Kavanaugh case partisanship and rage permeates state politics

The extent of the bitterness, frustration, anger and hyper-partisanship that has crystallized around the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court was on full display last week when a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and vote on the matter riveted home and workplace TV viewers all over the country.

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat and committee member, was in the thick of it; and his effort to have Kavanaugh drinking buddy Mark Judge subpoenaed before the committee failed on a party line vote. Blumenthal unsuccessfully demanded, as well, that President Donald Trump direct there be an FBI investigation or withdraw Kavanaugh’s nomination. However, in response to Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake — and under pressure from the American Bar Association, the dean of the Yale School of Law and others —  the committee later informally agreed to a limited inquiry of one week.

(That might have been some consolation for Blumenthal, but maybe not as much as a federal court’s ruling Friday that his suit could go forward charging Trump with violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution.)

C-Span

Sen. Richard Blumenthal at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

The differences in senators’ outlook toward Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who is accusing him of sexual assault,  reverberated all over the nation, including into Connecticut politics.

On the same day as the Kavanaugh hearing, for example, Democrats made a point of highlighting Republican lieutenant governor candidate Joe Markley’s social conservatism and opposition to a state Senate bill that addresses college-campus sexual assault.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski, a former payday loan company executive who is working to unify fellow Connecticut Republican leaders behind him, has so far avoided the issue, while Democratic opponent Ned Lamont has seized on it, as has his running mate Susan Bysiewicz. On Friday the Democrats challenged Stefanowski to take a position on that issue.

The Connecticut State Police Union has backed Lamont, citing Stefanowski’s potential damage to its members’ wages and benefits. In a debate last Wednesday, Stefanowski declined to comment on the Kavanaugh matter, while independent candidate Oz Griebel said he believed “the women that have come forward need to be heard.”

Of course the #MeToo issue is not the only one confronting the candidates, as evidenced by U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy’s initiative to unite gun-control advocates in a fundraiser to oppose NRA-backed Republican incumbents.

Some issues, on the other hand, involve the performance of state government rather than the politics of its leaders. Last week two investigations – one conducted by the state Office of the Child Advocate and the other by an outside consultant – uncovered a pattern of systemic problems at the Albert J. Solnit Children’s Center that were kept from public view, including and seven attempted suicides by the female juveniles held there.

Keith M. Phaneuf / CTMirror.org

Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, and deputy commissioner Bart Kollen, testify Monday before three legislative committees.

At a public hearing Wednesday, Joette Katz, Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, told legislators her agency would be more transparent about informing other offices about such problems.

Members of the Connecticut Health IT Advisory Council were similarly distressed when they learned at a hearing that the Department of Social Services has been working independently of them to create a statewide health information exchange. Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith, meanwhile, also complained of a need for better information.

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