EDITOR’S NOTE: Shortly after this story was posted, the Sanders’ campaign’s chief volunteer in Connecticut, Carlos Camacho, announced that Piddock had been removed as coordinator in the 5th District based on her decision to run for the congressional seat. The story has been updated to reflect her change of status with the campaign.
(UPDATED 10 a.m. 9/3) The organizer of the Occupy movement’s Torrington group says she plans to challenge U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty for the 5th Congressional District seat in 2016. Stephanie Piddock, who also had been volunteering as 5th Congressional District coordinator for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, said via email that she intends to make her Green Party candidacy official in two weeks.
“The people need to be represented by The People, not by the moneyed elite whose wealth and self-interest profoundly disconnect them from our reality,” Piddock said. “As the political system exists right now, the metallic clang of money is speech, and the sinister rustle of dollars is a poor substitute for the vigor of votes.”
Volunteers for the Bernie Sanders campaign in the 5th District, Piddock among them, held a kick-off meeting last week at New Britain Town Hall. The group will appear publicly for the first time Sept. 27, marching in Bristol’s “Mum Parade.”
A recent Des Moines Register poll showed Sanders within seven points of Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, and Piddock said that Sanders’ campaign was gearing up well among 5th District voters.
“We have generated tremendous buzz via social media, and we already have 800 volunteers total in Connecticut, and 95 in District 5 alone,” she said. “The first Sanders event I attended in Torrington alone drew nearly 100 people, and he’s drawing tens of thousands, often more than Clinton, in larger population centers.”
Piddock, as a potential candidate who has volunteered for the Sanders campaign, has hitched her wagon to his train to some degree.
“His campaign, like mine, is entirely grassroots,” she said of Sanders. “Everything is either donated or out of your own pocket. As his movement continues to grow nationally, we expect it to grow locally; and as it grows, it will be able to support increasingly large rallies and venues.”
That’s not to say Piddock will have an easy go of it if and when she decides to make a run official. The last time a Green Party candidate ran for the 5th District was in 2008. Harold Burbank came in fourth in that race, behind victor and now Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, Republican David Cappiello, and Independent Party candidate Thomas Winn.
In that race, Burbank garnered less than 1 percent of the total votes cast. In the 2014 campaign, incumbent Rep. Elizabeth Esty beat Republican Mark Greenberg by almost eight percentage points.
Piddock, though, remains positive.
“I’m telling the truth, and people respond to that,” she said. “The People are hungry to be heard and to step back into our power. We know what our reality is, we know what our strengths are, and we know what needs to be done to repair our nation, regardless of what moneyed, compromised politicians may say or do.”
As for fundraising, Piddock did not get into detail — there is still more than a year until the election itself — though she did say that “donations already are rolling in.”
“I have not begun to focus on fundraising yet,” she said, “Instead, I am focusing on substance, building my team. I have spoken of my intent to run and have received an amazing amount of support. People know my heart. I am an easy read. I believe that if you are open, honest, and transparent, like Bernie has been for 40 years, the message gets through.”
On platform, Piddock’s primary focus, she said, is homelessness and hunger. She speaks about ineffective political representation and economic inequality but gets passionate when the subject of homelessness comes up. When writing about the issue, she begins to use exclamation points.
“I’m fired up by the fact that we don’t view homelessness and a lack of decent food and healthcare as a national emergency,” she said. “The fact that government isn’t responding to this national humanitarian crisis shocks me! People are forced to live in the woods behind me; I leave them donations, and while donations are important, being a full participant in society with safety and well-being cannot evolve from donations.”
Jordan Fenster can be reached by or @JordanFenster on Twitter.