Susan Bysiewicz lost New Haven Mayor Toni Harp’s endorsement for her quest to become Connecticut’s next governor, but she demonstrated support Sunday in the heart of high-voting Westvile from people who pull the vote for progressive candidates.
More than 50 people showed up Sunday night to hear the candidate at Manjares Fine Pastries & Tapas Bar on West Rock Avenue. Many were there to show support for the Middletown Democrat, others to see if they could be persuaded that Democrats should choose her as their candidate to succeed retiring Gov. Daniel P. Malloy.
Sunday’s event was put together by progressive members of the New Haven and Hamden Democratic Town Committees including Upper Westville Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr., ward Co-chairs Janis Underwood and Amy Marx, and Westville businessman Gabriel DaSilva. Other hosts included Hillary Grant, Sarah Locke, and Analis Quintman.
The event came three days after Harp endorsed frontrunner Ned Lamont at an event at Tweed New Haven airport. Lamont has picked up support from other city politicians, as well, at least three of whom he has hired.
Gail Otis, an East Haven resident, was one of those who came to the event to be persuaded. She said she’d attended the New Haven gubernatorial candidate debate, and out of the six candidates, only two sparked her interest: Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim and Susan Bysiewicz.
Otis said Ganim piqued her interest because he’s “suave,” but said of Bysiewicz, “it doesn’t hurt that she’s the only woman” running. Otis said she is looking for a candidate who “pro women’s choices, concerned about getting the economy on track ... and willing to stand up to Trump.”
Making Her Case
Bysiewicz, a former secretary of the state, said she supports progressive ideas such as paid family leave, a $15 an hour minimum wage, legalization of marijuana, and closing the hedge fund loophole so that private equity managers pay 20 percent in taxes like everybody else.
She also touted her work helping small, homegrown businesses in the state access capital and her plans for helping those kinds of businesses grow in the state.
“I want to focus on those kinds of businesses and not corporate welfare for companies like GE, Pfizer, and Alexion that take millions of dollars from taxpayers and end up leaving us anyway,” she said. “You have my commitment on that.”
To further pump the economy, she said she’d use new highway tolls to invest in roads, bridges, public transportation, and deepwater ports. Such investments would create thousands union and construction jobs, she said. Bysiewicz said she also would support the expansion of Tweed-New Haven Airport’s runway.
Bysiewicz said she’s happy that the legislature was able to get crucial legislation passed this session that prohibits employers from asking for salary history because she said it helps break the institutionalized discrimination against women and people of color.
But there is more work to be done, she said.
“I strongly believe that we can uplift every family in the state if we insist on one simple idea: that women should get dollar for dollar what men make,” she said. “It is unacceptable that white women get on average 83 cents on the dollar and women of color get 59 cents.”
Pointing to Bysiewicz’s credentials as a former state representative and secretary of the state, Darryl Brackeen heartily threw his support behind her candidacy.
“She is someone who intimately knows what this state needs,” he said. “Why wouldn’t I vote for her?”
Brackeen called gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont “a very nice fellow.”
“I just don’t — at the core of my progressive values — believe that we need a millionaire-billionaire to run our state. We need someone like Susan who started from the bottom and worked her way here,” Brackeen argued.
“More Choices Are Better”
“Grassroots” and “progressive” were the buzzwords of the evening. And Bysiewicz reminded attendees that part of her grassroots strategy for taking the governor’s office includes fundraising, securing enough delegates to get on the ballot and hitting the doors on the campaign trail.
She is in the thick of the fight to get her name on the Democratic primary ballot. There are 2,000 delegates up for grabs at the May 18-19 state nominating convention; she needs 15 percent, or 300 to get on the ballot. New Haven alone has 100 delegates.
“There are forces within the unenlightened sectors of our party who are trying to limit who gets on the ballot,” Bysiewicz said. “And we all know more choices are better. We also know that when women run in special elections and primaries across the country that they win by large margins even if they are underfunded. That has been born out last year and this year. We need your help to talk to delegates in New Haven. It’s a big delegation of 100 people. Talk to delegates, spread the word, Hamden is well represented here. I need your help on that front.”
She’s participating in the public financing system, the Citizen’s Election Program (CEP) — or at least she plans to as soon as she qualifies. She hasn’t yet crossed the threshold of qualifying donations.
“We’ve already had 5,000 people from across the state contribute to our campaign,” she said. “I’m very proud of that. We will need your help after the convention to door knock to do this grassroots campaign.”
Hamden State Rep. Josh Elliott praised Bysiewicz commitment to participating in the CEP. Lamont has been criticized by Bysiewicz and her supporters because he is not participating in the system.
“You can’t just say you’re running a grassroots movement,” he said. “You have to be a grassroots movement. Susan, thank you for running your campaign the way you’re running it.
“I cannot wait to see your name on the ballot and I cannot wait to vote for you,” he added.
Other members of the of the Democrats’ progressive wing present Sunday evening included two fellow women candidates runing for state Senate seats: Valerie Horsely and Aili McKeen.
Horsely, who is running against state Sen. George Logan in a district that includes Hamden and Bethany (among other towns), said progressives have been marching and knocking doors and “flipping districts all across the nation and in our state.” Activists and women are doing that work, and those are the people Horsely said can get people like Bysiewicz elected.
“Not only does she have our values but I know that she can win because she will build a team that can bring out the vote,” Horsely said. “I can’t wait to say, ‘Madam, governor.”
“Amen, madam senator,” Bysiewicz said.
Frank Donato of Strafford asked Bysiewicz not to forget about the senior citizens. He told her seniors still want to work but are often discriminated against because of their age with application questions about what year they graduated from high school. Bysiewicz promised to tackle the issue if elected governor. He said afterward that he isn’t sure whom he will vote for, but “I like what I heard. I think she may have won me over.”
John Flanagan was already sold on Bysiewicz; he thanked her for getting back to “the old-time Democratic religion.” He proclaimed that she’ll win the election with the help of seniors like him and young people like Bo Yun Brainerd, a 14-year-old Branford High School student who asked Bysiewicz a question about school safety.
“That’s we’re doing looking for,” Flanagan said, “a Democratic Party that works for the people. Not Republican light like we’ve seen over the past few years.”
Click on or download the above audio file or Facebook Live video below for the interview with Susan Bysiewicz on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven.” Click here for a story about that interview.