Democrats say election will be one of values

Greenwich Democrats were urged to get out the vote at the Democratic Town Committee’s annual picnic as speakers, including, from left, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sen. Chris Murphy, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and state Attorney General George Jepsen addressed the party faithful. –John Ferris Robben

Greenwich Democrats were urged to get out the vote at the Democratic Town Committee’s annual picnic as speakers, including, from left, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sen. Chris Murphy, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and state Attorney General George Jepsen addressed the party faithful. –John Ferris Robben

It was a perfect day for a picnic with bright blue skies and a cooling breeze but as it gathered, the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee (DTC) had more in mind than a nice time outdoors. They were all there to elect Democrats, which is always a challenge in Greenwich.

With Gov. Dannel Malloy’s re-election leading the ballot this fall and with polls last week showing him either trailing Republican challenger Tom Foley or only narrowly ahead, Greenwich Democrats were told to do all they could for the ticket. Other elections this fall include all the state’s constitutional officers,. U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th) is running for a fourth term, and Jill Oberlander and Marc Abrams are vying for state representative, and all appeared at the DTC’s annual picnic on Sunday to get the base energized. With less than 50 days to go before Election Day they didn’t mince words.

“It’s important that these guys are elected,” DTC Chairman Frank Farricker said. “It’s important we re-elect Gov. Malloy. It’s important the Republican dogma doesn’t come and visit in Connecticut anymore and we continue to support our children and schools and continue to fund our pensions. They can do this because we Democrats do the hard work. We go to the headquarters. We make the phone calls. We write the letters to the editor. We do all of these things to make sure they’re elected.”

Mr. Farricker and others spoke about the real results of the hard work of Democrats, including health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, a health exchange in Connecticut that’s considered a model in the nation, and marriage equality, which, was noted, allowed Greenwich Selectman Drew Marzullo to be able to marry his longtime partner over the weekend. Speakers said that accomplishments like increasing the state minimum wage and paid sick leave would be put at risk without continued work by Democrats.

Mr. Himes, a former chairman of the DTC himself, urged his fellow Greenwich Democrats to stand up for the party’s values, saying he saw the need for it from his work in Congress, where he says the House of Representatives is controlled by the far right tea party wing.

“I see the gulf in the values that exist,” Mr. Himes said. “It doesn’t make me in any way happy but I can’t remember a time when we were fighting more for values that aren’t just Democratic values but are core American values. We could go on at length about what those are but you see it when you watch the news. Debates that we thought were long settled, like whether a woman should make her own decisions about her reproductive health or have guys like us do it for her, are very much at risk. We’re talking again about whether birth control should be available. This is a battle of the 1950s and we are fighting whether all Americans should be equal before the law or whether we should continue to discriminate against people based on who they choose to love. We are fighting battles to try and make sure people who are traditionally disenfranchised in this country can retain the ability to vote. That is core of who we are.”

Mr. Himes’ re-election campaign wasn’t focused on nearly as much as Mr. Malloy’s but he is facing a challenge from former Connecticut State Sen. Dan Debicella in a rematch of a 2010 race that Mr. Himes won. Mr. Himes said that Mr. Malloy’s race was going to be one of the toughest in the country and said the governor should be re-elected because he had “showed leadership” and made tough choices.

While Mr. Malloy could not attend the picnic, there was no shortage of high profile Democrats as Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman was on hand along with Mr. Himes and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), both of whom are town residents, and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). Ms. Wyman focused on the Malloy administration’s record, a message that was also carried by state Attorney General George Jepsen, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill and Comptroller Kevin Lembo.

“We can’t afford Tom Foley this year,” Ms. Wyman said. “We need to get Dan Malloy back in there… We have a good record to run on and we have some great people running with us. We have made progress on education. We have 60,000 new jobs. We have the best health care exchange in the country right here in Connecticut; 256,000 people in Connecticut signed up. We cut our uninsured in half. We have 140,000 people who never had insurance that now have insurance. We’ve come a long way and we’re going to make it better.”

Mr. Blumenthal echoed Mr. Himes’ concerns about issues like pay equity, women’s health care, the minimum wage and college affordability. He said without the continued support of Democrats, everything that had been fought for in those areas could be lost.

“We’re talking about a fair shot for the middle class of Americans,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “We’re preserving a chance for a middle class and we see the stagnation and the diminished quality of life for so many middle class families. People are struggling and as Greenwich Democrats we are seeking to advocate for these families and fight for them so that everyone can have a fair shot at the American dream. Washington can be frustrating and infuriating as you well know from watching but I think it’s an opportunity of a lifetime.”

Greenwich Democrats face long odds in their races for the state legislature, where the town has not elected a Democrat since the administration of President William Howard Taft in 1912. That’s the challenge facing Mr. Abrams as he goes up against longtime incumbent State Rep. Livvy Floren in the 149th District and Ms. Oberlander as she faces political newcomer Michael Bocchino in the 150th District.

Mr. Abrams shared his story about rising up from nothing after his father abandoned the family to found his own business and build an asset management company. He worked through high school to support his family and then paid his way through college and said his campaign would be about “achieving results.”

“I am running to win and we can with your help,” Mr. Abrams said. “This campaign isn’t about political ideology to me. It’s about people and how we want our future to look. The path to victory is not complicated. The first part is getting my views and ideas out there, and the second is informing the viewers about the truth about my opponent and that the smiling, polite person in Greenwich is very different than the votes she casts in Hartford. Those votes don’t reflect the values and priorities of our community. We need representation that reflects not just one part of Greenwich but all of parts from Glenville to Pemberwick to North Stamford.”

Ms. Oberlander is running in a district that gives Democrats a fighting chance given the registered voter makeup of essentially one-third Republicans, one-third Democrats and one-third unaffiliated. Like Mr. Abrams this is her first political race and said she was doing it for the people.

“I am doing this for you,” Ms. Oberlander said. “This is your race. I’m doing it for our next generation. This is their race as well. I’m running on a campaign of investment in our community and fiscal responsibility. I want investment in our education and infrastructure so we can have early childhood education and investment in our transportation infrastructure. We all deserve safe, reliable, clean, fast public transit and safe, reliable roadways. I’m also running on a platform of fiscal responsibility. We need to do this in a fair, transparent and efficient manner and we need to bring more money that we send to Hartford back to Greenwich.”

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