Gubernatorial Candidates: Early Look At Their Campaign Staff And Advertising


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 Robert Cyr

 Despite current statewide television advertising by gubernatorial candidates in Connecticut, none have spent any campaign funds spreading their message through Latino media, according to recent elections research. And in only one case could confirm, a candidate has hired Latinos on their campaign staff.
Washington, D.C.-based government watchdog group Sunlight Foundation has found that none of the candidates heading for August primaries for this year’s governor’s race have filed expenses for advertising with any of the major Spanish-language television stations or publications. The group studied financial declarations required by all candidates by the State Elections Enforcement Commission.
With Latinos making up almost 15 percent of the state’s population, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy has been slowly courting the Latino vote since earlier this year, when he assured a gathering of Latino politicians and residents in Bridgeport – which is one-third Hispanic – that his policies have directly benefited Latinos in the state.  Bridgeport voters helped put Malloy in office, a seat he won by less than 1 percent of the vote.
Quinnipiac University polls have Malloy and Republican Tom Foley running almost neck-in-neck to date. It’s a potential rematch for the pair, as Foley lost to Malloy by a narrow margin in 2010.
As for paid workers on the candidates’ campaign staff,  Malloy’s camp was the only one to share information.  Campaign Director Jon Blair said the small campaign  staff of 20 includes two Latinos. “As the staff grows, we will actively be seeking additional Latino staff members, and while we do not comment on campaign strategy, I will say that we have a strong commitment to engaging the Latino community as a campaign,” he said.
Malloy campaign staffer Mark Bergman said it’s still too early to make judgments of campaigns based on what they’ve done so far. “While we do not comment on campaign strategy, our paid media program has barely started.  I would not draw any conclusions about a campaign that’s been on the air for 3 days.”
Mark McNulty, Foley’s deputy campaign director, would not comment on how large the campaign staff is or how many Latinos are working on it.  “We have folks volunteering from all background and walks of life,” McNulty said. “Foley has outlined a vision that is focused on creating renewed prosperity and opportunity for all citizens, including the Latino community. Tom is committed to fixing the problems of our cities and believes the fate of our urban areas is one of the keys to economic recovery.”
Foley, a 62-year-old former U.S. ambassador to Ireland and Greenwich-based private equity manager, received his party’s endorsement earlier this year and will face state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney of Fairfield in the upcoming primary.  McKinney’s campaign did not return calls or e-mails from
Malloy faces software engineer and activist Lee Whitnum in the Democratic primary. Independent candidate and former state representative Jonathan Pelto also seemed to be more forthcoming about Latino inclusion in his campaign platform, although he emphasized he’s still pushing for the 7,500 signatures that will allow him to appear on the ballot in November.
“I assure you – we are eager and excited to do Spanish-language media and outreach,” Pelto said. “Once we are definitely qualified to be on the ballot we’ll start fundraising – and Spanish-language media will be a high priority so that we can lay out our agenda to a major initiative to expand bi-lingual and dual-language programs in our public schools and fund bi-lingual instruction assistants to ensure that every classroom with English-language learners have trained support staff to help those students who are falling beyond because of language barriers.”
In early 2013, State Secretary Denise Merrill reported more than 22,000 new Latino voters registered the previous year, a demographic that has traditionally leaned heavily toward the Democratic party. There are more than 157,000 registered voters of Hispanic origin in Connecticut, making up almost 8 percent of all registered voters in the state. Merrill estimated her figures by studying registration data from the Connecticut Centralized Voter Registration System and linking Spanish surnames from the U.S. Census bureau.
Latino voters in Connecticut are also younger than other groups, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. One-third of Latino eligible voters are between the ages of 18 to 29, similar to the share of all Latino eligible voters nationwide in that age range. By contrast, only 19 percent of all Connecticut eligible voters and 22 percent of all U.S. eligible voters are ages 18 to 29.