(Updated 10 p.m.) AFL-CIO President John Olsen told WDRC Host Brad Davis that he plans on calling House Speaker Chris Donovan Monday and asking him to get out of the race.
Donovan, who lost the Democratic nomination last week, is still on the ballot in the 5th Congressional District under the Working Families Party line. Former State Rep. Elizabeth Esty won the Democratic nomination by more than 3,400 votes and Olsen is trying to convince two-thirds of the AFL-CIO executive committee to support her candidacy.
“Right now I don’t see any path to victory for Chris Donovan,“ Olsen said.
If Donovan stays in and makes it a three-way race, then he’s more likely to pull votes from Esty making it easier for the Republican candidate, Sen. Andrew Roraback, to win the open seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy.
As far as Esty is concerned Olsen said “she didn’t always agree with us,“ but the alternative, Roraback, is unacceptable.
Olsen said he thinks it’s not realistic for labor, which makes up a large segment of the Democratic party in Connecticut, to wait for somebody who is “pure” and will vote in favor of their agenda all of the time. Some liberals have suggested sitting this election out and waiting two years for a more progressive candidate.
“It’s a populist district,” Olsen said.
Olsen said he plans to talk to Donovan Monday as a friend, but he will also speak to labor leaders about what’s at stake. The executive board of the AFL-CIO will meet Wednesday at 4 p.m. to discuss their endorsement.
“I’m confident in both Chris Donovan and the leaders of the labor movement that they’re thoughtful, smart people, who will come to the conclusions I’ve come to,” Olsen said.
But Olsen acknowledged that it’s not always easy and campaign wounds don’t heal quickly. Olsen, who chaired the Connecticut Democratic Party for a few years, said the process of uniting after a party primary is a process similar to “grieving.”
As of 4 p.m. Monday Olsen had still not been able to get a hold of Donovan. The Working Families Party co-chairs sent out a statement late Monday evening stating that as soon as Donovan returns from vacation they will have a discussion with him about staying on the ballot line.
“When Chris Dononvan returns from vacation, we’ll have a conversation with him about remaining on the Working Families ballot line. State law leaves the decision in Chris Donovan’s hands. If he chooses to give up the line, the Working Families Party will go through our regular, democratic process to determine how to fill the vacancy in the next few weeks,” Working Families Party Co-Chairs Julie Kushner, Kurt Westby, and Sal Luciano said in a statement.
And while Olsen is encouraging Donovan to get out of the race, a national progressive group and a state leader is asking him to stay in it.
Juan Figueroa, Democratic activist and outgoing president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, encouraged Donovan to stay in the race under the Working Families Party line in an email sent by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee Friday.
“On many of core issues of importance to working families, Elizabeth Esty’s position is unclear—hurting Democrat’s chances in November,” Figueroa wrote.
“Chris clearly opposed any cuts to Medicare and Social Security benefits, including raising the retirement age and means testing. He addressed our broken democracy by supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and a federal version of Connecticut’s Clean Elections law. And he stood up for unions and pledged to support the Employee Free Choice Act,” Figueroa added.
The suggestion from the more progressive wing of the party is that Esty needs to address these issues at length if she wants their support.