Hillary Clinton has received the national Working Families Party (WFP) endorsement, but in Connecticut this mostly amounts to a slap at her Republican opponent Donald Trump. Locally the third-party’s energy and grassroots mobilization forte will focus on state and local candidates and legislation to help the state’s Latino population.
The WFP’s priorities include a higher minimum wage, student debt relief and paid family leave, which are concerns “central to the Latino experience,” said Carlos Moreno, communications director for the Connecticut Working Families Party. Many of the state’s half million Latinos do not earn a livable wage, but are “so critical to building the state’s economy,” he said.
Among the candidates who stand to gain from the WFP’s “from the ground up” strategy include Latinos such as Rep. Robert Sanchez of New Britain (District 25) and Eva Bermudez-Zimmerman, who is running for the state House in Newtown (District 106), and several incumbent state senators whose districts include large Latino populations. All are Democrats.
For Sanchez, this WFP endorsement extends the support he received two years ago. “I will be on Row C in addition to the Democratic line,” he said, and the two tallies will be added together on Election Day.
As for the presidential election, the New Britain legislator, like many WFP members, is more concerned with stopping Trump than embracing the former secretary of state’s candidacy.
Clinton will not appear on the Working Family Party’s line for president in Connecticut and chapter members do not plan to actively campaign for the former secretary of state, However, they are “fully committed” to defeating Trump in November, said Moreno.
This labor-community activist coalition had backed Sen. Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination, but in August nearly two-thirds of its members voted to endorse Clinton in the November election.
“The change we need next year starts with electing Secretary Clinton, but it doesn’t end there,” said WFP National Director Dan Cantor in an endorsement announcement that transmitted in both English and Spanish. “We know we won’t always agree, and we’re ready to work hard to press her to deliver on the economic, environmental and racial justice promises she made during the campaign.”
However, in Connecticut, Moreno said, “the full resources of CT WFP will be devoted to recruiting progressive candidates that prioritize and protect the rights of half-a-million Connecticut Latinos, many of whom earn unlivable wages, but who are so critical to building the state’s economy at a time when Hartford legislators can’t seem to move our economy forward.”
The Connecticut WFP recently launched an initiative seeking to have Governor Dannel Malloy support the “Wal-Mart Bill,” which would require companies with over 500 employees, such as the retail giant and McDonald’s, to pay a fee to the state for employing people for less than $15 an hour. The impetus for this legislation, WFP said, is that these corporations are steering low-paid workers into public aid programs, which essentially amount to having taxpayers subsidize private businesses.
The party’s push for pro-worker legislation, including the $15 per hour minimum wage, was encouraged up by its successes in the August 9 Democratic primary in which all five WFP-endorsed candidates won, some defeating opponents who had the endorsement of the local Democratic organizations.
“Now, looking towards the general election, CT WFP is working within the Latino community to find hardworking, progressive candidates who can stand up to Democrats on behalf of workers,” Moreno said.
Two of the party’s biggest successes were in the Bridgeport Democratic primary where incumbent state Senators Marilyn Moore (District 22) and Ed Gomes (District 23) trounce challengers endorsed by the local Democratic machines. In November, both Bridgeport candidates will appear on the Working Family Party’s line, Moreno said.
The WFP also help secure places on the November ballot for incumbent state Sen. Terry Gerratana of New Britain (District 6), Michael DiMassa of North Haven who defeated incumbent state Rep. Lou Esposito (District 116) and Joshua Elliott who won the state House (District 88) nomination in Hamden.
In Bridgeport, the WFP already had a history of political influence and was able to utilize its grassroots resources in behalf of Moore and Gomes. The latter won a special election last year running solely as a WFP candidate.
The 18-year-old third party also has been successful in electing members to the Hartford city council during the last two election, outpolling the Republican slate for all the minority seats in the largely Democratic city.
Last year, Wildaliz Bermudez was elected to the Hartford city council running exclusively under the Working Family Party banner. She does not have to seek election for three years but plans to work in behalf of WFP candidates at the state and local level. Sometimes this involves endorsing Democratic candidates, she said, citing Moore and Gomes as examples, but declined to state her choice for president.
Another Democratic candidate Bermudez definitely will be campaigning for is her sister, Eva Bermudez-Zimmerman, who won the endorsement of the local Democratic Committee to run for state representative in District 40, which covers Newtown.
State Rep. Edwin Vargas of Hartford (District 6) also is expected to receive the WFP endorsement. He has a long history of support of pro-labor measures and both Bermudez sisters have worked on his Hartford campaigns.
Vargas is among the progressive Latino state and municipal candidates, that according to Moreno, the Connecticut Working Families Party, known in Spanish as El Partido de Familias Trabajadoras, works hard to train and elect. Others include Eva Bermudez-Zimmerman, Sanchez, Bermudez and Norwalk City Councilor Eloisa Melendez.
Melendez, who received WFP backing for her re-election last year, went on to serve as a Sanders delegate at the Democratic National Convention.
Currently, WFP activity is concentrated in the Northeast and the Midwest as well as Oregon and Nevada, but it has been active in several states, including South Carolina and California.
The party takes advantage of fusion or cross-endorsement voting which allows minor parties to have their own lines on the ballot while supporting another party’s candidates. In most cases, WFP endorses Democrats such as Governor Malloy, Senator Chris Murphy and Rep. Jim Himes in Connecticut.
The Connecticut WTP’s offices are on Arbor Street, in the same building as the Connecticut Democrats, and its state director is Lindsay Farrell.