New Britain Republican Says Party Needs To Revamp State Ticket

Bill Sarno/
Carmelo Rodriguez, a New Britain Latino leader and longtime Republican activist, was both “very disappointed” and felt “hopeless,” when he returned home late Saturday night having served as one of his hometown’s delegates to the state Republican convention held at Foxwoods.

The New Britain resident said Republicans in Connecticut showed they “do not have a clue about the real issues” and their outreach to the inner cities is very poor. “I only saw about five Hispanics and three African Americans,” said Rodriguez, who is of Puerto Rican descent.

Rodriguez was particularly discouraged that his party had shunted aside his choice, 31-year-old New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, in favor of nominating state Rep. Joseph Markley of Southington to run for lieutenant governor with gubernatorial hopeful Mark Boughton, the mayor of Danbury, a team who the New Britain resident says lacks balance and diversity.
“Without Erin, Republicans have little hope of winning in November,” Rodriguez said, because they do not have a candireflects the inner city or who is able to reach out to younger voters.
Still, Rodriguez remains “excited” that the party’s rank and file might do what its “establishment” did not, and nominate Stewart at the August primary. Both the New Britain mayor and Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson drew enough convention votes to qualify for a primary race against Markley, a 61-year-old former state senator.
Similarly, the party’s choice for governor also should be revamped, said Rodriguez, who favors Trumbull First Selection Tim Herbst in what is shaping up as a six-way primary race. “He and Erin would a good team,” he said.
One of Stewart’s strongest assets, according to her New Britain ally, “is that she would bring some hope for improvement to the state as she did for New Britain.” He also praised her ability to appeal to a broader constituency. He noted that registration in his home town is about seven to one, but that Stewart has won three elections.
“I got a call from a friend who said he would switch from Democrat to Republican just to vote for Erin,” Rodriguez said Monday.
Stewart’s candidacy was somewhat hampered by her dropping her two-month-old gubernatorial candidacy on Friday morning in favor of running for the number two slot on the statewide ticket.
Moreover, Rodriguez observed that being from a city might have hurt Stewart at the convention. He said the party tends to be divided between the east and west sides of the state, and urban versus suburban.
Rodriguez, who was elected by the Republican Town Committee to serve as a delegate, as he was four years ago, had his moment in the spotlight. He got to speak in favor of Ruby O’Neill, a Latina from Southbury who wants to run for the Fifth Congressional District. This seat is now held by Democrat Elizabeth Esty, who has declined to seek re-election in the wake of an uproar about her staff oversight.
The Republican nomination went to former Meriden Mayor Manny Santos, but Rodriguez thinks O’Neill could do well in the primary. He noted that Santos has not done well recently in Meriden and could not get elected to the council.
While Rodriguez said he “had a blast with my NB delegates,” he would not characterize the convention as a fun weekend. He saw too much of what he called the “dirty part of politics,” particularly the backroom negotiations for votes. “You think you have an alliance, but when they call out the vote, you say, ‘what just happened,’” he said.
However, he noted that the New Britain delegation stuck with Stewart the whole way. “I am really proud to represent New Britain and Team Stewart,” he said in a post-convention email.
Rodriguez said Stewart is “enthusiastic” about her chances. “it is now time for “people like myself to pound the streets in her behalf,” he said