HARTFORD, CT — One of the three Democratic candidates for state treasurer dropped out Tuesday, but promised to work with his party on a greater understanding of diversity.
Arunan Arulampalam, a Hartford resident and the son of refugees — his parents fled Sri Lanka in 1983 at the start of the civil war there, announced outside the state Capitol Tuesday that he was ending his campaign.
Arulampalam, an attorney with Updike, Kelly & Spellacy where he advises banks and financial institutions on debt and equity financing, said seven months ago he started an “improbable journey.”
He had never run for political office, but walked away with nearly 45 percent of the support at the Democratic Party’s convention. He thanked his supporters Tuesday at the same time as he refused to give up his campaign without getting something.
Arulampalam called Ned Lamont, the endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate, and made him promise to have the Democratic Party address the issues of race and diversity after the November election.
“It’s important that we lead on this issue,” Arulampalam said.
He said it’s important that “we engage communities of color, not because we need their votes but because we need their perspectives to help build a stronger party.”
He said it will be easier to “start fresh” after the election and start talking about what it means to “build a bench and listen to all voices.”
Lamont said he respects Arulampalam’s “desire to lead a conversation in our party about diversity among candidates and in our ranks and I look forward to joining him in that effort after the November election.”
State Comptroller Kevin Lembo marveled at the fact that Arulampalam used his announcement to exit the race “to not get something for himself.”
That would have been a classic political move.
Lembo said Arulampalam used it as an opportunity to force in some ways an uncomfortable conversation about “how do we take what are strengths of the Democratic Party, but really take them to the next level.”
Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, endorsed Shawn Wooden at the convention, but said he’s been talking with Arulampalam about how to exit the race and his decision to use it to discuss diversity.
Winfield who attended Arulampalam’s announcement Tuesday said that’s “leadership.”
Leading up to the convention, Arulampalam said there was a change in the tone and the dynamic of the race.
Five days before the convention, Lamont and Susan Bysiewicz teamed up at the top of the ticket, the Democratic Party, with two white people running for governor and lieutenant governor, looked to other statewide races to diversify the ticket.
“There were issues of diversity and inclusion that had gone unaddressed,” Arulampalam said. “And there was a feeling among some that the best way to address that was in the context of the treasurer’s race. I received pressure in the days before the convention to drop out. I stayed and I fought because I thought it was the right thing to do.”
He said he stayed in because he didn’t feel diversity should be limited to the race for state treasurer.
Wooden, an African-American attorney and former Hartford City Council president, received the endorsement at the Democratic Party’s convention two weeks ago.
Dita Bhargava, a Greenwich resident who was in the investment business, also received enough support at the convention to automatically qualify for the Aug. 14 primary.
Arulampalam said he would let the Aug. 14 primary play out and would not be announcing his support for either.
Republicans running for state treasurer include Thad Gray, the endorsed candidate, and Sen. Art Linares of Westbrook.
The position opened up in January when State Treasurer Denise Nappier announced she would not be seeking re-election.