HARTFORD, CT — The Working Families Party, a labor-backed party that supports political progressives, lost a seat they’ve held for eight years in Hartford and were defeated in races in West Hartford, Bridgeport, and Hamden.
The bright spot for the party was in Hartford, where it retained two of the three seats it has held on the Hartford City Council since 2011. Wildaliz Bermudez and Josh Michtom won two of the minority seats on the council, and the third went to Hartford Councilman John Gale, who formed his own party to run when the Democratic Party decided not to endorse his candidacy.
The Working Families Party candidates in Bridgeport, Hamden, and West Hartford all fell short of winning seats.
In Bridgeport, Kyle Langan and Cynthia Torres didn’t receive enough support to win seats in the 132nd district. In West Hartford, Janee Woods Weber received the fewest number of votes of any candidate running for the nine-member board.
In Hamden, Rhonda Caldwell and Laurie Sweet announced their candidacies saying they hoped to make Republican candidates running for at-large seats work for the positions and potentially push them out altogether. The two were defeated by more than 4,000 votes.
The Working Families party does not have a large number of voters registered across the state, but has leveraged its political clout by cross-endorsing candidates at the statewide and gubernatorial levels.
“We’re not delusional about the influence of the two major parties in a two-party political system,” Lindsay Farrell, executive director of the Working Families Party, said Wednesday morning.
She said they usually target races where there is a clear and strong path to victory, but “we took bigger risks this year.”
She said even though they didn’t win in three of the four communities where they put up candidates, they used it as an opportunity to build support for the party. She said over the past year they’ve shifted to try and build party membership, but not voter registration.
Many members of the Working Families Party still maintain their affiliation with the Democratic Party. Farrell said they are looking to boost the number of people who “identify with Working Families as their political home but not necessarily registering with them.”
Bermudez, who spent time Tuesday outside the United Methodist Church in Hartford, said the party is focused first on its neighborhood.
“All politics is hyperlocal,” Bermudez said.
From immigrant rights to worker rights, Bermudez said they are focused on the health and well-being of their neighbors.
Standing outside Bristow Middle School in West Hartford on Tuesday, Woods Weber said her community has a well-deserved reputation for having beautiful homes and excellent schools. At the same, she said West Hartford is also home to a number of low-income residents and others struggling to pay the bills. Woods Weber said she wanted to bring poverty and racism into the conversation through her candidacy.
“I am running to represent the diverse, working people in our community who feel like they don’t have a seat at the table,” Woods Weber explained in an editorial.
Woods Weber has been a member of the Democratic Party but decided to run on the WFP line this year. Last year she considered running for an open state Senate seat. She also served as a member of Gov. Ned Lamont’s transition advisory panel.
“While the Democrats have done a good job leading, there’s always room for improvement,” Woods Weber said, adding that the two-party system doesn’t work for everyone.
Farrell said “voters deserve more choices than the rigid two-party system, and the Working Families is an alternative for people who want to center on economic and racial justice.”