U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal accepted the state Democratic party nomination on Friday May 6, 2022. Andrew Brown / CT Mirror

Connecticut Democrats kicked off their state convention Friday night by cementing one of the top spots on their 2022 ticket and making the argument for why the party should maintain its stranglehold on the state’s Congressional and statewide elected offices. 

The delegates who were in attendance at the Xfinity Theater in Hartford made quick work Friday night of endorsing Sen. Richard Blumenthal as he prepares to run for his third term in the U.S. Senate. 

Fellow Senator Chris Murphy nominated his senior colleague, casting Blumenthal as someone who would fight for the party’s platform and ideals. 

“Right now, we are in a fight. We are in a fight for democracy … There is one person that I know that wakes up every single day itching to be in the middle of a righteous fight, and that person is my friend Dick Blumenthal.” 

Before the crowd of roughly 2,000 delegates, Hartford delegate Ayesha Clarke and House Majority Leader Jason Rojas seconded the nomination, holding up Blumenthal — and the state’s Democratic party as a whole — as a bulwark against policies and decisions that would seek to strip individuals of their right to an abortion or block people from accessing the ballot box. 

The nomination was confirmed with a resounding chorus of “aye” before Blumenthal took the stage to Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” 

The senator’s acceptance speech sought to convey a sense of urgency. Citing the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, Blumenthal argued that the Republican party is a threat to Democracy and some of the most basic rights of Americans. 

“We are in a break-the-glass moment in this Democracy,” Blumenthal said. “And we need to stand up to the Trump Republicans, to special interests, to anyone who would put us back in time on worker’s rights, women’s rights, civil rights and liberties. It is the fight of our lifetime.” 

After two years of battling a global pandemic and a corresponding recession, several speakers made the case that it was Democratic policies that helped Connecticut and the country to recover from the crisis. 

Blumenthal emphasized the billions of dollars in federal assistance that he and the other members of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation helped secure for families, businesses and local governments to carry them through the public health crisis. 

Richard Blumenthal and his wife Cynthia on stage at the Xfinity Theater in Hartford Andrew Brown

That support, he said, has continued under the recent federal infrastructure bill that is providing even more money for transportation and environmental projects in Connecticut.

“We’ve begun what we need to do on rebuilding our roads and bridges and rail and broadband,” Blumenthal said. 

Some delegates said they think the party needs to be doing a better job of communicating those victories.

Democrats “don’t do a good enough job telling how well the state is doing,” said Will Farmer, a delegate from Stratford. “What brings me out is hopefully some of the candidates will inspire me with more than just lip service.”

“I think they need to explain a little more as to where we are, where we’ve come from, so that people understand it — voters’ rights, women’s rights,” said Maryann Levesque, a delegate and town council member from Vernon.

Levesque said she remembers what it was like for women before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, when many sought out illegal and dangerous procedures to end a pregnancy.

“I remember the back door. No, a woman can’t survive like that. And if they take the right to your body away, what’s next?”

That sentiment was expressed by many of the delegates and speakers Friday night.

It was clear from the start that the state Democratic party is eager to emphasize reproductive rights, given the news earlier this week that the U.S. Supreme Court could be on the cusp of overturning the nearly 50-year-old legal precedent that legalized abortion. 

“Abortion will be on the ballot this November,” Nancy DiNardo, Connecticut’s Democratic chairwoman, announced to a round of applause. “And we will fight for candidates at every level of government who will make women’s reproductive rights a priority.” 

Delegates also expressed concern over voting rights — as evidenced by the crowded field for Secretary of the State and the energy around that race.

“Nationwide, the Republicans are trying to steal the ballot, that’s my opinion. And that’s the reason why everyone and their brother in every state in the union — including Connecticut — wants to run for Secretary of State,” said Steven Alexander, a delegate from Wallingford. “Either you want to suppress voting if you’re a Republican, or you want to expand voting if you’re a Democrat.”

Hyacinth Yennie, a delegate from Hartford, said, “When it comes to Secretary of State, we want to make sure our democracy stays intact. We want to make sure everyone has a right to vote. We want to make sure we have polling places that will open and stuff like that.”

Yennie said she is concerned about what’s happening beyond Connecticut’s borders.

“Look at all those states gerrymandering and preventing people, taking people off the voters list. That is downright disgraceful. We don’t want that to happen in Connecticut.”

Blumenthal concluded his acceptance speech with a rousing call on the party to mobilize voters in every race, from the U.S. Senate to their local legislative districts.

“This November, we’re going to send a message. We are going to elect Democrats up and down the ballot, we’re going to win for America,” he said.

Andrew joined CT Mirror as an investigative reporter in July 2021. Prior to moving to Connecticut, Andrew was a reporter at newspapers in North Dakota, West Virginia and most recently South Carolina. He’s covered business, utilities, environmental issues, the opioid crisis, local government and two state legislatures. Do you have a story tip? Reach Andrew at 843-592-9958

Erica covers economic development for CT Mirror. Before moving to Connecticut to join the staff she worked in Los Angeles for public radio’s Marketplace and, before that, for the Wall Street Journal's L.A. bureau. She grew up in Minneapolis, MN, graduated from Haverford College and earned a master’s in journalism from the University of Southern California.