(Updated) Michael Jarjura testified Monday that his campaign strategy would have been different if his opponent in the Democratic primary for state comptroller didn’t qualify for the $375,000 in public funds.
“In a contested election you have to be able to defend your character and record,” Jarjura said at the beginning of his testimony in Hartford Superior Court. If my opponent is given the public funds, “you can expect character assassination and mudslinging.”
Jarjura filed a lawsuit against the State Elections Enforcement Commission and his primary opponent, Kevin Lembo, last week alleging that the state allowed Lembo to raise additional qualifying contributions after the July 16 deadline. Testimony in the case has been continued until 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Lembo’s campaign spokeswoman Patty McQueen said the lawsuit is “a pretty naked attempt by the Jarjura campaign to stop Kevin Lembo from getting his message out.” So while Jarjura is out spending money on mailers and website “we’re here in court,” she added.
Jarjura accused Lembo of throwing the first punch. He said the day he announced his campaign Lembo’s campaign manager criticized his affiliations with the Family Institute of Connecticut, a conservative religious group, and former Gov. John G. Rowland, who Jarjura hired to head up Waterbury’s economic development efforts.
But the court wasn’t interested in which campaign could sling more mud at the other. Superior Court Judge James Graham was interested in how many candidates were able to go back and “cure” qualifying contributions after meeting the deadline and where exactly that policy is spelled out in the guidelines, regulations, or statutes.
Beth Rotman, executive director of the Citizens’ Election Program, testified Monday that in 2008 between 40 and 50 percent of the 250 candidates were able to go back and make changes to contributions they didn’t think would qualify toward the threshold.
When asked how many were able to do this after the deadline, Rotman said she could think of one candidate for state representative in the 2008 election cycle by name, but thought it was possible about four or five candidates were able to collect more funds after the deadline. She didn’t have figures for 2010.
The commission’s 137-page guidebook for candidates warns them to get their applications in to the SEEC as early as possible. It warns that handing them in on the day of the deadline will give them little if any time to fix or cure any mistakes, Rotman said.
Jarjura’s lawyers showed the court that the policy about allowing a candidate to raise additional funds after the deadline isn’t spelled out anywhere in the SEEC’s guidelines or regulations. Rotman disagreed. She said giving a campaign a little time to fix a mistake, which is mentioned in the guidebook, doesn’t mean a campaign doesn’t have anytime to fix it.
Even one of Jarjura’s witnesses, Richard Baltimore, who is Gerry Garcia’s deputy campaign manager, said the Garcia campaign was able to turn over its certification forms several days after the July 16 application deadline. Baltimore said the campaign faxed in the certification forms to the SEEC the following week.
Baltimore said the Garcia campaign was never told it could continue to raise funds after the deadline if it didn’t raise enough money by midnight July 15. However, on cross-examination the state and Lembo’s lawyers pointed out the Garcia campaign was in fact allowed to fax over the certifications until July 21. Certifications are the statements donors sign with their name, address, and occupation.
“It was omitted information, not new information,” Baltimore said.
Jarjura’s lawyers pointed out that Baltimore’s testimony was contradictory to his previous statements. Baltimore was subpoenaed by Jarjura’s lawyers to testify.
Rep. Jason Bartlett, Garcia’s campaign manager, said there’s no synergy between the Garcia and Jarjura campaign. He said both he and Balitmore gave money to Lembo’s campaign.
But Jarjura said there is a natural “synergy” between the Garcia and Jarjura campaign since they’re both on row B of the ballot. At the Democratic convention in May the New Haven and Waterbury delegations teamed up to make sure both candidates had enough support to get on the ballot. Jarjura received less than 20 percent of the delegate support, while Lembo received more than 50 percent at the convention. The rest of the delegates supported Rep. Tom Reynolds, D-Ledyard, who decided after the convention not to primary his fellow Democrats.
After spending more than four hours in court Monday, Jarjura said it’s pretty clear the State Elections Enforcement Commission doesn’t “know where the phantom policy came from.”
But Rotman disagreed. She said just like in the previous lawsuit filed by Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley the state agency, in case the SEEC, should be given deference by the court. She said candidates have to be able to rely on the advice and guidance the commission gives them.
Testimony in the case will continue 10 a.m. Tuesday. Lembo has agreed to only spend $30,000 of his $375,000 public grant, but that agreement expires at 1 p.m. Tuesday.