“We are the Stewards of American Values”
“In the face of a President who has turned his back on fundamental American values,” Congressman Jim Himes told a crowd of about 75 at the annual Democratic Town Committee Barbecue, “we have to be the stewards of those values. We are obligated to make sure that everyone in this country knows they have a shot—against a sentiment in Washington that says, ‘you are on your own,’ and if you’re not the same color as me, you’re really on your own.”
Himes and State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff were among a half dozen speakers, mostly candidates for state and local office, who rallied Dems to translate their concern about events in Washington into getting out the vote this fall in local and state elections.
“The Republicans learned a long time ago that you start at the state and local level,” said Duff. “Some of the folks who ran for the Board of Education 20 years ago are now in Congress. We’ve got to get a lot of red areas back to blue again.”
With the Senate in Hartford at 18 Republicans and 18 Democrats, and the Democratic advantage in the House shrinking, Duff urged volunteers to keep their efforts local. “When they ask you to make calls for North Dakota, say no, we have to make calls here, because we have to keep Connecticut Blue. There is really no room for error.”
Duff reminded Democrats not to buy into negativity about the state. “I won’t succumb to the ‘rooting-for-failure’ clan,” he said. “No doubt, we have challenges, challenges that are the remnants of decades of missteps, including many by a governor who is now in jail for the second time,” (referring to former Republican Governor John G. Rowland). “But we’re rebuilding and we’re going to do okay.” He cited current hiring by companies like Electric Boat, Sikorsky and Pratt and Whitney as evidence. “They can’t fill the jobs fast enough.”
Himes also struck an optimistic chord. He said heroic, broad-based efforts to aid the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas—a state known for resisting federal influence—softened the partisan rancor in Congress. “Seeing people coming together like that to help,” no matter what their background or party, “changed the weather a bit in Washington.” He expressed renewed optimism for a bi-partisan agreement on a Affordable Care Act revision. “We’re in a different place now. The President’s not, but behind the scenes folks on the other side are quietly waving the white flag and saying, ‘Let’s fix what’s broken.’”
This bipartisan cooperation remains key, said Himes, acknowledging President Trump’s agreement with Democrats this month to raise the debt ceiling temporarily and pass an aid package for Hurricane Harvey. “To his credit, he looked at what might be four weeks of chaos and foolishness, and said, ‘Let’s get this done.’”
Other candidates attending: Former West Hartford Mayor and State Senator Jonathan Harris and former federal prosecutor Chris Mattei, both exploring runs for Governor; and Drew Marzullo and John Blankley, exploring runs for Lieutenant Governor and Treasurer, respectively. Local candidates included Deborah Low and Gretchen Jeanes (Board of Education), Richard Creeth (Board of Finance), and Eric Fanwick (Planning and Zoning Commission) and Tom Gunther (Zoning Board of Appeals).
Karen Birck of the League of Women Voters urged the gathering to attend “town hall style” debates for local candidates at the Bruebeck Room of the Wilton Library on October 18 and 19. Candidates for the Planning and Zoning Commission will be featured on Wednesday, October 18 from 7 – 9 pm; Board of Selectmen candidates on Thursday, October 19 from 7 – 8 pm; Board of Education candidates October 19 from 8:15 – 9:15 pm.
“We have a lot to do this fall, and success won’t come easy,” said DTC Chair Deborah McFadden, herself running for Selectman. “But today was a fabulous kick-off. The message of staying true to our core values of compassion and fairness, and the promotion of bi-partisan effort, set exactly the right tone.”
She urged those who want to get involved to visit wiltondems.org.