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Ned Lamont Selects Paul Mounds as First Chief Operating Officer


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Gov.-elect Ned Lamont selected a Hartford native and  public policy veteran to be the state’s first chief operating officer, one of 38 in the nation.

Lamont tapped Paul Mounds, 33,  to be the point person for all the state’s commissioners. Mounds will report to Ryan Drajewicz, Lamont’s chief of staff. The role aims to “enhance cross-agency collaboration and efficiency.”

Lamont, who is filling his cabinet to take the helm on Jan.9, made the announcement on Friday at the State Capitol.

“Paul is a relationship builder and someone who understands how the executive branch agencies can best be leveraged to create lasting and impactful change on behalf of the people of Connecticut,” Lamont said. “I welcome Paul back into state service and look forward to working closely with him particularly as we build our agency leadership teams and take on the challenge of building a more efficient, responsive government.”

Mounds currently works as vice president of policy and communications for the Connecticut Health Foundation. He informs and educates policymakers on issues related to health equity. He previously worked as the senior director of public policy and government relations for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Mounds began his career as an intern at the State Capitol. He worked as a press assistant and federal grants coordinator for U.S. Rep John Larson and a deputy director of outreach with Sen. Richard Blumenthal.  Moreover, Mounds was a member of the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Competitiveness.

He also serves as a Commissioner on the Connecticut Judicial Selection Commission and on the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Higher Education Supplemental Loan Authority and the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center.

A graduate of Trinity College, Mounds was born in Hartford, raised in East Hartford and lives in Glastonbury with his wife and child.

“I am honored to join Gov. Elect Lamont’s administration and look forward to working collaboratively with agency commissioners and their teams to implement programs that will help support businesses and Connecticut citizens alike,” Mounds said. “In particular, using metrics and data to measure success will allow us to evaluate programmatic effectiveness on behalf of taxpayers.”

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Lamont Taps Hartford Budget Director for Top Post


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD —  A Hartford finance official will become Governor-elect Ned Lamont’s budget chief come January.

Melissa McCaw was tapped on Tuesday to be the next secretary of policy and management to oversee the state’s budget. She will be the state’s first African American budget director.

McCaw, 39, of Hartford, has been serving as the chief financial officer with the city of Hartford for the past three years.  Previously, she served as a budget director for the University of Hartford. She also worked with the Office of Policy and Management as a budget specialist for eight years.

McCaw graduated from Wesleyan University with a master’s degree in public administration and also has a certificate in public financial management from the University of Connecticut.

“To grow our economy, add jobs and give the business community confidence, we have to fix our budget challenges,” Lamont said. “Melissa will help lead that effort, and I’m proud to announce her as a critical member of the team.”

The governor submits a budget plan every two years. McCaw will be working with Lamont to submit a plan to the legislature in mid-February to balance the fiscal years.

“I look forward to achieving the governor-elect’s vision for a budget and policy plan that addresses Connecticut’s fiscal crisis, spreads out economic opportunity and helps grow Connecticut’s middle class,” McCaw said.

McCaw will be tackling a $1.7 billion projected deficit in the coming months.

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How to Get Your Lawmakers to Listen


By Cynthia Gordy Giwa

Hello from the otherrr siiiiide…

You did it! In this month’s midterm election, you and a whole lot of your fellow voters turned out to the polls to make your voices heard. But you’re not done yet. Voting is just the beginning!

The User’s Guide to Democracy has always wanted to help you become not only a more informed voter, but also a more engaged citizen. So, with the winners declared, how do you get your elected representatives in Washington to listen to your voice now?

At a live event on Nov. 13 with the New York Public Library, Derek Willis (my colleague here at ProPublica) and Paul Kane (an ace Congressional reporter for The Washington Post) tackled this question with the help of a panel of Capitol Hill insiders. The event, called “Irregular Order: How Congress Really Works,” was moderated by comedian/actor/writer Wyatt Cenac.

James Wallner, senior fellow for the think tank R Street (and a former Republican Senate staff member); Lindsey Cormack, Stevens Institute of Technology assistant professor of political science; and Stephanie L. Young, communications director for When We All Vote (also a former Democratic House staffer); explained how to get lawmakers to listen to you and act on the issues you care about.

