REGISTER CITIZEN EDITORIAL: If Working Families is a real political party, why wouldn’t it run against Esty?
Connecticut AFL-CIO 9th Biennial Political Convention in Hartford. Left to right: 5th District congressional Democratic primary candidates Chris Donovan, Elizabeth Esty, and Dan Roberti. (New Haven Register Photo/Mara Lavitt)
The big story in the wake of Connecticut’s Aug. 14 5th District Congress primary has been Speaker of the House Chris Donovan’s silence on the potential that he’ll stay in the race as the nominee of the Working Families Party.
Juan Figueroa, a 2010 Democratic candidate for governor, and other “progressives” have urged Donovan to stay in the race following his loss to Elizabeth Esty in the Democratic primary.
Esty, they say, hasn’t “stood up for working families,” supported compromise “Republican” budgets when she served as a state representative and has not been outspoken or detailed about where she stands on issues important to progressives.
Donovan, on the other hand, has pushed for aggressive increases in the state and federal minimum wage, has fought to expand low- and middle-income families’ access to health care, and has been one of the legislature’s strongest advocates for stronger bargaining rights for labor unions.
The Working Families Party endorsed Donovan before he lost the Democratic primary, and now it’s solely up to Donovan whether he stays on the ballot as the Working Families’ candidate.
The party hasn’t urged him to run, though, and its supporters have privately used the words “long shot” and “spoiler” in discussing the possibility.
Connecticut AFL-CIO President John Olsen said Monday that Donovan should remove his name and unite behind the Democratic Party nominee.
The whole thing raises these questions:
If Esty doesn’t represent the views of the Working Families Party, why wouldn’t the party run its own candidate against her – preferably Donovan, who has a strong progressive following and could get them the most votes, but if not, someone else?
If the Working Families Party feels this way about Esty but doesn’t run someone against her – or even chooses to come around and endorse her after Donovan withdraws his name, is it really a separate political party?
Leaders of the party, which was launched by labor union officials in New York in 1998 and has spread to Connecticut, Massachusetts and a handful of other states, will insist that of course it’s a real party.
But evidence points strongly to a different conclusion. That the Working Families Party is a vehicle for labor to put leftward pressure on the Democratic Party, but that it is not intended to be, nor does it function as, true competition to Democrats.
It gained “official minor party status” in Connecticut because state law allows parties to “cross-endorse.” That means Dan Malloy’s name was listed twice on the November 2010 ballot for governor, under the Democratic line and the Working Families Party line.
Because 26,308 people filled in the Malloy circle on the Working Families line, the party obtained official status. Malloy’s Working Families’ votes and Democratic Party votes were added together to give him a thin margin of victory over Republican Tom Foley.
The Working Families Party has rarely run its own candidates in recent years, even more rarely running when a Democrat is in the race. Instead, it has “cross-endorsed” Democrats running for the legislature, governor, Congress and U.S. Senate.
And Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill has made it clear that Working Families Party and Democratic Party votes are one and the same when it comes to cross-endorsed candidates if the Democrat wins. She has rejected the rationale behind a Republican lawsuit claiming that Tom Foley earned Republicans the top ballot line in 2012 by receiving more Republican votes than Malloy received Democratic votes.
In the eyes of the state, Working Families Party votes count as Democratic votes. The two lines should be added together, Merrill says, and count toward Democrats when determining ballot position.
There’s a perception that the Working Families Party is a minor, but substantial bloc of voters because Malloy received more those 26,308 votes.
But a check of statewide voter rolls shows that only 164 people in the entire state of Connecticut are registered Working Families Party members. That’s less than the “Concerned Citizens Party,” whatever that is, and represents .008 percent of Connecticut’s nearly 2 million registered voters.
If this labor union/Democratic Party front group truly is a real, separate political party, it should prove it and run its own candidate in the 5th District this fall.