Lemar Sews Up 96th District Endorsement

Len Honeyman PhotoRoland Lemar was all but assured his party’s endorsement for the one state legislative seat open in the New Haven this year. But the race is just beginning.

A slate of 10 delegates supporting Lemar, currently an East Rock alderman, prevailed Tuesday night in a Democratic Town Committee (DTC) gathering at Conte School.

The 60-member committee also chose scores of delegates to attend separate conventions that will nominate candidates for governor and the under ticket, the Third U.S. Congressional District, and the 10th and 11th State Senate districts. Those slates were approved unanimously by voice vote. At this point incumbents are running for those seats, without announced challengers

That was different in the 96th district, where incumbent Cam Staples is stepping down after 16 years in order to run for state attorney general. At least three and perhaps four Democrats plan to seek the party’s nomination in a primary, which will take place after a convention at which delegates endorse a candidate. Tuesday night’s gathering was about picking delegates for that first step.

The race has not only sparked an intramural fight in New Haven. It has set up a political contest with Democrats in the adjoining town of Hamden. The 96th District includes several New Haven neighborhoods (including East Rock, Fair Haven, and Wooster Square) as well parts of southern Hamden. Because more of it lies in New Haven, a New Havener has always held the seat. That might change this year.

Sixteen delegates will choose the party’s endorsed candidate in advance of the primary. Six come from Hamden. Ten come from New Haven, so if they’re united, they can pick the first-round winner. Tuesday night’s gathering was the New Haven DTC’s chance to choose those ten.

Ward 8 co-chairman Chris Randall challenged the Lemar slate Tuesday night. He asked that his name and that of his co-chair, Carmen Rodriguez, be substituted for two others.

Randall and Rodriguez, who earlier this month won a hard-fought battle to retain their ward seats, should be on the list to attend the convention because Democrats in their ward voted for them, Randall told the delegates.

They are allied with Wooster Square Alderman Michael Smart, who’s considering challenge Lemar in a primary for the party’s nomination.

“I believe the ward co chairs should have preference if they want to be a delegate at the nominating conventions, particularly Carmen and I, because we just won a resounding victory in the 8th Ward,” Randall said. “It’s just convenient that we are not on the list.”

“It’s a counter move because they tried to get us off the slate, because their assumption is that we would not support Roland,” he said. “Other opinions and discourse about options are good in a democracy,” he said.

Democratic Town Chairwoman Susan Voigt, who earlier had said she did not foresee a challenge, hurriedly prepared paper ballots that were distributed to the committee members.

In the end, Randall and Rodriguez garnered 17 votes for their slate. With over 30 votes, the Lemar slate was endorsed. Those chosen include Carlos Eyzaguirre, Rafael Ramos, Paul Wessel, Diane Casella, Joseph Rodriguez, Erin Sturgis-Pascale, David Streever, Richard Lyons, Justin Elicker and Jane Edelstein.

Smart (pictured), in an interview at the meeting before the vote results were announced, said he was “exploring running” and this vote would have no effect on his decision.

“I mean a slate is a slate, but the bottom line is it is what it is and you have to get out there and knock on the doors,” he said. “Obviously we know this is a fixed process here and certainly is very disrespectful of the two ward chairs who just won.”

“If I decide to run, we’ll get out there and we’ll work hard and, if I don’t run, we’re going to get behind a candidate that we feel will best serve the 96th District,” He called the slate “a slick move on his part,” meaning Lemar. “We are not anti at all.

“When I was first elected alderman, I lost the nomination. It’s always nice to get the nomination, but I know how to win an election,” he said. He called the odds on his running are “better than 50-50.”

But Debra Hauser (pictured), a former Ward 10 co-chair, said the odds of her running were 100 percent.

“I am officially a candidate for state representative in the 96th District,” she said.

“I am not an insider, so I have not been cultivating the delegates. Certainly, I have introduced myself … to New Haven and Hamden town committee members and elected officials and now am beginning my campaign officially.

“It seems customary that ward co-chairs in the district where are being held” should go to the convention, she said.