Courtesy of The New York Public Library

Even as Congress seems stuck, there are still things that you can do to influence your lawmakers. Here are a few suggestions from the panel:

  • Vote. Often. “We literally have the power,” Young said of the clout that comes with voting. “I think we forget that, and sometimes you feel powerless. … This is one opportunity for you to go out and make your voices heard, but you have to do it *every time*, and you have to encourage those that you care about, and the people who are influenced by you, to do the exact same. There’s no one who has greater influence than you do.”Even if voting sometimes feels like shouting into the void, the panel also stressed that your elected officials are actually paying attention to who their voting constituents are. “If you email or write something, and they have your address and your name, they’re going to look up your voter file,” Willis said. “The fact that they’re tracking that information should tell you that they’re concerned about hearing from their constituents, and that you’re important.”
  • Visit your district office. Young continued by emphasizing that every member of Congress has a district office you can go to. “There are staff that are there to hear from you. You can write letters. They actually read them; there is someone who is assigned just to do that, and they have to respond to you. I worked for members who were very keen on knowing their constituents — how they felt, what they thought, and they want to read those letters. … Don’t miss those opportunities that we all have because they actually matter. They actually work.”Town halls were raised as another opportunity where you can talk to your legislators in person. Kane recounted the example of Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who was moved by individual interaction with her constituents during the “repeal Obamacare” period of 2017. “She described how, throughout that spring and summer, she would have town halls when she got back to Alaska. Over and over again, people would tell their stories about a pre-existing condition they feared they were going to lose [coverage for], or a husband or wife battling cancer who was afraid to lose health care,” Kane said. “By the end, that won her over, and she voted no.”
  • Write op-eds in your local newspaper. “Senators and members of the house really care about their local newspapers,” Cormack said. “If you write an op-ed that describes why you disagree with what your member did, that freaks them out. That’s where they want their press releases to land. They want that space, and if they have constituents within their own district saying they have a problem with that, that’s a really big red flag for them that they need to come back to the district and figure it out, or they’re going to need to focus on whatever that issue is a lot more, or address it differently.”
  • Work with advocacy groups you agree with.Traveling all the way to D.C., possibly taking time off from work, or putting in the time to write and pitch a newspaper op-ed might feel like a daunting amount of investment to be heard by people who are supposed to work for you. Wallner recommended making use of advocacy groups (i.e. organizations like the Sierra Club or the National Federation of Independent Business).

“We talk about advocacy groups like they’re a bad thing, but it’s usually just the ones we disagree with,” he said. “They have people who care about the same issues, who focus [on them] and are paid to go down to D.C. They make life difficult for members; sometimes they help members. … See what they’re doing and try to participate with them. Their voice is going to amplify your voice, and it’s going to make it harder for Congress to ignore the issues that you care about.”

One thing many advocacy groups do is lobby Congress, both by encouraging members to visit their representatives and by hiring their own lobbyists. You can find advocacy organizations working on issues you’re interested in using Represent’s database of lobbying arrangements.

You can watch the full discussion here, thanks to the New York Public Library, or listen to it on NYPL’s Library Talks podcast. I promise, not only will you learn something, you’ll laugh too.

We’ve come to the end of the User’s Guide to Democracy — but, hopefully, this marks the start of your increased participation in our system of government. From Representto the Facebook Political Ad Collector, you have tools to track what your representatives are actually doing, as well as tactics to hold them accountable. Don’t hesitate to use them. And, remember: Congress works for you.

This was first published on Propublica.org. Cynthia Gordy Giwa is ProPublica’s marketing director.

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CT Latinos Voter Turnout Signals New Political Engagement


Across the nation there was a significant jump in Latino participation in the midterm election, and most likely in Connecticut, too.

Latinos have for years had the potential to become a powerful voting bloc. But their failure to turn up at the polls has historically hurt their political clout.

