HARTFORD, CT — AFL-CIO members endorsed one of their own for lieutenant governor on Friday even though it wasn’t the same person their endorsed gubernatorial candidate chose as his running mate.
The convention endorsed Eva Bermudez Zimmerman over former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz. They also endorsed Ned Lamont of Greenwich over Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim.
None of the Republican candidates on the ballot sought the AFL-CIO’s endorsement.
Lamont and Ganim spoke to the group in April and at that time Lamont received the union coalition’s overwhelming endorsement in an unofficial straw poll.
Ganim, who feel short of receiving the support of 15 percent of the delegates at the Democratic Party’s convention, became the first Democrat to secure a spot on the Aug. 14 primary ballot by collecting more than 15,000 signatures of registered Democratic voters.
In order to gain an endorsement of the union coalition, the candidates needed to get two-thirds of the support of the 192 members in attendance. Some unions abstained from voting in the lieutenant governor contest.
On Friday, lieutenant governor candidates Zimmerman and Bysiewicz addressed the delegates.
“My dedication, my life has been this,” Zimmerman, who is of Puerto Rican descent, told the union members Friday. She said she is an organizer, “but what sets me apart is that I walk the walk.”
Zimmerman, 31, received the endorsement of AFT CT, the second largest teachers union in the state, just as the AFL-CIO convention was starting Friday morning at the Hartford Hilton. She surprised many when she received 40 percent of the delegate support at the Democratic Party convention in May. At that point she had only been in the race for three days.
Bysiewicz, who recently received the endorsement of Attorney General George Jepsen, said she would fulfill the state’s obligation to fund the state employee and teachers retirement system.
“I don’t have to tell you that we have to win” this election, Bysiewicz said.
But Bysiewicz, a tenacious campaigner, was unable to convince delegates that it was her time.
“My hearts with Eva, but there’s gotta be a reason Ned picked Susan,” Sal Luciano, retired AFSCME Council 4 executive director, told his members.
Dave Roche, of the building trades, said they’re always talking about nominating one of their own and Zimmerman is their opportunity.
Ron Petronella, of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, cautioned the group about going with Zimmerman.
Ed Leavy of AFT CT said now is not a time for caution.
The group overwhelmingly supported Zimmerman.
In May, Lamont chose Bysiewicz as his running mate and has faced criticism because, like Lamont, she is also white.
Ganim has called the ticket “too white.” Ganim is also white.
But race was less of a factor Friday at the AFL-CIO convention. It had more to do with union affiliation.
The group didn’t make any endorsement in the state treasurer contest.
Shawn Wooden, the endorsed Democratic candidate for state treasurer, struggled to connect with the crowd Friday despite his past experience working for the AFL-CIO in Washington.
He said he wasn’t going to do anything to convince them to vote. He would simply stand by his record.
Wooden was challenged by union members on his record as past president of the Hartford City Council. He was criticized for his decision to approve the construction of the minor league baseball park, which is currently home to the Yard Goats.
Hartford taxpayers will be responsible to pay off the debt on the bonds for that project. The state bailed out the city and picked up the tab for most of the rest of its debt.
Dita Bhargava, the other Democratic candidate, had a family obligation and sent a video, which was disappointing to members who seemed to be looking for an alternative to Wooden.
The AFL-CIO’s Committee On Political Education recommended that state Rep. William Tong receive the endorsement for attorney general, but members objected to the motion and asked for no action because they felt former federal prosecutor Chris Mattei was as strong a candidate.
Tong fell short of the two-thirds he needed for the endorsement by about two votes. And state Sen. Paul Doyle of Wethersfield, who voted in favor of a Republican budget, wasn’t even a consideration for the group.
In the 5th Congressional District they went with newcomer Jahana Hayes, who received several standing ovations, over former Simsbury First Selectwoman Mary Glassman.
Glassman, who had run for lieutenant governor in 2006 and 2010, received criticism from the group regarding her tenure as head of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities in 2011.
Glassman said the group of town officials has since been “hijacked by the Republican Party.”
Some union members said Glassman didn’t really support labor even though she had all the correct talking points.
Hayes opened her speech to the convention Friday talking about her time as a developmental disability worker at the Southbury Training School, where she worked the third shift. Hayes said they would continually ask her to pull a double shift and when she refused, “they told me I could find another job.”
“Instead what I did was find my union brothers and sisters,” Hayes said.
Hayes said she worked for 14 years at Southbury before becoming a teacher.
The group of delegates felt it was necessary to support ‘one of their own.”
Hayes fell just a few votes short of the Democratic Party’s endorsement in May.
The union coalition also endorsed U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy.
Click here for a full list of the group’s endorsements.