“Certainly, it’s plain to me that the current slate is entirely weighted for Roland. In that regard, it affects me but it does not deter me. I am getting a lot of support. I am looking forward to a hard-fought race that I will win.

She was asked whether having several New Haven candidates in a primary risks handing the seat over to Hamden, where politicos are united behind the candidacy of Hamden School Board Chairman Mike D’Agostino.

“I’ll take the women’s vote and they’ll split the male vote,” Hauser said. She said “a number of sources” have told her that the race is wide open.

Voigt said she was just following the law and Democratic State Central Committee rules, which do not give precedence to ward co-chairs when it comes to being named to a convention slate.

The DTC Tuesday chose a slate of 81 people to send to the party’s state convention in May, where they’ll vote on statewide races, some of which are highly competitive. New Haven has the biggest bloc of delegates statewide, so the city’s being wooed by candidates. Included on the slate were Mayor John DeStefano Jr., Superintendent of Schools Reggie Mayo, Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts and Randall. Some 83 people were selected to attend the Third Congressional District convention May 13 in Seymour.

Voigt said delegates to conventions for districts (unlike the 96th) entirely in a single city or town comprise the party co-chairs and are not chosen at meetings such as Tuesday night’s, according to state Democratic rules.

After the meeting, the organizer who put the winning slate together, 9th Ward Co-Chair and former city parking czar Paul Wessel (pictured with Lemar, who’s at left), said the list had been put together to assure Lemar the party’s nod.

“Many of us believe that Roland will be a great state rep and will well represent New Haven and Hamden, and that was our goal here. Not whatever tradition was or whatever but who would adequately represent and passionately represent New Haven and our interests and support Roland Lemar. So we put together a slate of people” who want Lemar seated.

“That was our goal. This is about a nominating convention for who is going to run for state rep and we are excited about the prospect of Roland Lemar serving people of New Haven and Hamden and in serving in the legislature and we put together people who share that excitement,” Wessel said.  He said there is “no question” that he’ll win the expected primary.

“We elected 10 strong leaders in our community to serve as the slate to the Hamden-New Haven delegation to endorse the next state representative. I am glad to have a great relationship with all of these leaders,” Lemar said. He hopes to put forward evidence that “I will be a great state representative who can work for our communities and deliver positive results back to Hamden and New Haven,” he said.

State Sen. Martin Looney, who attended the meeting with State Sen. Toni Harp and State Rep. Toni Walker and a number of aldermen, said he expects a fight for the seat.

“There will be several good candidates and it may take a while to sort things out,” he said. D’Agostino is a former aide to Looney.

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posted by: Just one woman in Ward 10 on March 24, 2010  8:27am

As a woman who has always supported strong candidates, regardless of their sex, I’m offended that Mrs. Hauser presumes that she has my vote because I am a woman.  I was likely going to vote for Lemar anyway, so its not a big loss to her, but now I’m certain to for Lemar.

posted by: Wooster St. Resident on March 24, 2010  8:27am

It will be convenient for Michael Smart to be in the state legislature.  He doesn’t listen to his constituents as an alderman, so it will be easier for him to not listen to us while he’s all the way up in Hartford.

posted by: Pamela in Ward 10 on March 24, 2010  8:31am

Roland will be an amaizing State Representative for all of East Rock, Wooster Square, Fair Haven AND Hamden. He’s smart, he’s dedicated and he’s right on the issues that are confronting our State.  Go Roland!

posted by: Paul Wessel on March 24, 2010  8:43am

Regardless of how the machine ran things in the old days, and regardless of whatever “entitlements” people felt they were owed, democracy prevailed last night. 

60 people were empowered, by virtue of chairing their Democratic ward committees, to elect a delegation to represent New Haven at a nominating convention to determine who the endorsed Democratic candidate will be for a vacated state rep seat. 

By a 2 to 1 vote, the people who thought a slate supportive of Roland Lemar made more sense than a slate that clung to machine politics tradition.

What’s particularly exciting about the race for 96th Assembly district is that we have great candidates who care about Hamden, New Haven, and the entire state, can run compelling races on the issues, and will need to do so in order to win. 

