NEW HAVEN, CT — Ned Lamont lashed out at his opponent at a final get-out-the-vote rally in New Haven — not the opponent he needs to beat in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, but the one he expects to face in November.
“This is a fundamental choice,” Lamont, the endorsed candidate for governor in Tuesday’s Democratic Party primary, told 75 assembled labor elected officials and vote-pullers gathered at his Willow Street campaign headquarters.
By “choice,” he wasn’t talking about Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, the Democrat whom Lamont faces in Tuesday’s primary. He warned his supporters that a Republican win in November would mean attacks on labor rights and further cuts to municipal aid.
Over the course of a day of campaigning in New Haven on Saturday, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate didn’t once mention that he first must defeat Ganim Tuesday if he is indeed going to square off against the Republican Party’s nominee for governor during November’s general election.
His confidence was buoyed by the presence at the rally of dozens of campaign volunteers, influential labor organizers, and local and state legislators who came out on Saturday to show their support for the Greenwich businessman, who’s banking on his personal wealth and endorsements from most Democratic elected officials and vote-pulling unions, especially New Haven’s UNITE HERE, to cruise to victory Tuesday night.
“If we get out the vote on Tuesday,” Lamont said in response to a question about why he wasn’t mentioning Ganim’s name, “we’ll do just fine.”
In the final weekend before the primary, Lamont crisscrossed the city on Saturday, making get-out-the-vote stops at the East Rock labor rally at his campaign headquarters, a Morris Cove church carnival, and a Puerto Rican festival in Fair Haven.
At each stop, Lamont called on supporters to hit the polls on Tuesday and in November lest a Republican win the governor’s race and attack principles, and sources of funding, that Connecticut Democrats hold dear. The Bridgeport mayor’s name didn’t once cross his lips.
After his own long day of campaigning in Bridgeport, North Haven, Hartford, and New Haven on Saturday, Ganim said he is feeling optimistic about his chances this Tuesday. He said he has encountered many voters who were on the fence about his candidacy but have now pledged their support for him after meeting him in person.
“We feel that we have momentum,” he said.
“A Fundamental Choice”
After attending Hartford’s West Indian Independence Celebration parade in the morning, Lamont began the New Haven portion of his day at around 2:30 p.m., when he led the get-out-the-vote canvass and phone bank rally alongside Democratic treasurer candidate Shawn Wooden at campaign headquarters on the second floor of the Marlinworks building at 85 Willow St. in East Rock.
Rally attendees included New Haven State Sen. Martin Looney, New Haven State Rep. Toni Walker, Guilford State Rep. Sean Scanlon, a half dozen New Haven alders, New Haven Democratic Town Committee (DTC) Chair Vinnie Mauro, as well as representatives from SEIU’s Local 1199, UNITE HERE’s Locals 33, 34, and 35, and thelabor advocacy group New Haven Rising.
Lamont Campaign Manager Marc Bradley said that, despite the rain, volunteers spent Saturday morning and afternoon knocking on doors and making phone calls throughout the city. Bradley said the campaign had 800 volunteer shifts scheduled for the weekend for canvassing and phone banking throughout the state.
In keeping with Lamont’s focus on the stakes of November’s general election as a motivator for getting out the vote this August, nearly every one who spoke identified the eventual Republican candidate for governor, not Joe Ganim, as the adversary to watch out for. (Five candidates are running in the GOP gubernatorial primary.)
“Every election, every primary is important,” Looney told the crowd. “But this one has a particular significance because it really is about existential political survival in this state. This is a fundamental choice.”
Looney said the ideological divide between Lamont and the five Republican candidates for governor is wider than any ideological divide he has seen between the two parties in his 40 years in state politics. He said the future of health care, education, labor rights, and the economy are all at stake in this November’s election. He castigated the Republican candidates for supporting President Donald Trump and for promising to gut collective bargaining rights for both public second and private sector unions.
“All of the Republican candidates for the gubernatorial and the General Assembly, their model is the state of Wisconsin and what happened there under Scott Walker,” Looney said. “A previously progressive, generally Democratic state all of a sudden becoming a black hole for Republican politics and Republican-dominated positions. We cannot let that happen in Connecticut.”
Outgoing state Attorney General George Jepsen said he has known Lamont for 30 years. Lamont has always been “a man of integrity and a man of vision,” Jepsen said. He said a Lamont victory in November would send a signal to the rest of the country that “the Democratic Party is alive and well in Connecticut.”
Laurie Kennington, the president of Yale University’s clerical and technical workers union, UNITE HERE Local 34, praised Lamont for marching with her fellow union members on Wednesday in a jobs rally that culminated in UNITE HERE’s endorsement of Lamont for governor.
She said Lamont, a Greenwich millionaire businessman who has been endorsed by the state Democratic Party, the state AFL-CIO, and nearly every major local and state Democratic politician, is the only candidate capable of bringing together labor, business, and political leaders into one statewide coalition.
“New Haven is the key to winning in November,” she said. “Only Ned can bring us across that finish line in November.”
“This is a really big deal on Tuesday,” Lamont said. “It’s a really big deal in November. The choices couldn’t be more stark.”
He said the Republican candidates can’t decide if they’re going to totally eliminate the income tax or just partially eliminate the income tax, which accounts for around $9-$10 billion out of the state’s $20 billion annual budget.
“Do you know what that would mean to education?” Lamont asked. “Do you know what that would mean to property taxes? Do you know what that would mean to cities like New Haven? It would be devastating.”
He said he plans on investing in education, lowering property taxes, and supporting Connecticut’s cities. He promised to govern with fairness, dignity, and respect, which means, he said, that he will protect workers’ rights to organize and to collective bargaining.
“I may be a business guy from Fairfield County,” he said. “But I’m standing up every day, fighting for fairness.”
Watch Out, Trump
At subsequent campaign stops in Morris Cove and Fair Haven, Lamont continued to emphasize his opposition to Republican policies and personalities at both the state and national levels.
At around 5:15 p.m., Lamont visited the St. Bernadette’s Church Carnival at 385 Townsend Ave. The parking lot adjacent to the church was all but empty except for a handful of silent carnival rides and several dozen volunteers grilling hot dogs and working the p.a. system.
Father Frank Carter, the priest at St. Bernadette’s, said each of the previous four nights of the festival had brought in nearly 1,000 people. Heavy rainstorms kept most those carnival goers at home on Saturday afternoon.
Nevertheless, Lamont made the rounds and earned the good will of those he spoke with.
“I like his ads,” Carter said. “He doesn’t challenge people by name. Some of the other ads are a little too sharp.” He said he hopes Lamont, if elected governor, will maintain the conversational tone that Carter hears in his ads and in person, and that he will host listening sessions where he visits neighborhoods like Morris Cove and hears firsthand about problems that constituents face.
Morris Cove resident Marilyn Kozin told Lamont that she can’t wait for Tuesday’s primary to be over and for the general election campaign to begin in earnest.
“I think Ned will bring us around,” she said about her faith in Lamont’s capacity to work across party lines to mitigate the state’s budget woes if elected governor.
Lamont then traveled up to Bregamos Community Theater with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal to attend the third annual Festival Puertorriqueño de New Haven.
One of four Democratic candidates for statewide office to address the festival goers, Lamont said he believes that every person who comes to the mainland United States from Puerto Rico should be treated with the same respect and dignity that his mother was treated with when she came to Connecticut from Puerto Rico in the 1940s.
“Elections have consequences,” he said. “And President Trump, Puerto Ricans are Americans too! They deserve every right, every dignity” that mainland American citizens have. He promised to fight for Connecticut’s Puerto Rican population if elected governor in November.