HARTFORD, CT — Five Democratic gubernatorial candidates made their pitches to the AFL-CIO convention Friday seeking the group’s endorsement, but Ned Lamont ran away with their support in an unofficial straw poll.
In order to gain an endorsement of the union coalition, the candidates needed to get two-thirds of the support for the 216 members to the convention. But no motions from the floor were made for an endorsement following the results of the real-time straw poll.
The AFL-CIO will reconvene in the convention on June 22 at which time they could make an endorsement.
The straw poll gave Lamont 48 percent of the vote, Jonathan Harris 14.7 percent, Sean Connolly 11.4 percent, Susan Bysiewicz 10.9 percent, and Joe Ganim 6.6 percent. At least 9.5 percent didn’t believe any of the candidates were worthy of endorsement Friday.
It would have been unusual for the coalition to endorse a candidate before the Democratic state convention the third week of May.
The AFL-CIO gave each of the candidates an online questionnaire before the convention Friday.
Both Bysiewicz, the former secretary of the state, and Harris, the former consumer protection commissioner, got 100 percent of the questions correct, according to the AFL-CIO.
Connolly got 82 percent correct, Ganim got 95 percent correct, and Lamont got 97 percent.
Lamont opposed the low wage employer fee, which would impose a fee on big companies with more than 500 employees who don’t pay their workers $15 an hour, but he supports a $15 minimum wage.
“I’m going to change how we tax companies,” Lamont told the crowd. He said General Electric didn’t leave Connecticut because taxes were too high, “they didn’t pay any taxes.”
Lamont said he doesn’t have all the answers, but he will make labor a partner in his decision making.
“Collective bargaining is in our collective interest,” Lamont said to one of his many applause lines.
Ganim failed to agree to increase taxes on the wealthiest 1 percent and opposed the low-wage employer fee. Connolly got those two questions “wrong” and five others wrong. Including opposing institutional aid for Dreamers, and refusing to pledge not to shift teacher retirement costs to municipalities.
Union members pressed Connolly on his questions regarding the minimum wage, his opposition to taxing the wealthiest 1 percent, and initial opposition to providing funding for the firefighter cancer relief fund. Connolly said he has since learned more about the firefighters fund and supports it.
As far as taxing the wealthiest 1 percent, “I don’t think we can tax our way out of it,” Connolly said. He said the only way Connecticut is going to recover is by growing the economy.
“We had two of the largest tax increases and it didn’t bring in the amount of revenue the state anticipated,” Connolly said.
Ganim was also pressed on the question of the 1 percent.
“We need to look at ways to raise revenue without raising taxes,” Ganim said. “… there’s ways in which we solve these problems without raising taxes at all.”
Ganim did not offer specifics about how he would do that.
Asked if he would ask to reopen the agreement with state employee unions before 2027, Harris pleased the crowd by making his position clear, saying, “A deal is a deal.”
Harris laid his blueprint out for Connecticut labor, promising to focus on small- and medium-sized business without giving in to the Republican mantra that “the sky is falling.”
Bysiewicz was applauded for her commitment to push and sign pay equity laws.
“Why don’t we pass a bill, like Delaware and Massachusetts, prohibiting employers from asking what you make at your last job to stop discrimination against people of color and women,” Bysiewicz said.
Bysiewicz said passing a balanced budget on time with collaborative work on both sides of the aisle is key to helping the state move toward better financial footing and economic growth.
Lori Pelletier, president of the AFL-CIO, said that Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin was not invited because he failed to properly fill out the online questionnaire.
Instead, Bronin submitted his answers to the questionnaire in writing.
Pelletier said when Bronin was first elected mayor he wanted “all sorts of things” such as bankruptcy for the city, which would have destroyed any collective bargaining.
“Simply, he didn’t follow the rules that everyone else did,” Pelletier said. “Let’s be clear, Bronin also has made some previous comments … including wanting to bankrupt the city to abrogate collective bargaining agreements.”
The delegates applauded his absence.
Bysiewicz said the AFL-CIO endorsement is important because “it’s boots on the ground.” She said in what’s expected to be a crowded primary field having the union coalition to door-knock and make phone calls will stretch the $1.2 million in public financing.
She said $1.2 million isn’t enough to reach all the Democratic primary voters.
Bhumika Choudhary and Parker Fiske contributed to this report.