Erick Russell handily won the state Democratic Party’s endorsement for treasurer, with fellow candidates Karen DuBois-Walton and Dita Bhargava notching enough delegate votes to tee up a three-way primary this August.
That was the outcome of day two of the 2022 Connecticut Democratic Party convention, held at the Xfinity Theatre in Hartford.
Russell, a Westville-based attorney and former vice-chair of the state Democratic Party, won the party’s endorsement after one ballot — earning 47.3 percent of delegate votes, or 918 in total.
DuBois-Walton, who is the city’s public housing chief, won 26.79 percent of votes on the first ballot. Bhargava, a Greenwich financial trader who first ran for treasurer in 2018, won 25.91 percent of the vote.
All three candidates easily cleared the 15 percent threshold necessary to make it onto the Democratic primary ballot in August. And because DuBois-Walton and Bhargava withdrew their names from further consideration at the convention after the first ballot, Russell received the endorsement and nomination.
“The work of state treasurer is about much more than maximizing returns and managing debt,” Russell said as he stood on the convention stage alongside his husband Chris Lyddy and accepted the party endorsement. It’s about supporting individuals, building stronger communities, and “creating a more financially equitable Connecticut,” he said.
He promised to back baby bonds, leverage state investments “to help force positive change,” keep the state’s “finances and bond rating strong,” and “leverage state investments to help force positive change.”
“The power of Connecticut’s pocket book could and should be used for social good,” Russell said.
The treasurer is responsible for managing the state’s pension funds, managing state banking relationships and short-term investments, issuing and managing state debt, and handling property like uncashed checks and proceeds from stocks and bonds and mutual funds whose owners can’t be located.
On the Republican side, State Rep. Harry Arora of Greenwich is also running for treasurer.
Russell and DuBois-Walton, as well as Democratic secretary of the state hopeful and current city Health Director Maritza Bond, are all vying to become the first New Havener on the ballot for a statewide office since then-Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. ran for governor in 2006.
Roughly 1,900 voting delegates and proxies gathered in the Xfinity Theatre amphitheater by the time the convention got around to holding the endorsement vote for state treasurer. (On Saturday morning, the party endorsed a slate of uncontested candidates, including Ned Lamont for another term as governor.)
Before the votes were tallied for the first ballot of the treasurer race, each candidate got a chance on stage to make a last-minute pitch for delegates to support their candidacies.
DuBois-Walton emphasized her experience running New Haven’s public housing authority as making her the best fit for treasurer. She stressed that she has overseen big budgets and has managed a large organization with many employees.
“You deserve someone who has the experience to run a governmental agency on day one,” she told the crowd. “I am that person. I’m a leader you can count on, and you know this to be true because I have been doing it for the last 20 years.”
Bhargava leaned on her experience running for state treasurer in 2018, as well as her long history working in the financial industry, during her pitch for delegate support.
“I am the only candidate who has run a statewide campaign, earning 43 percent of votes as a non-endorsed candidate” in 2018, she said. “I know what it takes and will work my tail off.”
And during his time at the mic, Russell stressed his statewide party credentials, and his professed ability to turn out the Democratic vote in November.
“We can’t do anything unless we win in November,” he said. “The stakes couldn’t be higher. Republicans are galvanized at rolling back our rights, and we cannot and we will not let them make inroads in Connecticut. That means we must turn out the vote for Democrats across the state.”
After the first ballot’s votes had been tallied, DuBois-Walton and Bhargava pledged to stay in the race and keep campaigning in the runup to August’s primary.
“In three weeks, we were able to do something that very few thought possible, and got over 25 percent of delegates at the convention,” DuBopis-Walton said. “I am so proud of my team and grateful to all of you for the opportunity to be on the ballot.”