Bysiewicz’s handling of a 2010 ballot-counting debacle in Bridgeport as secretary of the state convinced him ultimately not to back her: “Seeing how Susie handled that—was my defining moment. She should have had to courage to go down to Bridgeport and sort it out early.” (Read background on that episode here, here and here.)
“I think the overflow crowd at Congresswoman DeLauro’s house spoke for itself as to who New Haven Democrats think the best candidate is to stand up for the middle class,” Murphy campaign manager Kenny Curran said Sunday night in response to Bysiewicz’s remark. The campaign declined to disclose how many attendees paid to come Sunday (that was optional) or how much money came in.
Bysiewicz’s list of aldermanic supporters also included Sergio Rodriguez and Frank Douglass. They both showed up at Murphy’s event Sunday. They both said afterwards that they’re undecided in the race. “I want to see what their commitment to the Latino community is,” said Rodriguez.
The list included some aldermen who did not show up at Murphy’s event. Contacted later, two of them, Al Paolillo and Alfreda Edwards, confirmed they do indeed back Bysiewicz.
And several aldermen interviewed at Murphy’s event said they were there to listen, not to declare allegiance yet. They included West River’s Tyisha Walker and Newhallville’s Brenda Foskey-Cyrus. Most others asked said they definitely are in Murphy’s camp, including the Hill’s Jackie James, Newhallville’s Delphine Clyburn, and East Rock’s Justin Elicker.
“He was more persistent” in calling for support, Elicker said of Murphy.
Walker said she left Sunday’s event with a positive reaction to Murphy but wants to wait to sit down with Bysiewicz to make her choice.
They Like The Middle Class
Both candidates spoke Sunday about how that choice will come down to who best stands up for “the middle-class” at a time of rising wealth and income inequality and a fight between Republicans and Democrats over the role of government in fixing the economy.
“As a party we have to start talking about the role that government plays in protecting the middle class and advancing people into it. We sometimes have gotten ourselves in to the habit of apologizing for government just a little bit less than the Republicans do,” Murphy said when he addressed the gathering at DeLauro’s house. (Click on the play arrow to the video at the top of the story to watch an excerpt.)
“For those people [like) Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney who want to tell you this story of ultimate economic salvation that comes by government going and just cowering in a corner—it is a total rewrite of American economic history. The genius of this nation is that we had massive private investment on top of massive public investment. The best school systems in the world. The best system of roadside and bridges. A safety net that you could bounce back off of if you hit hard times. That was the strength of this country.”
In a subsequent interview, Bysiewicz argued that she can better “stand up for middle-class families” by taking on Wall Street. She cited an “accountability plan” her campaign has issued, which includes, among other planks, instituting a financial “transaction tax that will fund mortgage relief to middle class families whose homes are worth less than they owe.” (Read her plan here.) She also criticized Murphy for not trying in the U.S. House of Representatives to eliminate a “carry interest loophole” that enables “people like Mitt Romney” to pay a tax rate of only 15 percent on capital gains. A Murphy spokesman claimed that the Congressman has “voted repeatedly to close that loophole.”
Bysiewicz served as secretary of the state until 2011. Murphy currently serves as a U.S. congressman; all four other House members from Connecticut have backed his Senate campaign.
Following is the list of New Haven supporters released by Bysiewicz’s campaign, which includes eight current aldermen and seven who left office this month, some not by choice: “Hon. Yusuf Shah, Mr. Alphonse Paolillo Jr., Ms. Helen Martin-Dawson, Mr. Celestino Cordova , Alderwoman Dolores Colon, Mr. Raymond Saracco, Ms. Alberta Witherspoon, Ms. Linda Davis, Ms. Tina Jendrzweski, Hon. Katrina Jones, Cordelia Thorpe, Mr. Greg Smith, Ms. Edith Macri, Mr. Darrell Brooks, Alderman Sergio Rodriguez, Ms. Kimberly Edwards, Alderwoman Alfreda Edwards, Ms. Joan Forte , Hon. Gregory Morehead, Mr. Anthony Wallace , Mr. Gerald Antunes, Ms. Gina Phillips, Mr. John Cox, Mr. Frank Redente, Hon. Stephanie G Bauer, Cassandra Lang, Tanya Smith, Darnell Goldson, Alderman Douglas Hausladen, Alderman Frank Douglass, George F. Page, Phyllis Alston, Claudine Wilkins-Chambers, Patricia Troxler, Alderwoman Evette T. Hamilton, Alderman Gabriel Santiago.”