Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Democratic Party Chairman Nick Balletto (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — Democratic Party Chairman Nick Balletto said he’s tried hard to increase diversity in the Democratic Party and he’s being unfairly criticized for the lack of diversity at the top of the ticket.

“I have personally reached out and tried to get people of color to join this ticket,” Balletto said.

He said he was sitting on a beach in Barbados when he learned Attorney General George Jepsen wasn’t running. He said he immediately called Rolan Young, an African-American attorney with Berchem Moses.

He said she decided not to run for personal reasons.

“We’re Democrats, we always have primaries,” Balletto said.

He said he encouraged every person who has come to him for advice to run.

“It’s hard once candidates decide to get in a race when another candidate has already announced,” Balletto added.

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, who might not have what it takes to get the support of about 300 delegates to automatically qualify for an August primary, said the Democratic Party “is a party that should have people of all walks of life, color of skin, religious and ethnic breakdowns … represented.”

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo)

He said he thinks that it’s something that will distinguish his campaign from Ned Lamont’s campaign. Lamont chose Susan Bysiewicz as his running mate and has faced criticism because, like Lamont, she is also white.

“I’m disappointed in the process that’s leading to what looks like a ticket that’s disappointing,” Ganim said.

“It’s too white and frankly I think it’s insensitive,” Ganim said.

He said it’s insensitive for Lamont to choose Bysiewicz, who Ganim described as whiter than him, as his running mate, and “insulting to people of color.”

He said he will encourage people to participate in his campaign that’s as diverse as Connecticut.

Bysiewicz, who dropped her own campaign for governor last week to join forces with Ned Lamont as his lieutenant governor candidate, said she was confident that the Democratic ticket in November would be a diverse one.

“We’re going to come out of this united,” she said about the convention. “We have a diverse, talented, and qualified group of Democratic candidates.” She listed treasurer candidates Shawn Wooden, Arunan Arulampalam, and Dita Bhargava and attorney general candidate William Tong as representative of the diversity within the party.

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie

Asked about claims by Eva Bermudez Zimmerman, a labor organizer of Puerto Rican descent who is also running for lieutenant governor, that her candidacy represents the youth, diversity, and working class interests of the Democratic Party, Bysiewicz reaffirmed her confidence that the party would emerge united after the convention.

Ganim is quietly supporting Zimmerman, but also said state Rep. Charles Stallworth is also a good candidate. Stallworth announced Friday that he’s running with Guy Smith, another petitioning candidate.

Ganim is also collecting the 15,458 signatures he needs to get on the ballot. Smith will have to start over collecting his signatures to add Stallworth to the ticket or Stallworth will also have to collect 15,458 signatures to gain ballot access.

Thomas Breen contributed to this report.