Dita Bhargava, one of three Democrats competing for state treasurer in a sleepy midsummer primary, made a grab for voter attention Tuesday with a television commercial asserting the next treasurer can play a role fighting the loss of reproductive rights after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
The ad now airing opens with a tight shot of a bare-shouldered Bhargava, followed by a quick succession of other women who stare wordlessly into the camera, their bare shoulders suggesting a naked vulnerability as the candidate narrates:
“This is who had freedom over their own bodies stripped away. This is who the Supreme Court left completely vulnerable. As Democrats, we need to fight harder. So I’ll lead the crusade for our right to choose as state treasurer. We’ll push companies that we invest in to guarantee employees access to safe abortions. This is who’s fighting back and why we need more women in office.”
The ad is titled, “Stripped Away.”
With the first television ad, Bhargava is pressing the advantage of being the first of the three Democrats to qualify for and receive public financing available to candidates who participate in the state’s voluntary Citizens’ Election Program. Erick Russell, the convention-endorsed candidate, and the other challenger, Karen Dubois-Walton, also have applied for public financing.
“People might ask why a candidate for state treasurer is focused on this issue. It’s a fair question,” Bhargava said in a written statement. “I’m focused on it because the state treasurer has the power to affect corporate behavior by the investments it makes. Or doesn’t make. And I promise you, when I’m treasurer, this state will not invest in companies that do not support a woman’s right to a safe, legal abortion.”
The state treasurer is the sole trustee of Connecticut’s retirement funds, a portfolio valued at about $47 billion last spring.
As such, the treasurer historically has used the investments as instruments of social activism, including divesting from companies doing business in South Africa during apartheid and, more recently, from Russian assets to protest the invasion of Ukraine.
Russell has promised to divest from gun manufacturers, move away from fossil fuels, promote fair labor practices and oppose excessive executive compensation. Dubois-Walton says one of her priorities is to “stimulate equitable growth.”
The public financing grant for a qualified candidate in a primary for treasurer is $484,125. To qualify, Bhargava had to agree to spending limits and raise $86,600 in increments ranging from $5 to $290, mostly from in-state donors.
The applications of Russell and Dubois-Walton will be considered once their qualifying donations are vetted by the State Elections Enforcement Commission
Russell’s application is on the commission’s agenda for Wednesday.
Connecticut’s primary day is August 9. Republicans have statewide primaries for U.S. Senate and secretary of the state. Democrats have primaries for treasurer and secretary of the state.
Treasurer Shawn T. Wooden, a Democrat, is not seeking reelection. Harry Arora, the Republican nominee, has no primary and already has qualified for his public grant.