In this year’s midterms, however, they helped give Democrats key wins in Senate races in Nevada and Arizona. In  Texas, turnout rose dramatically in heavily Latino precincts and was also high in Latino areas of California, Florida and New York. There will be 43 Latino representatives in the next Congress — a record number.

In Connecticut, it’s much more difficult to pinpoint Latino voting participation. But an analysis by the Connecticut Mirror determined that cities and towns in the state where Latinos make up 25 percent or more of the population all experienced a significant increase in voter turnout.

 

And, in some of those towns — including Meriden, Ansonia, Stamford, Norwalk, Danbury, New Haven, New London, Windham and Waterbury — the growth in turnout exceeded the boost in voter turnout in the midterm election statewide.

The statewide turnout in the 2014 midterm was 55.6 percent and 65.2 percent in the latest midterm. In New Haven, for instance, turnout was 38.3 percent in 2014 and 58 percent in 2018. Nearly 30 percent of the city’s residents identified themselves as Hispanics or Latinos to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Many of the more than 540,000 Latinos in Connecticut live in the larger cities, which historically have lower turnout.

“People tend to be more transient in cities, and that leads to lower voting rates,” said Gabe Rosenberg, spokesman for the Connecticut Secretary of State’s office.

However, the gap between those larger cities and smaller, higher-turnout towns shrank in the midterm.

“Latinos saw there was a lot at stake, so they came out,” said Marie Bertrand, the incoming president of the Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association.

Nationally, a record 29 million Latinos were eligible to vote in this year’s election, according to the Pew Research Center. Preliminary data suggests there was a significant jump in Latino participation.

Speaking at a panel discussion in Los Angeles, Tom Perez, the first Latino Chair of the Democratic National Committee, was quoted as saying the turnout of first-time voters, including Latinos, was “a remarkable phenomenon.”

Since Latinos, in general, favor Democrats over Republican candidates, their increased participation in the midterm bolstered a “blue wave” that helped Democrats seize control of the U.S. House of Representatives and a number of other political offices, including the U.S. Senate seats in Arizona and Nevada and governorships across the country.

The week after the Nov. 6 election, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Latino participation surged 174 percent in 2018, compared to the 2014 midterms.

“Latino voters played a pivotal role in taking back the House,” Lujan told reporters during a conference call organized by the political action committee Latino Victory. “Evidence is clear: Early and active and robust outreach to communities of color — in this case, into the Hispanic community — clearly pays off.”

In Connecticut, it’s harder to decipher the impact of the more energized Latino electorate, but it may have boosted Democrat Ned Lamont’s bid for the governor’s office and helped Democrats boost their numbers in the general assembly.

“Latinos may have helped Lamont, especially in the cities,” Bertrand said. “Most likely they did.”

A coalition of Latino groups has emerged in Connecticut to capitalize on the increased political participation of the state’s Latinos, and ensure that they are represented in positions of influence and power.

COURTESY OF SEN.CHRIS MURPHY
Graduates of the Hispanic Leadership Academy with HUD secretary Julian Castro, center, and members of the Connecticut Hispanic Democratic Caucus.

The newly formed CT Latino Task Force, a coalition of about 20 individuals and groups that includes the Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association, the Connecticut Chapter of the Hispanic Federation and NALEO, is collecting resumes from whom they say are qualified Latinos who want to work in the Lamont administration and is making sure they are reviewed by the governor-elect’s transition team.

“We want to really put a little pressure on the incoming administration to make sure that we can be adequately represented in government positions, but also on boards and commissions,” Beltran said. “We want to make sure that at the end of the day they can’t say ‘We did not receive any applications from qualified Latinos’.”

Rep. Chris Soto, D-New London, said the formation of the CT Latino Task Force is a first and an indication of maturing Latino politics in the state. He also said Connecticut’s Latinos may have come out to vote in greater numbers this year because they are opposed to President Donald Trump’s policies, but noted that wasn’t the only reason for turnout.

“People are starting to see the importance of being locally engaged,” he said.

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State Rep. Matt Ritter Reelected House Majority Leader


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD —  Democratic lawmakers re-elected Hartford State Rep. Matt Ritter to be House Majority Leader. Ritter will be formally installed as Majority Leader on Jan.9.

