As the U.S. Senate race closes in on its final days the candidates, incumbent U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman and challenger Ned Lamont, scramble for votes, while Democratic party leaders try to avoid a three-way race in November. On Saturday, Lamont breezed through the crowd at the West Indian Caribbean Heritage celebration at Hartford’s Hilton Hotel with actor Danny Glover and Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-California. Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew observed the Sabbath which ended at sundown and showed up at the awards dinner just past 10 p.m. missing Lamont by a few hours.
Lamont didn’t stay to speak to the crowd from the podium, but Waters who also left soon after speaking, stayed to endorse him. She said she knew the awards dinner was not a political event, but what she didn’t know was if the 350 attendees could see the Ned Lamont button on her lapel. “I want to speak truth to power,” she said. She said Lieberman has been “missing in action for 18 years,” and “we need advocates like Ned Lamont who listen to us.” She referred to the war in Iraq and immigration reform. The applause were warm, but there were a few tables that didn’t applaud. The pockets of silence were likely members of the Service Employees International Union, District 1199, that bought tickets to the awards dinner to see Carmen Boudier, a member of SEIU’s executive board, be honored for her service to the community. While the local SEIU in Hartford has not endorsed a candidate, the AFL-CIO federation of unions supported Lieberman at its convention at the end of June. Before, during and after his speech to the convention in June Lieberman connected with longtime union activists, but the following day when it came time to endorse a candidate the statewide federation hedged its bet and decided to support Lieberman only in the primary. The good news for Lieberman is that the endorsement means he has the support of 180,000 union workers for Tuesday’s get-out-the-vote effort. Click here and here to read the New Haven Independent articles from the convention. Lamont received union endorsements from AFT-Connecticut and the Connecticut Education Association.The last speaker of the evening, Lieberman told the 350 attendees Saturday that his mother and father brought him up to believe “you didn’t have to homogenize or assimilate,” in America. “Rather it’s from that diversity that America becomes a better country,” he said. In the waning days of the campaign, Lieberman has played up his record on civil rights and recently criticized Lamont in a television ad for the Greenwich businessman’s membership to the Round Hill Country Club. But it’s been difficult for Lieberman to paint his opponent as either a millionaire or a racist, especially when Lamont has hit the campaign trail with Waters, Glover, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton. While Lamont seems to have celebrity on his side, the party faithful who have endorsed and supported Lieberman haven’t exactly helped in the days leading up to the primary, Aug. 8. Earlier this week, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, who helped campaign for Lieberman told USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page that if Lieberman loses by more than 10 percentage points, he thinks it’s unlikely the senator will mount an independent effort to keep his seat. When asked if he would continue his bid, as a petitioning candidate if he loses the primary Tuesday, Lieberman said “I’m focused on the primary and that’s it.” He said there’s no basis in fact for what Lautenberg told Page during an interview on National Public Radio. Lautenberg said in the NPR interview that Lieberman hasn’t specifically told him that, but that it’s his impression of what would happen. When asked if he ever hinted to Lautenberg that he would abandon a petition to get on the ballot should he lose the primary by double-digits, Lieberman responded “God, no.” Quinnipiac University’s latest poll had Lieberman down 13 percentage points last week. Poll Director, Douglas Schwartz said last week that it will release a last poll on the contest Monday, a day before voters head to the polls. Stay tuned.