NEW HAVEN, CT — More trouble appeared on the horizon Thursday morning for the fledgling Lamont-Bysiewicz Democratic gubernatorial ticket, as a prominent African-American state senator from New Haven endorsed a Latina challenger for lieutenant governor.
The state senator, Gary Winfield, told the Independent that he has decided to drop his bid to become lieutenant governor. Instead, he said, he is endorsing Newtown labor organizer Eva Bermudez Zimmerman in her quest for the position.
Winfield and many other urban Democrats of color— as well as white Democrats — blasted frontrunning Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont this week for choosing his former opponent Susan Bysiewicz as his running mate as lieutenant governor candidate. They said they had been led to believe that Lamont would pick a person of color as his running mate, since the Democrats have never had a black or Latino on the ticket before; both Lamont and Bysiewicz are white. Lamont promised to appoint many people of color to positions if elected. (Read about that here.)
In an interview Thursday morning, Winfield praised Zimmerman’s experience at the state Capitol. He also said it’s time that the Democratic ticket reflect the diversity of the party and of Connecticut at large.
“I am supporting Eva. I’ve been having a conversation way before this about Connecticut looks like, what state government looks like, what leadership in state government looks like. It is important that my two little kids see it is possible for people of all walks of life be able to be in government all the way up to governor and lieutenant governor,” said Winfield, the father of newborn twins.
“I don’t think you make the fuss I made about it and say, ‘It’s not me, so I’ll jump on board.”’
A potential black-brown coalition promises to shake up what had started looking like a coronation at this weekend’s state Democratic Party convention for the Lamont-Bysiewicz ticket.
“This is awesome. You see someone as someone traditionally representing the black community linking up with” a Latina, Winfield said. “The conversation that we can’t work together doesn’t appear true.”
Winfield was asked if Zimmerman, an organizer with he Service Employees International Union who has never held state elected office, has the experience to serve as lieutenant governor, who is next in line to become governor.
He responded that she has proved herself as a lobbyist at the Capitol as well as a member of working boards and commissions.
“She has deep relationships in the building. Moving policy means having those relationships,” Winfield said. He has worked with her on campaigns, on panels. “We’ve come to know who she is.”
The General Assembly named Zimmerman Latina Citizen of the Year for her work helping people sign up for Connecticut’s Obamacare program. (The current lieutenant governor, Nancy Wyman, made overseeing the board of the program, Access HealthCT, a focus of her tenure.)
“I’m comfortable that Eva would learn as lieutenant governor and work with people,” Winfield said. “We talk about qualifications — but nobody walks in understanding how to be state representative, let alone governor. A lot of it has to do with relationships. As competent as [Gov. Dannel P.] Malloy was, it [his strained personal relationships”made it difficult to get things done. Over time, she would do a good job.”