The Democratic caucus met on Thursday and selected their leaders.

Ritter(D-Hartford) is a lifelong resident of Hartford who was first elected to the House in 2010, unseating Kenneth Green in a Democratic primary. Ritter served on Hartford City Council for three years prior to his bid for the General Assembly.

On Tuesday, he ran unopposed in for the 1st House District, which encompasses the West End of Hartford. He will serve his third term.

Ritter is among several House Representatives that were reelected on Tuesday, shoring up Hartford’s status as a solid democratic city with 87 percent of the voters for Governor-Elect Ned Lamont.

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Hartford Democratic Incumbents Win Races


HARTFORD — Democratic incumbents easily trounced challengers in thier quest to return to the General Assembly.

Incumbent Sen. John Fonfara, a Democrat who represents Senate District 1, easily won his seat over Republican Challenger Barbara Rhue and Green Party Challenger Barbara Barry. Fonfara garnered 10,860 votes over Rhue’s 1,945 and Barry’s 259.

Incumbent Sen. Doug McCory ran unopposed.

Democratic Reps. Matt Ritter and Minnie Gonzalez, both of whom ran unopposed, will return to the General Assembly to represent District 1 and District 3 respectively.

Rep. Julio Concepcion in District 4 beat his challengers Republican Bryan Nelson, and Working Families candidate Kennard Ray. Concepcion garnered 2,659 votes over Nelson’s 330 and Ray’s 309. Mary Sanders of the Green Party garnered 57 votes.

District 5 Rep. Brandon McGee beat Republican candidate Charles Jackson. McGee captured 6,474 votes over Jackson’s 1,144.

Democratic State Rep. Edwin Vargas beat Republican challenger Michael Barlowski. Vargas of District 6 had 3,368 votes over Barlowski’s 485.

District 7 State Rep. Joshua Hall beat Giselle Jacobs, who was a petitioning candidate. Hall captured 3,742 votes over Jacobs’ 92.

Check back for updates.

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Hartford Gears Up for Nov. 6 Election, Check Both Sides of Ballot


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — The election polls on Tuesday will be opened from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Gov. Dan Malloy is asking voters to check both sides of the ballot before they vote. This year, many of the ballots are double sided.

To view ballots before going to the poll, you can look it up at this page by clicking here.

To find your polling place, you can go to  http://myvote.ct.gov/lookup  to find each polling place.

To find out where you can register to vote on election day, click here http://myvote.ct.gov/EDR  and click here for more information: http://myvote.ct.gov/EDRInfo.

In response to Republican Governor Candidate Bob Stefanowski asking registrars to have challengers at the poll, Secretary of State Denise Merrill said voters should not be impeded in any way.

“Although we take great pains to ensure that only eligible voters are allowed to vote, we are also careful to avoid potential voter intimidation,” she said. “Challenges to the eligibility of voters should not be made lightly-they are made under oath and only when there is reason to believe they have merit, for good reason. Frivolous challenges are likely to slow down the voting process, or even cause some eligible voters to stay away.”

 

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It’s Been a Lousy Week in Politics, and Some of It Is Obama’s Fault


By Jason Johnson, The Root

It’s been a horrible week in politics, and it just keeps getting worse. Now, I don’t entirely agree with my colleague Terrell J. Starr’s assessment from yesterday.

We all know where this is going.

Donald Trump will appoint a maniac, right-wing justice who will be 15 minutes out of law school, which means he or she will serve on the bench for 50 years, help end abortion rights and civil rights, but, most important, will rule—sometime around 2019 or 2020—that the president has the right to PARDON himself (which was always the endgame). Right now I don’t care about what’s coming; I’m mad about how we got here.

In a little over a week, the Supreme Court upheld voter purges, effectively defunded unions and upheld the white nationalist Muslim ban. After all of that, Justice Anthony “Swing Vote” Kennedy looks around at everything Trump has done, says “I’m good with this” and chucks the deuces to his lifetime appointment.

