Seniors Pin Down Lamont

Thomas Breen photosLegal marijuana? Check.

Abortion rights? Check.

Pro public-sector unions? Check.

Electronic highway tolls? Check … kind of.

A crowd pushed Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Ned Lamont on those progressive planks Tuesday night at a campaign stop not before the AFL-CIO or Planned Parenthood, but New Haven’s Tower One/Tower East senior living facility. The 50 seniors in attendance proved a tough crowd, both in the substance of their questions and in their generally positive post-event appraisals.

Lamont, a Greenwich businessman who handily won the Democratic Party’s endorsement at a May convention, was making the rounds in New Haven in anticipation of his Aug. 14 primary against the only other remaining contender for the Democratic nomination for governor, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim.

On Tuesday afternoon, Lamont, who’s financing his own campaign, made two New Haven campaign stops in the Hill neighborhood: the first at Tower One/Tower East, a 328-unit apartment complex for seniors located at the intersection of Church Street South and South Frontage Road, and Columbus House, a homeless shelter and social service agency located at 586 Ella T. Grasso Blvd.

Lamont’s visit to Columbus House proved to be more of an opportunity for the candidate to learn about the specific housing and outreach services provided by that 36-year-old social service agency. (The homeless themselves appeared to be out on a smoke break.) His visit to Tower One/Tower East found him confronted by dozens of well-informed seniors who wanted to know exactly how Lamont plans to address the most pressing issues facing the state and the country.

His audience left the meeting contented, for the most part, that Lamont’s values aligned with their own.

ICE, The Beef

In a groundfloor meeting room at Tower One, Mayor Toni Harp and New Haven State Sen. Martin Looney introduced Lamont. They also implored the seniors present to vote for the entire Democratic ticket this November, including for Looney, who is up for reelection.

The hardball questions started coming after Lamont finished his now familiar stump speech about wanting to make Connecticut a place where his three adult children will want to return to to find educational and economic opportunity for themselves and their own children.

The first question came from Peter Goodman, a former spokesman for New York City’s Office of Labor Relations and a 10-year resident of Tower One/Tower East.

Sporting an array of pins, including one in support of Planned Parenthood, Goodman noted that hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets this past weekend in opposition to the Trump administration’s separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border. He referenced the general hostility of the Trump administration to Hispanic immigrants through the aggressive apprehension, detention, and deportation policies of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

“Do you have any plans to protect the people of Connecticut from ICE raids?” he asked.

He also asked for Lamont’s thoughts on last week’s Supreme Court decision in Janus, which ruled that public sector employees can opt out of paying union dues even if they benefit from that union’s collective bargaining efforts.

“Will you work with the existing collective bargaining agreements” in Connecticut? Goodman asked.

Impressed with Goodman’s knowledge of current affairs at the federal and state level, Lamont asked him if he wanted to ask anything else. So Goodman continued.

He asked Lamont where he stands on protecting women’s right to an abortion, particularly in the face of a Supreme Court that will likely become more hostile to that right once President Trump appoints a replacement for the retiring justice Anthony Kennedy.

And he told Lamont that he and his husband volunteered for Lamont’s 2006 successful primary challenge to Connecticut’s Democratic senator at the time, Joe Lieberman, who wound up running as an independent and beating Lamont in the general election.

“You were one of the few politicians who didn’t have to ‘evolve’ to recognize me and my husband as a valid entity,” Goodman said. He told Lamont he’d never forget his early support of Goodman’s same-sex marriage. He and his husband Curtis Miller went to Toronto in 2005 to get married, and then returned to Connecticut.

In response, Lamont expressed solidarity with many of the sentiments Goodman has expressed, without necessarily diving deep on any specific actions he would take on the issues if elected governor.

“I’ll stand up for labor,” he said. He also said he would defend a woman’s right to an abortion, which is already enshrined in the Connecticut State Constitution.

“I’m worried about this Supreme Court,” he said. “They’ve lost all their moderate instincts. They’re much more politicized, much more right wing” than they used to be.

As for Goodman’s question about immigration policy and ICE, Lamont said he had seen last weekend’s protests firsthand in Stamford and Fairfield. He said his thoughts on the Trump administration’s detention and family separation policies correspond with that of former First Lady Laura Bush. “This ICE policy of separating families is cruel,” he said, “immoral, and it breaks my heart.”

He said he has put out a challenge to the five Republican candidates for governor to take a public stance on Trump’s current border policies.

“What I heard [in response] was crickets,” he said.

What Happened?

Mila Nishpaul, a Holocaust survivor who said she moved to Tower One just a few weeks ago after spending over seven decades in Bridgeport, told Lamont that she remembers Connecticut brimming with wealth and opportunity when she arrived back in 1941. “What happened?” she asked.

Lamont said Connecticut still has one of the most highly educated workforces and is situated in a vibrant economic corridor in New England.

“I do think over the last 30, 40, 50 years, we haven’t made the right investments,” he said. He promised to dedicate state funds towards public transportation and education improvements, and in programs that adequately train workers for 21st century jobs in healthcare and technology.

“We have tens of thousands of good paying jobs that are going begging” because of a lack of adequate training, he said.

“What is your stance on tolls on highways?” asked Tower One/Tower East resident Izzy Juda.

Lamont said he is for implementing electronic tolling on the state’s highways, but that he would charge only big, out-of-state trucks to start.

Another resident asked how that type of targeting is possible. Lamont said each truck has an electronic responder that can be registered by the state, which in turn would allow the state to bill those large trucks carrying freight between states without unduly burdening local residents.

“I think that’s a reasonable place to start,” Lamont said.

One woman asked how he felt about legalizing marijuana.

“It’s an idea whose time has come…” Lamont began tentatively, before another resident shouted out, “And it’s not bad for you!”

