Bll Sarno CTLatinoNews.com
No one seems to know the person’s identity, but an anonymous political cartoonist is spicing up Hartford’s hotly contested mayoral race on social media. Calling it a “satirists dream come true”, it has Latino community leaders admitting the cartoons, which poke fun at the city’s mayoral candidates, are funny, but also present image challenges which campaign leaders may think need to be countered.
The cartoonist has indicated through Facebook Messenger to CTLatinoNews.com, that they are Hispanic and prefer to remain anonymous, saying, “It does not matter who I am. What matters is people are thinking for a change, are debating for a change.” Moreover, the cartoonist said, “People are enjoying the cartoon and actually having a giggle.”
One of the prime targets has been how the mayoral hopefuls are courting the Hispanic vote, a necessity in a city with a large Spanish-speaking population. The first cartoon, and one of the sharpest barbs, appeared this past Saturday initially on the cartoonist’s Facebook profile, SOSO Campaign, and then on the more widely viewed CT Latinos Unidos page on the social networking site.
The unsigned cartoon is captioned: “Just saying, everyone talks about the “Latino” vote and yet have no paid staff on their campaign teams….” The artwork depicts a dark-skinned man named Soso with his feet on a desk, holding a cell phone to his ear while chatting with a blonde-haired woman wearing dark glasses and a Hillary Clinton-type pants suit who is perched on the front of the desk. “Cindy, where are the Latino’s (sic) in our staff?” Soso asks. Cindy replies with a smile, “No habla Espanol!”
The cartoonist questioned why anyone would be worked up by this cartoon, which quickly spread through the Latino community over the weekend. Meanwhile, SOSO Campaign, which on Monday morning only had three “friends” on Facebook, had more than 115 by Tuesday evening.
Other cartoons followed, including one dubbed “Courting the Latino Voter” that placed a photo of Luke Bronin, one of three candidates seeking to wrest the Democratic nomination from incumbent Pedro Segarra, standing in from of a drawing of Hispanic restaurant on Park Street and saying, “I like these rice and beans, more and more … ”
Bronin has said he has eaten at this restaurant several times because he likes the food and it is close to his home.
On Tuesday, a cartoon was posted pairing the image of the character Soso, who wears a red tie, with a photo of unaffiliated candidate Joel Cruz who wears a purple bowtie. So far, the cartoonist’s identity has remained under wraps. What he reveals on Facebook includes that he is a male born Sept. 15, 1965, a graduate of Bulkeley High School in Hartford and that he left his job at Political and Social Satire. He also said on Facebook, “I will cover as many candidates as possible in a humorous entertaining way … .” The name Soso, he said, in English could refer to a “so-so” campaign. “In the Puerto Rican culture,” he said, “it also means something without seasoning” such as “estas habichuelas estas sosas ….”
There is a notation at the bottom of each cartoon that the characters are fictitious. Shelly Sindland, who is spokesperson for the re-election campaign of Mayor Pedro Segarra, “guessed” Saturday that she might be “Cindy,” However, the blonde-haired Norwegian-American, a Hartford native, noted the character is wearing a pantsuit, something she would never do.
As for the suggestion in the cartoon, that campaigns lack Hispanics on their paid staff, Sindland said, that for the Segarra campaign, “It is entirely not true” and noted that former state Rep. Evelyn Mantilla has been part of the senior core staff for some time. By Monday night, Sindland had gathered details about Segarra’s team. Of 11 paid staffers, she said, five are Latinos. In addition, prominent Hispanics such as the mayor’s chief of staff Juan Figueroa and TV host Joyce Bolanos, have had temporary paid roles in the campaign.
Luke Bronin’s campaign referred an inquiry about Latino staffing to Andrew Doba of the communications and media strategy firm Stu Loeser & Co., in Stamford. Doba, like Bronin, is a former member of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administration, having served as communications director while the candidate was chief counsel. On Tuesday, Doba reported that Bronin said, “To this point, we have been very disciplined and are just now starting to staff up our campaign. We’re building a broad and inclusive campaign that reflects the cultural diversity of Hartford.”
For Cruz, the question of Hispanic paid staff was easily answered. The city council member who is running unaffiliated, said that
the only two people on his campaign payroll are Latinos who are affiliated with the Hartford public relations firm, The Latino Way. Cruz, whose parents are from Puerto Rico, said that he “he would hate to think anyone would use this (ethnicity) as a basis for supporting something.”
The fifth announced candidate is former Probate Judge Robert Killian Jr. who said that he had seen the Soso cartoons on his Facebook. With much less funding than Bronin or Segarra, he only has a paid campaign manager who is not Hispanic, he said.
However, Killian noted that he had a strong record of hiring Latinos and other minorities when he administered the probate court and the 22-person staff included 11 Latinos and a half dozen African Americans. He also said he made sure to have several bilingual people available to meet people as they came to his office.
Gale’s campaign manager Gerald Lentini said he would be checking with the candidate for information about campaign staffing.
The cartoonist lists two “Likes” on Facebook, John Gale 2015 and the Hartford Yard Goats.
He also suggests that more cartoons will be coming, “I find this particular campaign rich in satirical material,” he said,