Last week, I reported for Canaiden Media the Democratic State Convention at the Expo Center in Hartford, Connecticut. It was my first experience as a reporter at a specific political event and was looking forward to the two days – Friday and Saturday – when the state Convention was to take place.
First of all, I’ve been to the Convention Center in Hartford last year for the Jefferson Jackson Bailey Dinner (also known as JJB) – a fundraiser event for the state Democratic Party. There is a huge difference between the two venues – with the Convention Center being the more better looking both from the outside and from the inside and therefore more hospitable and luxurious while the Expo Center looks more like a warehouse than a place where events of such calibre could take place.
However surprising as it may seem what I am about to say – the atmosphere that the Expo Center emitted didn’t have any impact on my work, neither did it have an impact on anything else, not to mention that the parking lot was more spacious than the one at the Convention Center and there were no parking spots which one had to pay for or have a pass for.
What had an impact on my work though was the inadequacy of the organizers of the event to provide us with a wireless connection plus a computer “expert” who didn’t know what he was doing trying to figure out why my and my colleagues’ laptops that did not have wireless cards with them could not get access to their “wireless” that they let us know beforehand would be provided. Lucky for me I had my cell phone from which I twitted about breaking news from the state Convention itself.
Day One was the day when the nominations and endorsement for the U.S. Senate seat, currently occupied by outgoing Chris Dodd, were taking place. Contenders were state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Mystic businessman Merrick Alpert. The latter, who was distant second and largely unknown according to Q-Poll survey results, had to receive at least 15 percent of the delegates’ votes in order to qualify for a primary. That goal that seemed unattainable for his campaign – which was largely inefficient from its very beginning anyway – and expectations came true during the vote count at the middle of which Merrick Alpert withdrew from the race and endorsed Richard Blumenthal while emphasizing that he is a Democrat.
Considering the way he had been treated by his own party, his announcement – both to drop out of the race and to endorse Richard Blumenthal – is one to be honored. The way the party treated him and his campaign – generally as if he didn’t exist – was not fair and last but not least unnecesary. Considering its inefficiency and the public’s largely not recognizing his name, Merrick Alpert should have been given more chance to speak, not to mention that Dick Blumenthal not only had the name recognition but his approval rating was sky-high, and is still sky-high even after his Vietnam War blunder (while the lowest in more than a year, 61 percent approval rating is still quite high for a politician).
It was the big day for the party. The nominations and endorsements for the candidates for other offices – Governor, Lieutenant Governor, state Attorney General Secretary of the State, state Treasurer and state Comptroller – were to take place. I was there for the count for Governor before a colleague of mine covered me. Before the beginning of the state Convention, both former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy and Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont went around our tables to greet us – something that Dan Malloy did on Day One as well.
Before the beginning, the Malloy campaign was the most active one both inside and outside the Expo Center having volunteers hold signs and help delegates show off their support for Dan Malloy by giving them campaign shirts and putting Malloy-Wyman signs inside the building. They were also giving out lunch boxes in which there was an apple juice, a banana and a muffin, and were offering coffee. After all, Dan Malloy qualified for the state’s public campaign finance program, after having raised $250,000 in small contributions of up to $100. The passing of this threshold qualified him to receive up to $8.5 million to spend in 23 weeks of the campaign starting immediately after the state Convention.
Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz made a welcoming speech where she pledged to do everything she can to make sure that Democrats win most of the elections in the state in 2010. Her voice was cracking for the most part, apparently due to the state Supreme Court’s earlier ruling that she was not qualified to run for state Attorney General based on the state statute that required at least ten years of active practice of the law in order to run for the position.
At the state Convention, Dan Malloy won the endorsement of the delegates by beating Ned Lamont by a little more than a 2:1 ratio. After the count, we, the reporters, saw Mr. Lamont close to us and interviewed him. He looked a little bit upset with the results and interpreted them as an insider-outsider game – that apparently he was the outsider while Dan Malloy, the long-time politician who knew most of the delegates, was the insider. I asked a person from the Malloy campaign about their reaction to Ned Lamont’s interpretation of the count, and he said that Mr. Lamont had been playing an insider’s game so far trying to buy the delegates from Hartford (Dan Malloy won 45, while Ned Lamont won 20 votes), Bridgeport (Ned Lamont won all 74 votes. These delegates, according to the campaign staffer, had been promised by Ned Lamont for building of casinos – something that Dan Malloy said earlier after the count in front of reporters won’t solve the city’s problems) and New Haven (Ned Lamont won 79, while Dan Malloy won just 2 votes).
It was certainly an interesting and useful experience for me as a political scientist to see how politics is being conducted at such an event and try to get as much insider’s information as I could.