There’s a lot of blame to go around, and I’ll tell you now, all of your faves are problematic. However here are the top five people to blame for our current crisis of constitutionality, in descending order of terribleness.

5. President Barack Obama

Blame rating: “What had happened was”

I know nobody wants to hear this; I know that Obama, Ava DuVernay and Blue Ivy are the sacred cows of black folks and liberals in America. Nevertheless, some of this falls squarely on the shoulders of our former “father in chief” (I know firsthand about Barack backlash because I tweeted about this).

Way back in the optimistic year of 2016, I wrote that once Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wouldn’t even hold hearings to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia until after the election, essentially trying to steal a Supreme Court justice, Obama should have just put someone on the court. And he wouldn’t do it. Obama naively believed that the Republicans wouldn’t be willing to handicap a third of the federal government just to spite him.

In 2016 I wrote:

Obama’s refusal to take advantage of Congress being at recess by appointing someone to the Supreme Court to replace Antonin Scalia without its approval is one of the most cowardly, embarrassing and shameful abdications of power of any president in American history. And, without a doubt, history and Americans should judge him harshly for it.

Don’t be confused; it was well within Obama’s authority to put someone on the bench. A rare quirk in congressional scheduling gave Obama about a week to make a special recess appointment for the Supreme Court. He should have picked one of the half-dozen women or people of color available.

The appointment would have stayed on the court until 1) Republicans voted the person out, which would have been a real mess during an election year (especially if it were a black woman on the bench); or 2) until the end of the calendar year, in which case, whoever the next president was would have replaced the justice (even if Hillary Clinton had won, she would have been under no obligation to keep Obama’s recess pick).

I hear you Obama defenders now. You Obama hater! Trump won, so Merrick Garland would’ve been gone by the end of 2016 and we’d still be here! That’s true, but there were two critical decisionsUnited States v. Texas, which was about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program; and Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which was about union fees—that ended in a 4-4 tie in 2016.

A tie on the Supreme Court is basically a judicial shoulder shrug that leaves the lower court ruling in effect. If an Obama appointee had been on the court, those rulings would have gone 5-4, and Trump would have had more trouble dismantling DACA today, and this week’s rulings about employee union fees would have been tougher to pull off, given that it would have been reversing a very recent precedent. So yeah, I put some blame on Obama.

4. Hillary Clinton

Blame level: Coulda, shoulda, woulda

I give Hillary Clinton credit. She had to face off against a biased press, her husband’s baggage, a Democratic infrastructure decimated at the state level after years of neglect by Obama, Russian intervention, and she still won the popular vote by nearly 3 million. Unfortunately, the popular vote wins you support, but it doesn’t win the White House, and like Brandy told us, “Almost Doesn’t Count.”

Clinton lost the election. And ultimately that falls on her well-padded shoulders and her staff. It’s not Sen. Bernie Sanders’ fault; it’s not those annoying, idiotic Jill Stein voters; it’s not even Obama’s fault. Clinton lost against a beatable candidate. Which means she bears some responsibility for us getting Neil Gorsuch, and for whatever nightmare person Trump selects to replace Kennedy.

3. Mitch McConnell

Blame level: [Shaggy voice.] “It Wasn’t Me”

One hundred years from now—after the devastation of the Trump administration, the Alt-Handmaid’s Tale presidency of Mike Pence and, finally, the Founding Fathers’ Purge presidency of Don Jr. – when America finally comes to its senses from our soon-to-be-dystopian nightmare and reflects on how the hell all of this happened—there will be one name that stands out.

Patient zero for the cancer that ate away at American democracy will be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell’s constant obstructionism, commitment to white nationalist policies, and willingness to destroy any norms or procedures of American democracy, while at the same time claiming innocence or, worse, playing the victim, have done more to ruin our union in the last 12 years than anything done by any other sitting politician.

So why isn’t he No. 1 on this list?

McConnell had help. Yes, he refused to hold hearings for Garland, paving the way for Gorsuch on the bench and whatever 37-year-old maniac Trump is about to pick, but other people had to play along. Democrats had to fail to see what he was up to. Republicans had to go along with him and vote the way he wanted. The press had to cover how his behavior played “politically” instead of addressing the legitimacy of McConnell’s actions. So he’s only partially to blame. His biggest co-conspirators might be the next group.

