Socialism in Connecticut? Republican comments leave Democrats stunned

In what was supposed to be the most innocuous of events, a little political cheerleading for the Republican faithful, state Sen. L. Scott Frantz (R-36th District) ended up raising the ire of town Democrats.

While speaking last Thursday at the official opening of the Greenwich Republican Town Committee’s headquarters at 1076 East Putnam Avenue, Mr. Frantz, who is running for a third term this November, turned his attention to policies of the Democratic party as a whole and spoke about a new ad purchased for television in swing states for the presidential race from Greenwich resident Thomas Peterffy comparing the United States under President Barack Obama to the socialist government he grew up under in Hungary.

“If you haven’t seen this advertisement, oh my goodness,” Mr. Frantz said. “Check it out on YouTube because it’s so powerful it will convince you even if you’re intending to vote Democratic or sitting on the fence to vote Republican. Because Democrats, this is so fundamentally un-American of them, to push for concepts such as social justice. I’d like to coin what I think might be a new term tonight, and that’s opportunity justice. That is fundamentally American.”

Not surprisingly, Democrats immediately reacted to the comment. Frank Farricker, chairman of the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee, called the language “hateful.”

“You have to wonder who Scott Frantz think he represents,” Mr. Farricker said. “If you look at this town, you’ll see that 25% of the people here are minorities, and if you look at his district as a whole, it’s 30%. Is he going to tell them that they haven’t benefited from the advances of social justice for no other reason than they have the ability to vote? Does Scott Frantz think he only represents the people in this district who are in his social circle?”

Daniel Dauplaise, who is running against Mr. Frantz for state senator, released a statement to the Post calling it “cringe-worthy” for his opponent to say that, but said he wasn’t surprised because of his voting record. Mr. Dauplaise then noted Mr. Frantz’s votes against same-sex marriage and for the death penalty.

“I find the senator’s disdain for social justice to be unsettling, and to go so far as to brand anyone interested in social justice as un-American is an insult,” Mr. Dauplaise said. “This country has a long, sad history of injustices based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. Our school systems teach children about the efforts of Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, and Betty Friedan to right these wrongs. To cavalierly dismiss those working for social justice as un-American is grossly unacceptable. I truly believe the people of Greenwich, Stamford, and New Canaan do not share Sen. Frantz’s view and deserve better then a senator who does.”

Mr. Frantz wasn’t the only speaker to touch on this issue. First Selectman Peter Tesei has recently spoken on several occasions about the impact he says laws like the Affordable Care Act are having on town finances. That law has the strong support of Democrats, including Reps. Jim Himes and Chris Murphy, who are on the party’s ballot this year, and has been an election issue. Mr. Tesei said that serving in Greenwich becomes more difficult because of the “burdens” placed on the town by the federal and state governments and that because of laws like the ACA, the town was going to have to raise property taxes “thanks to people like Jim Himes.”

Mr. Tesei said he sees the difference in the parties as that “Republicans believe in individual initiative and allowing freedom and initiative to prevail” and Democrats “want the money to come to them and they want to decide how best it can be distributed and spent and have people dependent on the government.”

He also accused Democrats of believing in government as “a solution to equalize the way of life for everybody in America.” Mr. Tesei said those ideas have not worked in Europe and “we don’t want to go down that path,” adding, “This is not rhetoric, it’s reality,” and claiming that the country was at a crossroads between capitalism and socialism. Saying that the “pendulum has swung way out of control both in Washington and frankly right here in Connecticut under the Malloy regime,” Mr. Tesei said the solution was to elect more Republicans.

“This election comes down to two different directions for our country,” Mr. Tesei said. “We’ve seen one over the past four years that has created greater dependency upon government, has blown the federal debt sky high, has resulted in the loss of businesses and resulted in Connecticut ranking in very bottom of all national rankings as it relates to business climate and fiscal management. It makes a very clear distinction between our party, the Republican Party, and incumbent Democrats, both in Washington and Hartford.”

Greenwich Republican Town Committee Chairman Jim Campbell touched on this line as well, noting Gov. Dannel Malloy’s trip to Greenwich that week to support state representative candidate John Blankley and claiming, “It’s no exaggeration to talk about socialism these days.”

“[Gov. Malloy] was quoted at this event as saying that he’s not only for equalizing opportunity for Connecticut citizens, he wants to equalize our success,” Mr. Campbell said. “He wants to take our success, whatever success each one of us may be able to achieve, and share it with everyone. You get the drift.”

In an interview with the Post, Mr. Campbell said he wasn’t at the event Mr. Malloy attended for Mr. Blankley but took the quote from the Greenwich Time’s coverage. He did not speak to Mr. Frantz’s claims, but rather repeated his own and said what Mr. Malloy was advocating in that quote was redistribution of wealth and socialism.

“That’s not what this country is all about,” Mr. Campbell said to the Post. “As Republicans we believe that America has always been about encouraging people to work hard and then rewarding that hard work. This is the leader of the Connecticut Democrats saying that they want to take that reward and redistribute it to someone else. Republicans don’t stand for that. Independents don’t stand for that, and I don’t even think most Democrats stand for that.”

In response to Mr. Campbell’s statements, Roy Occhiogrosso, senior adviser to Mr. Malloy, told the Post, “It must be comforting for the rank-and-file Republicans in Connecticut to know that their leaders are getting their talking points from the Tea Party. Will their next move be to ask the governor for his birth certificate?”

The Republicans also spoke about negative campaigning at the event. Mr. Tesei, without specifically noting the increasing acrimony in the 151st District state representative race between incumbent state Rep. Fred Camillo and Democratic challenger David Rafferty, said, “When people are losing, they get down in the gutter and go after personality. That’s all they have. We’ve seen it in Greenwich by the Democrats time and time again, particularly in local elections. They were repudiated and they were repudiated resoundingly.”

He stressed that Republicans were going to focus on issues and records, and not personality.

Mr. Farricker said it was hard to believe that Republicans could say all of this and said their “name calling” was the result of them not having any more excuses for the way they have run the town.

“Republicans have essentially had an unbroken string of leading this town, and now they are looking for people to blame for the job they’ve done,” Mr. Farricker said. “Frankly, I’m troubled by this. Either they’ve been hiding how they really feel all these years or else this party has been taken over by the extreme elements of the national party that call names and don’t see fit to do anything productive. There’s a difference between being partisan, which I’ve been accused of being, and still wanting to get things done and being partisan and just wanting to make childish insults. That’s not the tradition of this town.”

Mr. Farricker also suggested that if they truly considered Democrats un-American or Mr. Malloy a socialist, they had better check their definitions.

“For them to do this is just trying to whip up a very ignorant kind of discussion,” Mr. Farricker said. “I understand Peter Tesei and Jim Campbell went to college and they may even have taken a political science course. I’d like to see them crack open a book again before they put forth their party as the party of truth.”

 

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