This weekend, Connecticut Democrats will convene to nominate Gov. Ned Lamont, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, Attorney General William Tong and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal by acclamation, and to choose our nominees for the open seats for Comptroller, Treasurer, and Secretary of the State.
Having three open seats is unusual for the Democratic ticket. The most hotly contested is the race for Secretary of the State.
When the convention starts Friday, the party Rules Committee will meet to adopt the order of nominations for these positions. The current plan being floated by party leaders is for the most competitive races to go last.
Today, I am calling on the party to change this plan so the votes for the most competitive and open positions go first.
Delegates should vote for the open Secretary of the State, Treasurer and Comptroller nominations first on Saturday morning and will encourage robust debate as we decide who to support for these crucial offices.
First among these is Secretary of the State. Incumbent Denise Merrill announced her retirement months ago. The impressive field of candidates to replace her includes one state senator, three state representatives, and New Haven’s health director. All are serious people.
The Secretary of the State is our chief elections officer, overseeing fair conduct of elections and advocating for citizens to have full voting rights and the opportunity to use their voice.
This is particularly vital now. Connecticut ranks near the bottom of states — right alongside Alabama, Mississippi and Texas — when it comes to ease of exercising our right to vote.
Why is it harder to register to vote here than it is in Republican Florida? Why is it harder to vote by mail here than it is in Republican Ohio?
That’s what the next Secretary of the State must do – enable more Connecticut residents to vote more easily. That will be her or his mission. Connecticut should lead on voting rights.
So you may wonder why the Democratic party leaders decided to make this nomination dead last, long after the other convention business is finished and major speeches given, after many of the delegates will have gone home. It’s possible that the Democratic nominee might even be chosen by a minority of party delegates.
Why did the party leaders do this? Even though they are well-intentioned, there is a better way.
For decades, Connecticut Democrats have run an inclusive process which sought to have nominees appeal to our diverse constituencies. In many ways, this “ticket balancing” has worked.
Now, party leaders are thinking about the frustration that many Latino Democrats feel. We have no Latino statewide elected officials and very few state commissioners and people are asking why. I share this frustration.
In the Secretary of the State’s race, there are two Latina candidates. By making this nomination last, and with no Latino candidates currently running for the open Comptroller or Treasurer nominations, party leaders may think delegates will feel compelled to choose one of them for Secretary of the State.
I support a better plan for nominations, one which puts all of the votes for the open seats at the beginning of the convention to encourage full participation by delegates.
In this plan, the Secretary of the State nomination will be held first, while delegates will be highly engaged. It is the most competitive contest, with a legitimate shot to have a five-person field in the primary. Three of the five candidates, all of whom are exceptional people, are people of color, who would represent the party well in November.
Second, we should nominate our candidate for Treasurer. Again, all three candidates are talented and powerful leaders. All three are people of color.
Third, the party should choose its candidate for the Comptroller position. At this point if it seems the ticket might be out of balance, the delegates can use this opportunity to pick a nominee who balances the ticket.
One option would be for a candidate for Secretary of the State or Treasurer who didn’t come in first to receive this nomination instead of pursuing a primary, which would also be good for party unity.
Finally, under this plan, the convention will close with the uncontested nominations for attorney general, lieutenant governor and governor by acclamation, and in recognition of the leadership all three have shown in these trying years.
This plan makes more sense and is frankly more democratic than the current plan being put forth. More delegates will vote. The debate will be richer. Candidates will be heard.
That is what the Democratic party is all about and it’s good for Connecticut.
Eva Bermúdez Zimmerman is a delegate for Matt Lesser to the Democratic State Convention.