2. White Women

Blame level: Rosanne on Ambien

Fifty-three percent of white women in America voted for a man who repeatedly cheated on his wife, was accused of raping his ex-wife, routinely sexually harassed women, was caught on tape bragging about a sexual assault and said he believed that women who get abortions should be punished. And y’all voted for him anyway.

I am so tired of the occasional news story about white female Trump voters who “regret” their decision, or can’t understand why their health care costs are skyrocketing, or are amazed when their husbands get deported. You didn’t regret voting for a habitual sexual predator and accused rapist—you’re just regretting it now that it’s hurting you. They must’ve been on that Ambien in 2016.

So in 2020, when newest Supreme Court Justice Corey Lewandowski pens the majority decision ruling that abortions are a “state issue” and women have to start sneaking across the border from Kentucky to Ohio for contraception and prenatal care, it’s all your fault. This is what you voted for.

1. Donald Trump

Blame level: Benedict Arnold

Ultimately, in addition to the white nationalism, the border crisis, the pending financial crisis (it’s coming), the environmental crisis (it’s coming), the erosion of our national image and the trade wars, among fifty-eleven million other things, it’s Trump’s fault we’re about to get one of the worst justices in Supreme Court history. Just remember all the screwup it took for us to get here.

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Congressman John Larson to Hold Public Forum


WEST HARTFORD — U.S. Rep John Larson will be holding a public forum to discuss the cost of higher education, national service and other matters.

The event is scheduled for May 1 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the Lourdes Hall Room 115 at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford.

For more information visit, https://larson.house.gov/issues/national-service.

 

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Statewide Candidates Speed-Date Latinos


By

The challenge: convince well-connected Hispanic politicos why you’re the best candidate to represent them in statewide office —  and do it in under one minute.

That round of speed-dating, involving four potential governors, three treasurers, two attorneys general, one comptroller and the Connecticut Hispanic Democratic Caucus, took place Wednesday at a New Haven gathering at the Greek Olive on Long Wharf.

Yolanda Castillo, Manchester Democratic Town Committee member

“As a Latino community, for those that have been involved in political life for all these years, we want to make sure that we support the people that think about our community and that are interested in making sure that everyone in Connecticut has a better quality of life. Latinos, people of color, our numbers are growing, and we have a voice,” said Yolanda Castillo, the caucus’s vice-chair and a member of Manchester’s Democratic Town Committee. “Think of our community, because our community is in need.”

With the clock racing, the crowded field of Democratic candidates tried to differentiate themselves by giving similar short pitches, touching on their resistance to the Trump administration and the kitchen-table issue of good jobs. A couple threw in rehearsed lines of Spanish.

Currently, only one Hispanic is officially running for statewide office. Connecticut has never elected one. Yet Latinos comprise the fastest-growing segment of the population; Latinos involved in politics have been pushing their parties to diversify their tickets.

The four 2018 Democratic candidates for governor, two for attorney general and one for comptroller who showed up Wednesday night are all white. The candidates for treasurer included an African-American man, a man of Sri Lankan descent and an Indian-American woman. Eva Bermudez Zimmerman, a union organizer in Newtown considering a run for lieutenant governor or secretary of the state, was the one Latina who spoke to the voters.

Despite the lack of representation on the ticket, the candidates all know that Hispanic voters will be a powerful voting bloc that could play a role in deciding the front-runners from among a wide field of candidates. At the end of the meeting, the caucus members started counting up the delegates they’ll send to the Democratic convention next month, where candidates need to draw at least 15 percent support to make it on the primary ballot.

In conversations with a reporter during a meet-and-greet hour, some of the candidates struggled to get specific about what they plan to do for the Hispanic community.

