As Democratic leaders press five holdouts to override a veto and give their party’s gubernatorial nominee a chance at the governor‘s office, one urban lawmaker said he’ll change his vote, while another is still on the fence.
The veto showdown happens Friday morning at the state Capitol. The House of Representatives will consider whether to override Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s veto of a fix to state’s campaign-finance law that would increase the amount a gubernatorial candidate can receive in a general election from $3 million to $6 million.
A lot is at stake: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy faces a self-financing millionaire, Republican Tom Foley, in the November election. Until a federal judge struck down part of the state’s law, Malloy would have been able to qualify for up to $6 million if Foley spends at least that much. He won’t be able to get $6 million unless a new version of the law survives Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s veto. The state Senate has already overriden the veto.
That means Democratic leaders have to change the minds of five Democrats who originally voted against the fix to the law—Democrats like New Haven State Rep. Juan Candelaria.
Candelaria said he has indeed decided to switch his vote and support the veto override Friday.
“I think I’m gonna support it,” Candelaria said Thursday. “To level the playing field.“
Candelaria’s objection to the bill the first time around was a clause that allowed lobbyists to bundle up to five contributions. The federal appeals court ruled it was unconstitutional to ban lobbyist contributions, but Candelaria said allowing them to bundle goes beyond the court decision and the original intent of the law—to get rid of special interests.
The federal appeals court also ruled that supplemental grants to candidates based on the spending of a wealthy opponent was unconstitutional, which is why proponents of the law felt it was necessary to boost the base grant for gubernatorial candidates from $3 million to $6 million.
The increased grant amount is what has lawmakers like Rep. Jason Bartlett of Bethel on the fence.
When he initially voted against it on July 30, Bartlett told CTNewsjunkie, increasing money for campaigns is dangerous for lawmakers “in this environment” when the state is facing a $3.4 billion deficit.
However, “If a publicly financed candidate is being challenged by a multi-millionaire that’s a problem and that will weigh heavily on my decision,” Bartlett said Thursday.
“I want to be fair to the Democratic nominee, but I also want to make good policy,” Bartlett said. “I want to make sure this is not a partisan decision. When I cast my vote I want it to be on principles and in the people’s interest.”
Over the next few hours, Bartlett said one of the people he will consult with regarding his vote, is failed Secretary of the State candidate, Gerry Garcia. Bartlett managed Garcia’s campaign, which praised the public finance system Thursday in a press release.
“While we did not win the Democratic Party’s nomination, our campaign was one that illustrates the need to maintain Connecticut’s Citizen Election Program as our underdog team brought many new voters into the electoral process,” Garcia said.
Garcia credited public financing for enabling him to get his message out to the public and overcoming barriers he might not have been able to overcome under the old system.
Bartlett said Garcia makes a convincing argument.
Like Bartlett, Rep. Karen Jarmoc of Enfield, who is challenging Sen. John Kissel for his senate seat, said she’s also on the fence.
Asked about her vote Jarmoc replied, “I don’t know.”
Jarmoc said she didn’t like how close the first vote was to the primary election, but now that it’s after the primary, it’s even harder.
“I want Dan Malloy to win. I want to work hard for him, but this isn’t about politics,” Jarmoc said. “When you make these kinds of decisions you don’t want it based on politics.”
But now that the party primary is over it may be even harder for lawmakers to separate politics from policy.
The Senate already overrode Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s veto last week before the party primary, which allowed it to be more objective about the politics of the bill.
House Speaker Chris Donovan said the reason the House couldn’t meet before the primary was based on scheduling conflicts of various members. He said some were out of the country and others were having surgery.
Five of the 18 Democrats that voted against the bill will need to change their vote Friday in order to give Malloy a real shot at the governor‘s office. At least one of the 18 will be on vacation starting tomorrow. Rep. Linda Schofield of Simsbury said she was leaving town and won’t be there for the vote. Others did not return phone calls for comment.