Last night was the first of many opportunities we will have to make our voices heard.

posted by: A Set of Ovaries and a Mind of My Own in Ward 9 on March 24, 2010  9:17am

If I happen to be having that time of the month on primary day maybe my hormones will compel me to hysterically pull the lever (or fill in the circle) in an estrogen-induced frenzy for a woman.  Otherwise I think I’m capable of making up my mind based on more relevant criteria.

posted by: what on March 24, 2010  9:35am

The Lemar machine is in overdrive early this morning attacking the two other candidates from New Haven. Sad.


Your spin on this thing is amazing. To try to say that the democratically elected town committee chairs not being included as delegates is reminiscent of the Republican spin machine “Mission Accomplished”. Despite what you say, folks see this smokescreen and will, as they did earlier this month, have their say at the polls.

posted by: sjbj on March 24, 2010  10:13am

“I’ll take the women’s vote”?!! Talk about arrogant!!!  Guess again, Dr. Hauser….this is one woman who has NO intention of voting for someone so arrogant and naive.

posted by: City Hall Watch on March 24, 2010  10:26am

It’s laughable that last night’s Dem confab was democracy in action or that it’s a win over machine politics. What planet are you living on? It was all about the machine.

While there are boosters who no doubt will clog this story board with positive generalizations about Roland Lemar - perhaps some of you could give us specifics on where he stands on:

1. State Debt
2. Borrowing money to pay operating expenses
3. Cutting the state budget
4. Tolls
5. Hidden conveyance taxes on real estate purchases - conveyance taxes when people are losing their homes
6. Payroll tax
7. Ability to make a tough decision

This is a very short list. But it’s the beginning of one that regardless who runs, these candidates should be forced to answer in detail.

This state is in a fiscal mess and quite frankly, so is the city. Both use gimmicks and one time revenues to balance spending so they don’t have to make cuts. Both ignore hundreds of millions (city) and billions at the state level, in unfunded liabilities. We’re reduced to coming up with funky financing deals, new gambling to fuel addictive behaviors, other creative financing and a mountain of debt that’s growing so large, generations from now will still be paying it off.

When confronted, all these pols dance around on the head of a pin. Wring their hands. Do nothing or worse, they throw around MBA terms they don’t understand like performance based budgeting or IBB as if somehow they’re magic bullets that will solve a self inflicted financial crisis years in the making, without having to make tough decisions. 

So, Lemar, Hauser and D’Agostino - you’re first in. I will be listening and so will a growing middle class of disgusted taxpayers who want solutions, not excuses. Who want results not reasons why you failed. Who want competence not comparisons to other low performers.

posted by: The Count on March 24, 2010  11:29am

Too bad it’s not the 34th District. I would LOVE to see someone run against Leonard Fasano after two or three elections of him running unopposed. Do the Democrats in the 34th have a “deal” with Lenny that they can’t find someone to run against him?

posted by: Huh? on March 24, 2010  12:33pm

You put a slate together of voters that want to support the same thing - like the same candidate.  Asking to be on someone else’s slate and then saying dissenting opinions are a good thing makes you ... disingenuous about your motives for demanding to be part of somebody else’s slate.

posted by: rsmith on March 24, 2010  1:02pm


who are you kidding?  The only thing different is you are now part of the “new machine” of condescending liberals who think you know what’s best for everyone else!  That election was a farce, and it is sad to watch Roland Lemar go from a so-called reformer who had people excited to a political stooge in a sport coat.

posted by: streever on March 24, 2010  1:50pm


Yes, he’s a very effective and very popular man who works extremely hard. He had no problem finding people who genuinely believe in his sincerity and commitment to doing hard work for his constituents. We believe so strongly in this that it was no problem to come out swinging for him and offer him our full support.

Whereas the others looking at running simply have not, for years, been as open and transparent and active in the greater New Haven community as Mr Lemar. Roland’s contributions to our city and our neighborhoods are far too many to name in this venue, but if you’d like to hear a few, you should simply stop virtually any East Rock resident and ask them. “What has Roland done for your neighborhood?”