All those aiming for the governor’s mansion expressed a willingness to revisit the Connecticut Trust Act, which prohibits state law enforcement from coordinating with federal immigration agents — with seven broad exceptions, such as if the target has had a felony conviction, been identified as a gang member or terrorist, or appeared to be an “unacceptable risk to public safety.” Advocates, like the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance’s Alok Bhatt, argue that loopholes are leading to courthouse arrests. Sean Connolly was the only one who hesitated, saying it didn’t fit with his “style [of] collaboration” to get into a dispute with the feds.

Several candidates also said they’d be open to funding legal aid for immigrants facing deportation cases. In 4,000 cases involving New Haven County residents, legal representation proved to be a strong predictor for who won relief from an immigration judge.

During the pitch to the caucus members, most focused on amping up the crowd.

CHRISTOPHER PEAK | NEW HAVEN INDEPENDENT

Jonathan Harris

Jonathan Harris, a former state senator, state consumer protection chief, and West Hartford mayor, kept his pitch short with fewer than 10 words.

“Tough times, challenges: we can do this,” he said. “Go, fight, win!”

Speaking with the Independent, Harris enumerated a much longer list of what he’d done for the state’s Hispanic population. As a legislator, he introduced a bill allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates at public universities. (Jodi Rell vetoed it; Dan Malloy later signed a similar version.) As head of consumer protection, Harris persuaded Medicaid to reimburse payments for medical interpreters, cracked down on notarios without a law license and simplified language on the department’s forms to be more readily understandable to non-English speakers.

CHRISTOPHER PEAK | NEW HAVEN INDEPENDENT

Sean Connolly

Sean Connolly, the former state commissioner of veteran services, said that newcomers today should have the same opportunity that his Irish grandparents found in Connecticut.

“My father came 52 years ago to our great state, bought and operated his own landscaping business and had his career in Connecticut, I’m running because too many people I’ve encountered said those opportunities don’t exist here in Connecticut anymore. We need to ensure and expand that opportunity: a fair shot for everybody, no matter who you are.”

He closed with a sentence in Spanish that earned cheers: “Ellos están conmigo. Quiero que ustedes estén conmigo tambien!” Translation: They are with me. I want you to be with me too!

Susan Bysiewicz, who’d just officially declared her entry into the gubernatorial race, said she worked hard to diversify state boards and commissions when she served as secretary of the state.

Sí, se puedo!” she declared, mistaking the verb’s conjugation. “We can win together!”

Bysiewicz said she planned to elevate the need for more federal funding for the cities that have taken in Puerto Rican evacuees — a bipartisan effort that would require getting Connecticut’s elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans, to pressure the White House.

Guy Smith, former CEO of Americares and a liquor distribution company, said he’d stand up to the Trump administration.

“In my administration,” he said, “we’re going to have serious diversity and serious candidates from your community, and I will protect every citizen in Connecticut from you-know-who in Washington.” The line implied non-citizens wouldn’t get the same protections, earning a tepid response from the audience, at best.

The biggest applause of the night went to Kevin Lembo, the state comptroller. He originally launched an effort to seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination this year, then surprised everyone when he dropped outciting personal reasons. He’s running for reelection.

In the attorney general race, Chris Mattei, a former federal prosecutor, and Clare Kindall, a former assistant attorney general, described different approaches to how they’d respond to Trump’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

Mattei said he’d “run to the courthouse” to challenge any threats to the so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who’ve been raised in this country and received special protections under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. “This is a community that, in some ways, feels under siege,” he said. “I’m here to stand in solidarity.”

Kindall said she, too, would try to help the Dreamers by “doing everything permissible,” but she pointed out the limits of that strategy in a courtroom. “The state does not set immigration policy,” she said. “I wish I had a magic bullet.” Kindall said the resources of the attorney general’s office could be best used by defending sanctuary cities from retaliation and by looking into funding public defenders in immigration court, if they could get insurance.

Some candidates — including gubernatorial hopeful Luke Bronin and attorney general candidate Paul Doyle — arrived too late to make presentations, but in time for some last-minute schmoozing. Gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont sent representatives in his stead; Joe Ganim, another gubernatorial hopeful, later said he hadn’t received the invitation.

This story originally appeared April 5, 2018, in the New Haven Independent.

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