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Hartford Politics: Wading Through Certain Sewage

Sophomores Orialys Crespo, Kenneth Molina and Raquel Quinones from the Law and Government Academy at HPHS engage the candidates with questions.

The time has long since past when the Democratic Party was good for the city of Hartford.

The Democratic Party is an unopposed gang right now, and like the big banks ruling our financial sector, the Democratic monopoly in Hartford must be broken up.  By whom is the question.

Many of the characters it calls candidates or elected officials have little merit, and the worst of them, like Minnie Gonzalez, bubbled to the surface on Tuesday, July 31 at the State Representatives Candidates Forum at the Twain Library Branch at Hartford Public High School.

First, kudos to the Hartford Votes Coalition and the Law and Government Academy at Hartford Public High School for sponsoring the Forum for the seven candidates in primaries in the third, fifth and sixth districts for the Connecticut General Assembly.

All the sophomores at the Academy did a superb job of preparing questions relevant to not just youth, but everyone in attendance.  Sophomores Orialys Crespo, Kenneth Molina and Raquel Quinones showed confidence and poise in quizzing the candidates: Brendan McGee, Leo Canty, and Donald Trinks in the fifth; incumbent state Rep. Minnie Gonzalez and challenger Victor Luna in the third and Ed Vargas in the sixth.

The forum winner was McGee, who is running against union activist Canty and Windsor Mayor Trinks for the Democratic nomination in the redrawn Fifth (formerly served by retiring Marie Kirkley-Bey), according to Anthony Vega.

Vega, 19, was this year’s valedictorian at the Law and Government Academy. He will attend Rhode Island College in the fall.  Vega helped organize the forum, and he watched all the candidates deliver their answers.

“McGee was clear,” Vega said. “He didn’t go off topic. He supports people who struggle. He seemed like he cares.”

As opposed to the absent, incumbent state Rep. Hector Robles.  Law and Government Academy Principal Adam Johnson stated that forum sponsors extended an invitation to Robles – they even put his picture in the program flyer. But Robles was a no-show.

In language that the disgraced officer Robles might understand: a no-show means guilty of Failure to Appear.  Students and civic leaders asked a sitting elected official to answer questions, and he willfully did not show up. Weak.

Maybe we should cut him slack, no? Maybe he had a family emergency. Maybe his dog had a hairball. Maybe he did not want to show because someone might hold him accountable for his abuse of the public trust as a police officer. I think the latter. People predicted he wouldn’t appear. He didn’t.

To confront this pachyderm in our presence, when Johnson opened the floor to questions, I asked Rep. Gonzalez why she has failed to call for Robles’ resignation.

She replied she did not think it was her place to call for his resignation. “At the end of the day, voters make the decision,” she said. “He is a candidate.”

That is precisely the problem. He is a candidate. A handful of self-selected Democratic Town Committee members in the Sixth District considered Robles worthy of representing 24,000 or so people in the South End. Loyalties aside, does anyone have the guts to tell him his cloud is unwelcome in the State Capital?

A bigger problem may be Gonzalez’s clear abdication of duties spelled out by Vargas. In closing, Vargas said that if elected to the Sixth District, he would represent all of Hartford in an honest and ethical manner.

Vega, the valedictorian, wasn’t buying Vargas’ stump speech. “It was a gimmick he was saying to get elected,” Vega said. “McGee seemed most sincere.” Vargas, who I have supported in the past, and who I see as a huge improvement over Robles, maybe has said these lines too many times in too many races.

I should be spending this column trumpeting McGee, or repeating Canty’s message of wealth redistribution and energizing the electorate. Instead, I am astonished how Minnie Gonzalez still clings to power, with the help of her enablers in the Democratic Town Committee.

The biggest problem may be Gonzalez’s failure to understand her legislator’s role as protector of the public trust, a role she has had for 16 long and painful years. How painful? Her worst quote last night: “Homeless is a sad problem.” I am not making that up.

She’s had almost two decades to do something meaningful. She hasn’t. Less than 1,000 votes will re-elect her. She stays in power by disenfranchisement. Her second worst quote of the forum: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

NRA hogwash from a Democrat? It’s a big tent, right? No. It’s a hollow party that keeps Gonzalez on its roster when she says we need to stop violence, but in 2006, she voted against penalties for lost and stolen firearms.

Perhaps her felon son might have been in jeopardy for such crimes? It doesn’t seem likely her hombre, Ramon Arroyo, he who cavorted with whores (while a City employee on city time) is into guns.

If, after 20 years, we the general public still remember Arroyo’s character flaws, how can Gonzalez not? Maybe I misjudge her, and her compassionate heart has forgiven him. But who am I to speculate about Minnie and Ramon’s relationship?

It seems as though Ramon’s only crime here was getting caught.  And even that is not enough to keep the Hartford Democratic Town Committee from endorsing him as a candidate for Registrar of Voters.

As if Olga Vasquez isn’t hack enough, the best we can find to replace her is Ramon? Really? Do Minnie and Ramon control so many votes that the entire City must be held hostage to their designs on power and their inability to survive in the private sector?

Olga is no princess, having spent four years waging war with Working Families Party registrar Urania Petit. Who helped organize the candidate forum? Urania. Who was there? Urania.  Who holds elected office with dignity? Urania.

Maybe Olga was hanging out with Hector Robles, laughing at those wanna-be electeds who deign to participate in public forums.

At least Minnie showed up, right? Wrong. I want her to go away. But finding a candidate among the Third District’s 24,000 people willing to wade through certain sewage in politics is next to impossible.

You have to spend years building alliances with less than savory characters to win enough votes to challenge. (Angel “No Probable Cause” Morales, anyone? Did I see Morales on Park Street with Ramon once holding signs for Congressman John Larson? And Larson accepts this support?)

So the best challenger the Democrats can foist against Minnie is Victor Luna? I admire Luna’s perseverance, but he is not state representative caliber, not when he reads statements from notecards and cannot differentiate between state and federal marijuana laws. Can’t we find better leaders?

Minnie must go. She is a fraud when she will consider calling an inquiry into Chris Donovan’s staff’s behavior but wants voters to decide Robles’ fate. Robles shouldn’t be in front of voters in the first place. Who in the Democratic Party in Hartford will call for honesty?

Maybe Minnie forgot she was in the legislature when John Rowland resigned as governor. Rowland, creep that he is, resigned because legislators slowly recognized the crimes he committed soiled the public trust.

Maybe Minnie forgot she was in the legislature when former state Sen. Lou DeLuca of Woodbury resigned. DeLuca, you may recall, asked a trash-hauling mobster to break his granddaughter’s boyfriend in half. DeLuca pled guilty to a misdemeanor threatening charge and resigned in 2007.

Maybe Minnie forgot she was in the legislature when former state Sen. Thomas Gaffey of Meriden resigned. Gaffey, you may recall, while working for CRRA (Cronies Rats and Refuse Anyone?), double dipped on expenses with the state and his Political Action Committee.  Facing larceny charges, Gaffey resigned in January 2011.

So why is Robles, who was charged with a crime, still running for office? Because the Hartford Democratic Party is a gang that protects its own.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. In the Fifth, we have three good candidates, in the Fourth, one good candidate. But the Third vexes me, proof that when good people fail to fulfill their civic duties, the less than honorable fill the vacuum.

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