They can—and will—articulate it for you.

Why is it such a dirty concept to you, that a hard-working and energetic man who organized a neighborhood would find allies in people like myself, Justin Elicker, Paul Wessel, the Casselas, Dick Lyons, Erin, etc.

We’re people who work for our neighborhoods, who love our neighborhoods, and we are extremely gratified to stand behind a candidate with the experience, dedication, and work ethic of Mr Lemar. Our group represents relative newcomers to the district as well as old-hands like Mr Lyons, and I think we also represent the districts appreciation and support of hard-working, enthusiastic volunteers.

posted by: James on March 24, 2010  2:00pm

There is no need for this many good candidates to destroy themselves in this type of meaningless campaign for a stupid position that will be zero fun for the next two years.  This is going to be a tough, ugly race and the winner gets to spend two years pissing everyone off by raising taxes and watching our State economy spiral downward.  I wouldn’t want to be in elected office for the next two years.  Your just gonna get beat two years from now.

Anyway, Marty Looney should fix this.  All the candidates seem to have a relationship with him, he should call Roland, Deb, Mike and Mike into a room - away from the cameras and hash this out.  Roland gets the Stae Rep seat, Mike Dags gets the redistricted Hamden State Senate seat in two years, Mike Smart gets the State Senate seat that Marty will eventually vacate and Deb Hauser gets a plum State Party position or something and gets to live in her mansion on Livingston Street.

Marty - step in before this gets really, really ugly.

posted by: Westville Angel on March 24, 2010  2:55pm


What ever happened to the Rodriguez/Randell, ABs, petition “fraud” and the investigation? I cant imagine they can stand up in a room of peers and be taken seriously. People will not forget about that….ever.

posted by: The Professor on March 24, 2010  3:29pm


I just wanted to remind you that when Ward 8’s co-chairs were democratically elected, they were elected co-chairs of Ward 8 and nothing else.  Saying that they should automatically be on the slate of candidates would be like saying that Rosa DeLauro should be on the Amtrak board of directors because she is the democratically elected representative of part of the country.

Winning a co-chair election entitles you to a seat on the DTC, one of the only two meaningful votes in the Aldermanic endorsement process, the ability to hand pick people for your ward committee, a cool title to stick on your resume, and not much else. 

So, I fail to understand how [this] is in any way similar to lying to an entire nation about the progress of a war of aggression that was based on entirely false pretenses.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on March 24, 2010  3:55pm

He is one of the polilcal pirates from king John’s ship along with Chairwoman Susie VoigtWake up people the only true Representation is proportional represntation.That’s what we need to fight for.

posted by: What on March 24, 2010  4:05pm


You’ll see on election day the similarities. Folks don’t like being disenfranchised, or lied to. An overwhelming (over 2 to 1) of the folks in Ward 8 elected these Ward Chairs. They expect for them to be treated with respect and fairness by the Party Chair and the committee. They will show that on election day.

posted by: ViC E on March 24, 2010  5:22pm

East Rock deserves better. A better Alder and a better State Rep. So we actually need better candidates on all fronts. This Hauser is a ringer,she is just attempting to push any other viable candidates away with her repetitive “Lady’s first and only” spew.
When Lemar first ran for Alder, Former Walgreen’site coordinator Alex Marathas was his opponent - He was not on the ballot at voting time, leaving the need for Roland only vote for himself to get elected. So far nobody has challenged Roland ,because #1 Yale gets what it wants from him . # 2 , he says yes to The local Money developers, they will remain on the inside track at city hall, so they have no need to prop an alder candidate against him. Shutting the tax spigot off at the community management meeting is/was vital . It’s an open checkbook for buying votes and Alder finance.

posted by: Chicken Coops on March 24, 2010  7:51pm


This is the second time I can remember you saying there are “too many good thing to list here” referring to Mr Lemar’s accomplishments.
How about giving me his 3 biggest and best achievements since becoming alder. I like him enough and thinks he has the best interests of the neighborhood in mind but, besides the all important Chicken Coop Legislation I cant think of one thing he has done. Please enlighten me.

