If Ned Lamont pulls off an upset victory over U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman in a Democratic primary, he will owe few- if any- favors to the powers that be at the state Capitol. Of five Democratic constitutional officers, 24 Democratic state senators and 99 Democratic state representatives, just two back benchers showed up today to hear the antiwar Lamont (in photo) announce his candidacy at the Old State House in Hartford.
Lieberman is no favorite among progressive Democrats serving in the General Assembly, but just state Sen. Ed Gomes (D-Bridgeport) and state Rep. Minnie Gonzalez (D-Hartford) came to Lamont’s event to show their public support. “I’m here with my friends. I have quite a few friends here. I’m here to listen to a message like everybody else,” Gomes said. The Connecticut Citizen Action Group strongly backed Gomes in successive Bridgeport Democratic primaries. CCAG executive director Tom Swan has taken a leave of absence to run Lamont’s campaign.Asked why she attended, Gonzalez said “because [Lamont] is the best candidate and it’s time for a change.” Gonzalez is currently locked in a bitter political feud with Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez. The mayor has very close ties to Lieberman through his chief of staff, Matthew Hennessy. Lamont’s rally featured raucous applause from over 100 supporters as he delivered well-paced denunciations of the war in Iraq, called for universal health care and directed pointed barbs at Democratic Party leaders who have rallied around Lieberman.“Not everybody is quite so enthusiastic” about a primary, Lamont said. “Some of the party brass have suggested, ‘Ned,’” he said in a mocking tone, “‘we don’t want to lose a safe seat.‘“The crowd erupted in laughter. Then Lamont directed one of his main stump speech lines at state Democratic Party chair Nancy DiNardo.“Madame chairman, we’re a progressive state. You’re not going to lose a senator, you’re going to gain a Democrat,” he said to roaring applause. Few party insiders attended Lamont’s rally.Several speakers, including Lamont, repeatedly referred to Lieberman (in photo below) as “George Bush’s favorite senator,” demonstrating how much Lamont’s campaign hopes to wed Lieberman to the deeply unpopular president in the public’s mind.Lieberman’s campaign responded by trying to paint Lamont’s criticisms as “negative.”“Attacking Senator Lieberman’s character and integrity was a predictable but dishonorable way to begin this campaign,” said Lieberman campaign manager Sean Smith, in a prepared statement. “Mr. Lamont is clearly going to run a very negative and angry campaign where the truth doesn’t get in the way.”