Willimantic JoeKen Krayeske photo
On Monday, July 10, Joe Lieberman’s campaign filed papers with the Secretary of the State’s office to pull petitions to run for his U.S. Senate seat as an independent in November.So By 4 p.m. on August 9, Joe’s staff will ask at least 30,000 Connecticut residents to sign a petition to support his right to appear on the November ballot as an independent.Funny thing is, twice on the Fourth of July, Holy Joe refused to do the same for the Connecticut Green Party at the Willimantic Boom Box parade.

I asked him first to sign in support of the Green Party’s right to run a slate of seven statewide candidates on the November ballot, including Ralph Ferucci, the Green nominee for Joe’s seat.Sen. Joe refused, but to get me to stop pestering Lieberman, New Haven resident Martin Dunleavy, who was walking alongside Joe, volunteered to sign.After Joe and his partner-in-crime Hadassah finished marching, Willimantic Green Jean DeSmet approached him. DeSmet, who beat the Republican to come second with 28 percent of the vote in the 2005 municipal contest for Windham First Selectman, asked Lieberman to sign. He turned her down, too.Let’s see how 30,000 Nutmeggers respond to his overtures. I say 30,000 because he needs 7,500 certified signatures to qualify as a petitioning candidate, which means he really needs 15,000 raw signatures. About one in every two signatures will be disqualified for illegibility, people not being registered voters, etc. And you have to ask twice as many people as will sign, so 30,000 sounds reasonable.I imagine Lieberman’s rejection rate may be even higher. But it doesn’t matter since he can buy his signatures at $1 or $2 a piece and not dent his treasury.While Lieberman’s crony Dunleavy signed, then printed his name, date of birth and street address, I asked a Lieberman marcher named Marion for her John Hancock. She politely refused. She was from out of state, she said, and she proceeded to pump me for information about the Green Party’s petition drive.Turns out she is Marion Steinfels, Lieberman’s press secretary. If I have to point it out, Lieberman is in trouble when his staff asks the Greens for political advice.“Are you turning them in as you go along, or are you going to wait until the end?” she asked me.I hesitated answering, but acknowledged that we were turning them in as we went. She said Lieberman will wait to submit them at the end, probably because they hope to win the Democratic primary.But it’s obvious that Lieberman, after 36 years in politics, doesn’t recall how to run a grassroots campaign.What bodes poor for him is that Ned Lamont’s campaign knows grassroots organizing. Ned signed my petition, as did half of his campaign staff, from campaign manager Tom Swan to field coordinator Rick Melita and on down the line.It probably helps that I was a field coordinator for Ned’s signature drive in May, before working for the Green Party. But not only do Ned and Tom and the crew trust their ideas so much that they are willing to support other people’s right to be on the ballot, they understand petitioning.If Lamont didn’t earn his spot on the primary ballot with 15 percent of the delegates at the Democratic state convention in May, he faced the Herculean task of collecting certified signatures of 15,000 registered Democrats within a six-week period surrounding the convention.This required the Lamont campaign to recruit and train a field crew of hundreds, well in advance of convention night. The campaign averaged about 8 to 10 signatures an hour because only Democrats could sign.As a Green petitioner, I average about 25 signatures an hour because I can ask any registered voter, not just registered Dems. Lieberman’s people probably will have a similar ratio. This late in the primary campaign, he has to go on the defensive and expend considerable effort – perhaps 2,000 hours or more – to collect his 15,000 signatures.It is a serious distraction, and one that may even signal he is conceding the primary.Lamont, on the other hand, used his petition operation as an offensive weapon, and it is behind him now. By the time convention day rolled around, Ned was on his way with like 10,000 or so signatures, and he still had two weeks. Luckily for him, 33 percent of the delegates stepped up.Holy Joe, though, has always been preparing for an air time war, where Ned can afford to fight him. Ned and his crew were equipping themselves all along for a field contest.The unfunny thing is, for me, that Lieberman doesn’t apparently care that his hypocrisy is so bare and bold. For that reason, vote Ned in August or Ralph Ferucci in November.

Ken Krayeske is an attorney in Hartford.

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