(Updated) An alleged “push poll” in the 13th Senate District race between the Democrat Thomas Bruenn and Republican Len Suzio has both sides crying foul and pointing fingers at the other.
The push poll — which is a form of propaganda and rumor mongering masquerading as a poll — didn’t specifically mention the race or the candidates in it, but the three questions seemed to be written to disparage Bruenn’s sexuality.
Bruenn is openly gay and Suzio is a conservative Republican backed the Family Institute of Connecticut PAC, a socially conservative group that opposed legislative efforts to legalize same-sex marriage.
According sources the polling company asked three questions: Do you agree or disagree with the National Republican agenda? Do you agree or disagree with gay marriage? Would you be comfortable or uncomfortable with a state senator who is openly gay?
The last question was the one that concerns Meriden Democratic Town Chairwoman Mildred Torres-Ferguson and Democratic State Central Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo.
“Attacking a candidate because he is gay has no place in Connecticut politics,” said DiNardo. “Leonard Suzio should take responsibility for this push poll and apologize immediately. The Connecticut Republican Party and Senate Republicans should join me in condemning this despicable attack.”
In a phone interview Thursday, Suzio said he’s highly skeptical the telephone poll is being conducted because no one associated with his campaign has any knowledge of it.
“It’s divisive politics that I want no part of,” Suzio said.
He said while he and Bruenn are on opposite ends of the political spectrum when it comes to policy they have an enjoyable relationship having both served on the Meriden school board together.
“I think the Democratic party is trying to gin up controversy where there is none,” Suzio said. “I don’t believe in exploiting someone’s sexual identity for political gain.”
Suzio said he wants to stick to the issues in this campaign, such as the state‘s fiscal situation.
Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy said his party has a rule not to engage in this kind of polling.
“It‘s like writing a slur on a bathroom wall,” said Healy.
Then there’s times where a candidate themselves will pay for a push poll just to blame it on their opponent, he said. Healy did not accuse Bruenn of conducting this push poll, but admitted “it’s part of the dark art of politics.”
Meanwhile, tracking down exactly who is conducting the poll and paid for it is like “chasing a shadow,” said Healy.
Torres-Ferguson said it came to her attention that plans for a poll were in the works, but that she was not one of the voters in the district that received a call. She said the person who did receive the call has been unwilling to talk about it with the media.
The Family Institute of Connecticut, which sent out a fundraising letter on Suzio’s behalf this month, says it did not participate in any push polling.
The special election between Bruenn and Suzio will be held Tuesday, Feb. 22. The 13th Senate District covers Meriden, part of Cheshire, Middlefield, and part of Middletown.