“Ooh,” Eva Bermudez Zimmerman cooed along with little kids who were doting over three goats, several rabbits, a goose, and a brood of young, still furry chicks.
Then she said it is so sad to have separated the chicks from their mom. Her parents, who had a farm in Puerto Rico, taught her that when humans touch the chicks, the mother no longer recognizes them in the same way.
That scene and subject — where health and child, or chick, care — were at the center of conversation Tuesday evening in the parking lot across from Casa Otonal, the senior complex in the Hill.
Bermudez Zimmerman, a candidate for lieutenant governor, showed up to pass out campaign flyers and introduce herself, often speaking in Spanish to Casa’s largely Hispanic population.
With an armful of flyers, youthfulness, and an easy manner, she connected with people sitting and hovering about 16 gift, food, and doodad-festooned tables and one petting zoo.
Bermudez Zimmerman was making a campaign swing a week ahead of the Aug. 14 state Democratic primary, where’s she’s challenging endorsed candidate Susan Bysiewicz for the nomination for attorney general. Her campaign sponsored a meet-and-greet event at Portofino’s restaurant on State Street before the Casa visit.
Bermudez Zimmerman’s Puerto Rican origins and fluent Spanish were well received at Casa. Casa Resident Services Coordinator Ashley Torres-Vidal said that in addition to her pride in Bermudez Zimmerman’s being the unusual statewide Hispanic candidate — the party has never nominated an Hispanic for statewide office — “I love that she’s pro-LGBTQ. Kids today need someone like that in office.”
Health was at the heart of the concerns of many of the people the candidate engaged. The long lines and insufficient services available to people with disabilities were the main issues that Berenid Rivera brought up when the candidate introduced herself.
Bermudez Zimmerman spoke of her background helping people gain access to health care under Obamacare, which won her a statewide award from the General Assembly. She currently works as a CSEA/SEIU union organizer for child and home care workers. “We are shortchanging jobs like that,” and many are being lost through attrition, she said.
Rivera said she liked what she had heard.
Over at the table belonging to The Connection, an organization that helps at risk families with housing and counseling, Bermudez Zimmerman met program Director Deborah DeJarnette. DeJarnette told her that her received a $225,000 cut in state funds that had supported an office and counseling staff at two Elm City Community housing developments serving about 25 families at risk.
Sarah Keefe, the woman sitting beside DeJarnette, had lost her job in those cuts. She was at the table pitching the program as a dedicated volunteer.
“I’m sorry you lost your funding. We’ll get you guys more funding,” Bermudez Zimmerman told them.
“I’m impressed with any woman who would come to a community event and talk face to face,” said Keefe. She had been unfamiliar with the candidate until Tuesday’s event.
Most of the people she knows in New Haven are those she had initially met through her work helping people gain access to health care, Bermudez Zimmerman said. Between them, and the endorsement of many New Haven politicos, including Mayor Toni Harp, Bermudez Zimmerman is looking for a strong urban vote on Aug. 14 to counter Bysiewicz’s strength in the suburbs.
“If I’m a betting woman, I’m betting we win New Haven,” she said.