Lamont ran with it. “It’s not a gateway drug compared to opioids,” he said. He said he would try to legalize marijuana, regulate it, tax it, and then put that tax money into opioid treatment programs.

Another man asked Lamont if his campaign feels prepared to square off against Ganim in the August primary.

“People know that I’m going up to Hartford to bring real change,” he said. He said Bridgeport should be doing a lot better than it currently is in terms of education, crimes and jobs after nearly two decades under Ganim’s leadership.

But he also claimed he did not want to sling mud at his opponent. “I’m running a positive campaign,” he said.

Post-Game Recap

After the event, several of the Tower One/Tower East residents who had asked questions expressed a modest level of enthusiasm for the candidate.

“It’s nothing that I didn’t know,” Nishpaul said about Lamont’s response to her question about the changes to Connecticut between when she arrived in 1941 and today. She said many politicians promise and promise to fix everything from budget deficits to broken public transit to poor education and a stagnant economy. “Who can fix it?” she asked.

As for Ganim’s leadership in Bridgeport, she said, “I don’t think he’s done the worst job” as mayor.

Juda said he was very happy with Lamont’s response on tolls. A second man, who preferred not to be identified and who had asked how Lamont would specifically target big trucks with electronic tolls, said he remained dubious about the legality and technical feasibility of Lamont’s proposal.

Goodman said he still admires Lamont for his anti-war U.S. Senate campaign in 2006 and for being the nephew of socialist philosopher and former ACLU director Corliss Lamont. But, he said, he thought Lamont spoke a bit too generally in his response to his specific questions about standing alongside threatened public sector labor unions and undocumented immigrants.

“He’s a slick son of a bitch,” Goodman said with a smile.

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posted by: Esbey on July 4, 2018  9:28am

What a wimpy answer on highway tolls. We need tolls on 95 both for congestion control and for revenue.

posted by: Patricia Kane on July 4, 2018  12:21pm

Ned is a liberal. Unfortunately it’s time for a progressive and he’s too moderate to go after the kinds of big changes needed.
The Dems have driven the progressives to the sidelines and to other parties, hence the lack of exciting ideas and candidates.
Ganim may pose as a man of the people, but he stumped for a casino for Bridgeport and was mute when the Bridgeport police killed a young man. I don’t see any profile in courage here worth my vote.
The Dems have grown fat and timid. Both our US Senators are determinedly moderate, rather than innovative. Both accept big money from big corporate interests. Have you ever heard them question the full time war economy? Not while Electric Boat and Sikorsky still live off government contracts.
Have they ever questioned Millstone’s existence? Have they pushed for investment in alternative energy?
The 2 party system no longer meets 21st century needs.
But the 2 party system controls access to the media for the moment and the media are controlled by big corporations.
I guess the Revolution will proceed with out them.

posted by: observer1 on July 4, 2018  12:25pm

The state should legalize, tax and control the distribution of all drugs now considered illegal. That would purify the content and stabilize the dose people are injecting, inhaling or ingesting. Treat drugs the same way we treat alcohol and tobacco. We would empty out the prisons and save a lot of money on cops, courts, lawyers, prison guards and prisons. For precisely that reason, it will never happen.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on July 4, 2018  12:29pm

The Politician Prayer.

The Politician is my shepherd; I shall not want,

He leadeth me beside the still factories,

He restoreth my doubt in Politics

He guideth me to the path of unemployment,

He anointeth my wages with taxes,
Surely Poverty and hard living shall follow this administration.And I shall be living in a rented house forever.

5000 years ago, the Politicians said, Pack your camel, pick up your shovel, mount and I shall lead you to the promised land of gentrification.

Today, the Politicians will tax your shovel, sell your camel,screw you and tell you the Vote for me I will set you free.

Stephen Marley - Chase dem

posted by: OhHum on July 4, 2018  2:22pm

One has to ask the question. Why would anyone spend 10 million dollars of their own money to become gov. of CT. Does anyone believe that this is a good business decision.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on July 4, 2018  8:34pm

Independent of your views on tolls, the idea of limiting them to out-of-state trucks raises obvious Interstate Commerce Clause issues. And doing so substantially reduces the amount of revenue the tolls would raise.

posted by: Dennis Serf on July 5, 2018  12:13am

Bankruptcy? Check

posted by: robn on July 5, 2018  6:38am

I think it’s incumbent upon the NHI to identify whether people with such pointed questions about public or private sector unions are the recipient of their benefits. Not doing so gives the impression that there’s a general public sentiment in their favor which is not the case in CT.

posted by: robn on July 5, 2018  8:30am


There is no legal structure in the US for states to declare bankruptcy. A series of financial disasters from the 1840s when railroad tech spread rapidly and put brand new state funded canals systems out of business, to the 1930s (the Great Depression) led to federal legislation only allowing municipalities to declare bankruptcy.

posted by: JCFremont on July 5, 2018  10:55am

Lamont is from the old wing of old money wall street children. who find politics as an outlet, see Howard Dean. Wealthy people who use their own funds realize that they most often take a paycut but they believe they can get things done. Unfortunatly Legislatures do not work like Board Rooms. Mr. Goodman obviously is more a mothpiece for those at Tower One. Planned Parenthood, Immigration etc. Well his list goes along way of answering Ms. Nishpaul’s question about what happenend to Connecticut.

posted by: OhHum on July 5, 2018  12:50pm

I’m with Patricia Kane. The Democrat Party needs to move further left. The old liberal ideas just haven’t worked for anybody. Democratic Socialism is the way to go. Are you listening, Senators, Congresswomen, State Reps, Mayors, Democrats? Ned, take the 10M and start an education foundation supporting education for the disadvantaged.

posted by: elmcityresident on July 5, 2018  2:51pm

why didn’t Ned come to the inner city??????