It was no surprise that a majority of the 336 Democratic delegates for the 5th Congressional District nominated House Speaker Chris Donovan on Monday evening. The question was, how many delegates would go for two of the other three Democrats vying for the nomination?
Elizabeth Esty of Cheshire, a former town councilor and state representative, and Dan Roberti, a young public relations executive from Kent, fought over the remaining delegates. In the end, each received enough support to primary.
Esty received 66 votes and, after a little arm twisting, Roberti was able to walk away with 54 votes. Longshot Randy Yale of Cheshire was nominated but he didn’t receive any votes.
Donovan easily won the delegates from the big cities in the 5th Congressional District such as Danbury and New Britain, while Esty did well among Farmington Valley and Litchfield County towns. Roberti was able to get enough votes from Waterbury to get him to 16 percent, just one percent more than he needed to primary.
After the more than a hour of nominating speeches, including six for Donovan, what was clear is that U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy left some big shoes to be filled when he decided to run for the U.S. Senate. Forty-four percent of the voters in the district’s 41 towns are unaffiliated, which means the district could easily go either way in the general election.
Five Republican candidates are seeking their party’s endorsement this weekend.
Murphy often speaks about how he unseated Republican Nancy Johnson in 2006 by outworking her and knocking on more than 8,000 doors. His youth was compared to that of Roberti. who has about $500,000 cash on hand heading into the stretch run to the Aug. 14 primary.
Following the vote, Roberti said he “was well aware” of which delegates might switch after the first roll call and he was able to get to them to change their votes.
“We knew where the people were that might be flexible enough to change and help us out,” he said. “I want to thank Waterbury for helping me get on the ballot and to Southbury for being with me right from the beginning.
Roberti was nominated by Southbury Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Vivian Templeton, who praised him for showing up last November and volunteering to help Democrats take over local seats they haven’t held in years.
Roberti is the son of Washington, D.C. lobbyist Vin Roberti, who once was the youngest member ever elected to the Connecticut General Assembly. Dan Roberti said he’s seen support for his campaign grow since the debates.
But there were Democrats who worried that a primary may not be the best thing for the party in such a bipartisan district. Some were concerned more about what happens after the August primary.
Michael Long, of Simsbury, stressed that the district could easily go to the Republican Party in his nomination speech of Esty. He said history has shown that many areas of the district are skewed against Democratic candidates.
“We must nominate a Democrat able to swing enough independent votes to the Democratic side,” Long said.
He compared Esty to Simsbury First Selectwoman Mary Glassman, who has been elected to seven terms by “aggressively delivering her Democratic agenda while delivering town budgets with zero percent or minimal increases.”
Anna Maloney, the daughter of former Congressman Jim Maloney, was the first to offer her nomination of Donovan, saying Donovan will stand up against the “Republican War on Women” and will protect Connecticut’s interests in Washington.
But a good campaign will require large sums of money and even though she didn’t have as much support as Donovan among delegates at the convention, Esty is leading in fundraising. She has raised more than $1.2 million, while Donovan has raised about $942,493, and Roberti has raised $1.1 million.
“We’ve been matching them in money through in-state support,” Donovan said, referring to the in-kind contributions offered by his supporters.
Although Donovan had strong support in cities like Danbury and his hometown of Meriden, the vote showed he also had considerable backing in “the mid-size suburban towns and the small cities. We took the one delegate in Warren,” he said.
Donovan said the economy will be the top issue in the primary and that his record “on promoting health care, protecting Medicare and Social Security, and women’s rights” will propel him to victory Aug. 14.
“I think a lot of it has to do with my many years in the legislature, my years as speaker, and the fact that they know I’m a fighter,” he said when asked why he scored a convincing victory at the convention.
Esty talked about her years in local office and her ability to be a “problem solver” as her greatest attributes.
“I’m the only one with a plan to bring manufacturing back to the state,” she said.