When former independent Gov. Lowell P. Weicker told WNPR’s John Dankosky and readers of the state’s largest newspaper last week that the Connecticut Republican Party is “irrelevant,” he had no idea that a couple of days later a GOP candidate for lieutenant governor would say something so stupid that she would become the very embodiment of his observation.
Just when they were hoping to have a painless convention that would happily renominate 2010 gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley by a huge margin, GOP officials were grappling with the bizarre comments of state Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, who only 24 hours earlier and without foundation, had accused one of her Republican LG opponents of trying to make an issue of her biracial family.
The story is beyond strange for several reasons. First, Bacchiochi made her comments last Friday morning on Jim Vicevich’s morning show on WTIC radio. Early in the interview, she mentioned that there were some state Republicans who were slinging mud at her.
When Vicevich neglected to ask her what the charges were and who was making them, Bacchiochi eagerly brought the subject up again a few minutes later and invoked her biracial family, adding that, “Can you believe that my own Republicans would try to make that an issue in this convention? I’m devastated and I’m shocked by that.”
Yet again, Vicevich failed to ask Bacchiochi who raised the matter of race but instead blathered on about his own multiracial family and how he was astonished that anyone would make an issue of such a thing in this day and age. It took a follow-up interview later in the day with WFSB’s Susan Raff to get Bacchiochi to finger opponent David Walker as the one who allegedly made the offending remarks.
Since he hadn’t said anything of the sort, Walker quite rightly denounced Bacchiochi for “going nuclear” and demanded an apology. After her exchange with Raff, Bacchiochi avoided reporters, presumably because she could not back up her ridiculous claim.
The apology Bacchiochi subsequently issued was weak tea indeed: “Neither Dave Walker nor his campaign made any insensitive remarks toward me or my family. I apologize to Dave and his family. Dave and I have met and agreed to put this matter behind us, and to focus on the critical work of the convention.”
Huh? If Walker made no such remarks, then why did you attribute them to him? Did a different opponent play the race card? Were you confused? Did you simply make it up?
As stunning as Bacchiochi’s pratfall was, the cherry on top of this whole sordid affair is that she not only cruised to victory after making that scurrilous accusation, but Bacchiochi received more than half the delegate votes at Saturday’s Republican convention at Mohegan Sun.
There is, however, a sliver of hope for the GOP. Two other qualifying candidates for governor and lieutenant governor (John McKinney/Walker, Mark Boughton/Heather Somers) have aligned themselves to run as a team in the August primary, though I understand Boughton and Somers recently broke up. Shockingly, no one seems to want Bacchiochi. Will the bomb-throwing Foley reach out to her to be his running mate? Imagine that combination — those two will spend half their time on the campaign trail apologizing for defaming their opponents.
Maybe this incident will serve as a catalyst for the elimination of the state conventions, whose candidates qualify for a primary with 15 percent of the delegates. It seems just plain silly to have both conventions and primaries — a notion that wasn’t lost on The Courant, which editorialized last week for a primary-only approach.
Weicker said as much himself in his latest ruminations. This time of year candidates should be talking to the people and selling their ideas to likely voters, not sucking up to insiders and town committee chairs at a distraction fest like the Mohegan Sun. As Bacchiochi herself can attest, currying favor with insiders is fraught with peril. And unlike the insider delegates at the convention, voters will surely be less forgiving come August and November.