The Democratic race for comptroller continued along its rocky path Friday, with Waterbury Mayor Mike Jarjura on the receiving end of three hits.

First, a YouTube video surfaced of the Democrat speaking at a Tea Party rally.

“We needed a spark, and you’re the spark that is going to be the change. So don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged because this country is worth fighting for and you’re fighting for it,” Jarjura said at the rally in Waterbury last September.

Jarjura, a Democrat, defended his attendance at the ultra-conservative rally Friday.

“I was there at the request of Waterbury citizens. I wasn’t there to advocate for any political group,” he said. “Every one is trying to do a ‘gotcha’ in these campaigns and manipulate things to something you don’t even represent.”

Kevin Lembo, his Democratic opponent in the Aug. 10 primary, didn’t buy it.

“It’s an odd choice for a Democratic mayor to be attending a Tea Party rally,” he said.

The second blow to Jarjura’s campaign was the Waterbury teachers union endorsing Lembo, following the lead one week ago of the local police union.

Jarjura’s response: it’s backlash from the tough contract negotiations between the city and the unions as a result of the tight economy.

“As mayor, I can only put on the table bargaining proposals that are sustainable,” he said. “I imagine they are taking out their aggravation and pettiness on my campaign. They have never been involved in the comptroller’s race before.”

Finally, Lembo launched a television advertisement attacking Jarjura for hiring former Gov. John Rowland, a Republican forced to resign by a corruption scandal.

“Jarjura hired Rowland to a $100,000 dollar a year job after he got out of prison — calling him the best governor Connecticut has ever had,” the 30-second advertisement says.

Jarjura said Rowland was hired by the city’s chamber of commerce, not him. But he did acknowledge signing off on Rowland’s being offered the job, which was partially funded by the city

“Knowing that it would become an issue, they asked me,” Jarjura said. “I did say, ‘Go ahead hire him.’”

Lembo said Jarjura is “trying to run away” from his involvement in Rowland’s hiring.

Jarjura said instead of focusing on “trivial” things like his attendance at a Tea Party rally, the campaign should focus on talking about the issues during a one-on-one debate.

He criticized Lembo for backing out of a joint appearance schedule for Thursday on the Larry Rifkin radio show in Waterbury.

But Lembo said the possibility of a substantive debate was precluded by Jarjura’s tactics, including mailings last week touting his negative web site, called Lembo Lies, and a lawsuit attempting to block Lembo’s ability to spend public financing money.

“He decided he would take this down to the sixth grade level,” Lembo said.

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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