A day-long meeting with a somewhat wonkish agenda of promoting economic growth by “utilizing rapid iteration solutions such as 3D printing, CNC machining and computer aided casting” became an unlikely gubernatorial campaign issue Saturday over who was and wasn’t invited to the event.
Middletown Mayor Dan Drew, a declared Democratic candidate for governor who wasn’t one of the three Democrats and four Republicans invited to a discussion scheduled to close the New England Maker Summit on Nov. 17, used the snub in an emailed solicitation for contributions under the heading, “The fix is in.”
By day’s end, all seven politicians were disinvited in an email that made no mention of Drew’s complaint that he was being “blackballed” from a debate.
“The Summit schedule has been revised, therefore, and will not be including a forum with statewide candidates,” wrote Devra Lee Sisisty, an organizer of the event. “We greatly appreciate your willingness to participate, and hope that this change does not inconvenience you. Ideas and policy proposals on the Maker Ecosystem, from each and every candidate, continue to be welcome and important additions to the public policy conversation throughout the coming year and beyond.”
A press release promoting the event highlighted the keynote speakers, the editor-in-chief of Popular Mechanics and the executive director of the Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence at the United Technologies Research Center.
“In addition,” the release said, “the Summit will feature a panel of candidates for statewide elected office discussing ways that state government can support the community as an economic engine.”
Drew said a debate involving politicians from both parties would have been unusual. More conventional are two separate events scheduled for December, one for Democrats and another for Republicans. They will be the first opportunity for political activists to see the candidates and potential candidates side by side.
Whether it was a panel discussion or a debate, Drew said, he was justified in publicizing the snub by the technology group. He said his campaign called to ask if he could participate and was told there was room for seven, not eight.
“Whatever it is,” Drew said, “they won’t let me in.”
Drew said he was especially annoyed because he is the only declared Democratic candidate raising money and otherwise campaigning for governor. The three Democrats invited — former state Sen. Jonathan Harris of West Hartford, former Democratic state Vice Chair Dita Bhargava of Greenwich and former federal prosecutor Chris Mattei of Hartford — have exploratory campaign committees.
Bernard Kavaler, a spokesman for the Maker Event, did not directly respond to Drew’s questions about how the politicians were selected for participation or why they declined to add an eighth chair.
“Summit organizers are interested solely in shining a light on the Maker Ecosystem and individuals and communities whose initiative and innovation can lead to new products and businesses,” Kavaler said in an emailed statement. “All candidates are urged to engage with the Maker community, share their views widely with residents of Connecticut and support one another in an effort to focus on creating a positive and dynamic business and economic environment.”
The Republicans invited were two declared candidates, Rep. Prasad Srinivasan of Glastonbury and First Selectman Tim Herbst of Trumbull, and two with exploratory committees, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and Sen. Toni Boucher of Wilton.
Bhargava, Drew, Harris, Mattei and a fifth Democrat exploring a run for governor, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, are scheduled to attend the “People’s Symposium” in New Haven on Dec. 2. It is sponsored by a long list of labor and progressive groups.
A Republican forum is tentatively scheduled for later in December. No details have yet been posted on the Connecticut GOP web site.