In an early stumble in his campaign for governor, Middletown Mayor Dan Drew admitted “an error in judgment” Thursday and apologized to city employees for obtaining a residential mailing list from the city that his campaign used to solicit contributions.
Drew, 37, a declared candidate for the open Democratic nomination in 2018, promised refunds of any contributions from city employees since the solicitation to the homes of municipal workers, including police officers whose home addresses were not public information.
“I apologize for the letter you received over the weekend from my campaign,” Drew said in his new letter. “It was an error in judgment, and it should not have been sent. I had requested a list from HR. It was used to make mailing labels and then was destroyed. The information was not retained in any database. It was an error in judgment and I apologize.”
Drew’s solicitation, which was first reported by the Middletown Press, drew criticism from Chris Mattei, a former federal prosecutor in public corruption cases who is exploring a run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
“What Dan Drew did was wrong – plain and simple,” Mattei said. “As the elected mayor of Middletown, he used the authority of his office to obtain the confidential information of his subordinates, and then used that authority and information to urge city workers to give money to his campaign. It’s not unreasonable for those workers to think that they now have to donate to his campaign in order to continue or advance their careers.”
Mattei, who is considering his first run for elective office, used Drew’s campaign solicitations to suggest that the young mayor is the worst kind of old-school politician.
“The question for Connecticut is whether we will finally choose a new kind of politics for our state,” Mattei said in an emailed statement. “A politics free from shakedowns, insider deals and cynicism. I will leave the legal determinations to the Middletown Council Clerk and State Elections Enforcement Commission, but we don’t need to know whether something is illegal to know that it is wrong.”
Told of Drew’s apology and promised refunds, Mattei said, “I think it’s the right thing to do. I don’t know why this wasn’t his initial reaction when this came out yesterday.”
In a telephone interview, Drew declined to respond to Mattei. Instead, he provided a copy of his new letter to employees.
“That letter says it all,” Drew said.
He told employees he would never coerce them.
“Serving as your mayor is a wonderful experience every day, and I am proud of the work you do for the City of Middletown,” Drew wrote. “I would not ever want for you or anyone else to believe the letter was meant to coerce anyone. I respect the work you do far too greatly for that to be permitted. I am refunding any contributions received from city personnel since the letter was sent.”
Drew is participating in the state’s voluntary system of publicly financed campaigns in which he is limited to maximum contributions of $100 as he tries to reach the qualifying threshold of $250,000 for a public grant.
The solicitation is not the first time he has mingled city business and politics. He recently placed his former campaign consultant, Geof Luxenberg, on the city payroll as his chief of staff.