Southbury First Selectman Ed Edelson told the Heritage Village Democratic Club Thursday that it really irks him when he hears people say they don’t want to send a career politician to Congress.
It’s like saying you don’t want an auto mechanic to fix your car, or a plumber to fix your leaky faucet, he said in introducing Chris Donovan to a small group of about 20 people.
“You don’t become Speaker of the House overnight,” Edelson said.
Edelson cited Donovan’s experience as a lawmaker for 20 years and his ability to bring people together as two reasons he’s supporting him on Aug. 14.
While there are no public polls on the three-way race between Donovan, former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty, and Dan Roberti, the dollars being spent on television advertising seem to point to it being a horse race between Esty and Roberti. Of course, since there is no public polling in the race, Donovan could still be in the lead. It will all depend on whose supporters come out to vote on Aug. 14.
Donovan had been considered the favorite in the race, but the arrest of his former finance director and former campaign manager for hiding the source of $27,500 in campaign donations in exchange for defeating legislation, has taken its toll.
“The elephant in the room is this investigation,” Edelson said.
However, he said the silence of the FBI over the past few months proves to him that it has no evidence to prove Donovan had any knowledge of what was going on in his campaign. Furthermore, no politician has ever held office for a long period of time without one of their staff members doing something wrong.
“The key is how do you respond to that and Chris took action to remove the people,” Edelson said.
Donovan briefly addressed the allegations reiterating all the things he did from immediately firing the staff involved to hiring a former Republican U.S. Attorney to investigate his own campaign.
But he conceded that he doesn’t have the money to answer all the accusations being lobbed against him by Esty and Roberti, who recently loaned their campaigns $500,000 and $830,000 respectively.
“People who have money can put information out there that is actually wrong,” Donovan said.
That’s why Donovan said if he’s elected he would work to establish a public campaign finance system similar to Connecticut’s.
“That’s a reality. There’s a lot of money out there,” Donovan said.
He used that to transition into talking about his background.
“I live on an eighth of an acre, which is very small. I can mow it in 20-minutes,” Donovan said as the group laughed. “I have a mortgage. One and a half bathrooms. My daughter, wife and I have cars that all have over 100,000 miles on them.”
He painted himself as a candidate of modest means who is trying to represent “people in the community.”
Bob Tendler, former Southbury Democratic Town Committee chairman, said he’s known Donovan for 10 years and he knows “people can put stuff on TV and say bad things,” but “this is the best guy in the world.”
Tendler said he knows Donovan would never “take a penny from anyone.”
Donovan spent most of his time recalling the 2009 budget battle with Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell. The battle that year over how to close a $8.56 billion two-year budget deficit was the longest in the state’s history stretching into September.
Several budgets were passed by the General Assembly and the final budget which included an increase on the income tax for millionaires, went into effect without her signature.
Donovan told the audience about how during one session at the governor’s residence he was asked to come up with more than $500 million in program cuts that would impact some of the state’s neediest residents and instead of looking at the list he talked about Tiger Woods.When they emerged after about a half-hour later he said they told Rell they weren’t going to make any cuts.
He said the Democrats eventually convinced her to increase taxes on the wealthy.
Rell agreed in late August of that year to increase the rate on individuals making more than $500,000 a year from 5 to 6.5 percent.
Republican lawmakers warned at the time that the 2009 budget was built on gimmicks and would unravel in short order. The $37.6 billion, two-year budget, only included about $3 billion in spending cuts. The rest of the $8.56 billion budget deficit was made up by $1.2 billion in tax hikes, $950 million in borrowing, $1.47 billion in federal stimulus, $1.3 billion in securitization, and $1.4 billion from the Rainy Day fund.
Just two years later, by the time Gov. Dannel P. Malloy took office in January 2011, he was staring down a $3.6 billion budget deficit.
But Donovan maintains the legislature did the right thing by not cutting social services in 2009.
“It’s not numbers it’s real people,” he said.
The budget that year proposed getting rid of dental services for low-income adults. He said those making more than $500,000 a year can afford to pay $20 more per week in taxes. He said going to the dentist is not a luxury.
He said he believes if he can get a Republican governor to increase taxes on the wealthy then in Washington D.C. he can convince Republicans not to voucher Medicare or privatize Social Security.