posted by: Chicken Coops? on March 24, 2010  8:20pm


This is the second time I can remember you saying there are “too many good things to list here” referring to Mr Lemar’s accomplishments.
How about giving just 3 of his biggest and best achievements since becoming alder. I like him well enough and thinks he has the best interests of the neighborhood in mind but, besides the all important Chicken Coop Legislation I cant think of one thing he has been effective on. Please enlighten me.

posted by: Drosophila on the Wall on March 24, 2010  9:06pm

I find it interesting that peoples’ perception of a good candidate in New Haven has so much to do with which side is “part of the machine” and which side is “the grassroots candidate,” with much of the debate over campaigns boiling down to both sides claiming to be “fighting against the machine.”  It seems to me that a political machine is used as a relatively loose term to describe any group of political activists and organizers who tend to support the same candidates in elections, and try to help them get elected.  In most elections, it turns out, all serious candidates have support from a group of experienced organizers and politicians, and all are opposed by a group of politically active individuals.  There are clearly exceptions to this, but in this case it seems fairly clear that both sides are trying to use the established system and a network of old relationships to advance their candidates.  Does that make either or both candidates bad?  I can’t remember the last time any major election in New Haven really focused on different policy ideas—most people just want to talk about how terrible the opposing machine is, and how “their guy” is the underdog, “grassroots” candidate.  In this regard, I like the honesty Mr. Wessel showed when he explained his goal in selecting the members of his slate.  As was mentioned by a previous commenter, Mr. Randall’s complaint seems to be somewhat hypocritical and irrelevant—the entire point of electing delegates by slate is that it allows the Democratic Town Committee to throw its entire support behind the candidate most popular within its ranks, and with 30 of its members voting for Roland Lemar, that candidate would appear to be him.  Mr. Randall isn’t really so upset that the will of the voters was circumvented; his real beef is that it wasn’t HIS ten people who were picked as delegates, so by undermining the Lemar slate, he could assist his guy in making a bid for the New Haven vote.  That’s just how this system is built to work.  If you think it’s a bad system, you are certainly not alone, but it really doesn’t seem as if either side is more guilty of attempting to use the system to their advantage.  One side just did it considerably better this time around; as we can see by Mr. Randall’s victory 3 weeks ago, his machine wins sometimes too.

James: I’m not sure I understand why a tough race here would be so bad for Martin Looney.  I could understand that it would be to his advantage to intercede were this competition endangering the chances of the seat’s occupant supporting him, but as you point out, he seems to have a relationship of some sort with all four interested parties.  By interfering, he would certainly disappoint someone, and possibly lose influence and political capital in the future if he picked the wrong horse, or even if one of the people he upset ran for something else in the future (like…his seat?).  Conversely, if he sits back and lets this election run its course, he can avoid angering anybody, be guaranteed a relationship with the victor, and not risk wasting political capital by supporting a candidate who might lose.  Sounds like staying out of it is a win-win (or really a win-win-win) for Senator Looney in this case.

A final thought: while I understand that Ms. Hauser’s saying “I’ll take the women’s vote” could be construed as arrogant and ignorant, it is more likely that she was talking in general terms about her thoughts on the way the vote might break down along gender lines.  She might be wrong, and she might not be a good candidate anyways, but it is probably mistaken to infer that she expects all women to vote for her based solely on her gender.

And congratulations to the Lemar team—way to go guys.

posted by: The Professor on March 24, 2010  9:07pm

That’s great that the Ward 8 co-chairs were elected by a 2-1 margin—they should be very happy that the residents of their ward have so much faith in them.  But that has absolutely NOTHING to do with this slate.

Again, it seems that you don’t understand that winning the election for Ward 8 co-chair means that you’re Ward 8 co-chair and nothing else.

What else do you think the Ward 8 co-chairs are entitled to?  Seats on the BZA? Maybe even the Federal Reserve Board?  After all, this is a democracy and they were elected ward co-chairs!

