Working Families Party cross-endorses Shays opponent

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Aug. 17, 2008

WALLINGFORD — With the national party conventions and Election Day fast approaching, much of the political focus has been on the divisions between the two major parties.

But in Connecticut, the small Working Families Party is continuing to make inroads in local politics. On Saturday, the group held its own convention at the Carpenters Local 24 Hall in Wallingford.

The event included elected officials from the Working Families Party — which now holds two of Hartford’s nine City Council seats — and Democrats whom the party has endorsed in the November races.

U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5, and Jim Himes, who is running against Republican U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays in the fourth Congressional district, both addressed the group, saying that they support its goals of affordable health care, good public education and well-paying jobs.

The party has cross-endorsed Murphy, Himes and many other candidates, whose names will appear twice on each ballot — once for one of the two major parties and once on the Working Family Parties line.

Murphy said the party “is about returning power to the people.”

“We have everything in front of us this year. We have the ability to grow not just our majorities in the House and Senate … (but) we have the ability to grow our progressive majorities in the House and Senate,” he said. “We have the chance to get a president who’s going to work with us on the issues.”

Himes, who will face incumbent Shays in November, said the goals of the party represent those of the American dream. The race in the fourth district is expected to be a close one, as Shays narrowly won re-election two years ago.

“I have been a Democrat all my life but for me this race goes beyond that old fight between the Democrats and Republicans,” Himes said.

He added: “We will go (to Washington) to fight for the things that are so important to working families.”

Hartford City Councilman Luis Cotto said that having two members of the Working Families Party on the council has allowed them to raise questions that might not have been addressed otherwise.

“With the two of us, it’s just so much more potent on a City Council of nine people because of the ability to second a motion,” Cotto said. “I’m even just as proud of the votes that we’ve lost as the votes that we’ve won because it shows where we’re coming from.”

Organizers also read a letter from Attorney General Richard Blumenthal expressing his support for the coalition.

The party’s last convention was in 2006, Communications Director Joe Dinkin said. This November, he said, the Working Families Party will appear on every ballot in the state for the first time.

Two candidates are running as Working Families candidates, but for the most part the group has endorsed people running with other parties.

“Running Working Families Party candidates is really the exception and not the rule,” Dinkin said. “The core of the strategy is to do our best to help candidates, predominately Democrats, but to help candidates that are with us on core economic justice issues like affordable health care and living wage jobs.”

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