Once again, I don’t see how their not being picked for positions they weren’t elected to represents some grave threat to the integrity of our democratic system.

posted by: roomforaview on March 24, 2010  11:29pm

Lemar and Smart are both excellent aldermen and candidates. It’s a shame they can’t both win. Both are bright, engaged and actively involved in serving their communities. Lemar has the edge now, but Smart is a force to be reckoned with.

posted by: Lurdes on March 25, 2010  3:06pm

The latinos of Fair Haven are not in agrement with Joseph Rodriguez.He made up his maind with out thinking about what he was going against a latino woman that has the right to be at that convention.WE LATINOS STICK TOGETHER WE DON’T GO AGAINST EACH OTHER!!!!!

posted by: streever on March 25, 2010  3:45pm

Lurdes, Joey didn’t get to pick the slate. The slate was voted on by the Democratic Town Committee chairs.
On a personal note, I’m sorry for you that you make your decisions based on someone’s race. I’ve always believed strongly that we should pick the best candidate for each position based on their qualifications, history, and background.

ChickenCoop: Why don’t you ask Roland, or go to his website, or read his lit? I’m not his spokesperson. If you run into me, feel free to ask me what he’s done for my neighborhood, or simply ask anyone else who lives in East Rock. They can tell you. You might score some points by mocking his work on allowing residents to have chickens, but the reality is that that is only one small accomplishment, which really does set the tone for Alderman Lemar’s work: constituents approached him with a problem and he fixed it. He does this with sidewalks, traffic calming, budgets, and yes, even chicken coops.

posted by: streever on March 25, 2010  3:50pm

(and to Lurdes and all, a purely technical point)
The state bylaws for Town Committee define what happen when a district spans a town’s boundary. This district (the 96th) does indeed cross town lines, and therefore, the slate is drawn from a larger pool, and voted upon by ALL 60 Ward Committee Chairs.

There is no need for the accusations or crits which are frankly baseless and not grounded in reality. This is what the bylaw says, and everyone is operating in a purely legal fashion.

If you are unhappy with the bylaw, propose changing it, but do not simply attack people for following the law. It is at best hypocritical.

posted by: ward10res on March 25, 2010  10:48pm

Ask Mr. Lemar how well the machine support worked for Mr. Blango…. It’s going to be about the issues- may the best candidate win. In a 3 way race anything can happen.

posted by: The Professor on March 26, 2010  5:37am

I just want to pose a question to Lurdes, and hopefully shed a little more light on how absurd these race-based politics are.  Lurdes accuses Joe Rodriguez of “going against” a fellow Latino, but how do we know that it isn’t, in fact, Carmen Rodriguez who “went against” Joe (and Rafael Ramos, for that matter)?  I’m not sure if Carlos Eyzaguirre is Latino—sounds like he could be—and if he is, that would make THREE Latinos that Carmen Rodriguez “went against”!  So much for Latinos sticking together!

The point I’m trying to make is that politics shouldn’t be about Latinos against people of other races and ethnicities, or about blacks vs. whites, or any other “we-win, you-lose” race-based battles.  It should be about what’s best for our communities.  It looks like this is a pretty clear-cut case of people disagreeing about who is best suited to represent the 96th District in the CGA.  Rodriguez and Lemar have a history of working together (Lemar has also worked with Migdalia Castro, and even Jorge Perez, for what it’s worth).  It is NOT a case of race-treachery, and to portray it as such cheapens the political discourse in this City.

posted by: donna on March 28, 2010  7:26am


posted by: Mark Hamden on April 2, 2010  2:23pm

Is there anything that these candidates can do at this level to help make Hamden a mecca of technology and ecology? 

If Hamden were one of the first cities in CT to have WIRELESS access everywhere for it’s citizens, would that help increase Hamden’s attraction as a great community? 

Also, what can be done to improve the safety of commuters on Whalley Avenue as more and more bicycle traffic fights for space—especially during rush-hour traffic?

Just two thoughts, but, realistically, what are candidates at this level going to do about taxes, health care, and the regional or national economy?