Delegate choice puts political map in focus
Before they can be wooed, flipped or, in some cases, strong-armed, they must be anointed.
The selection of delegates to both upcoming state party conventions -- a crucible for those with aspirations for governor on down the ticket, as well as for Congress -- is underway in local Republican and Democratic committees across Connecticut.
Both parties have until Wednesday to certify their lists of delegates, whose ranks are dominated by political operatives and elected officials with regional predispositions toward certain candidates, or, in the case of ruling Democrats, incumbents.
Not that some candidates -- resorting to catered delegate receptions, recruiting phone calls and even political contributions to town parties -- won't try to poach from their rivals.
"Everybody tries to flip people. That's the name of the game," said Art Mannion, one of two Republican State Central Committee members for Danbury, Bethel, New Fairfield and Sherman.
The other is Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who Mannion is supporting for governor and said is best qualified to lead the state.
Danbury will send 18 delegates to the state GOP convention, which will be held May 16-17 at the Mohegan Sun casino. The city's delegate allotment is the third-highest of any municipality, but trails Greenwich (22) and Stamford (19).
Greenwich is the hometown of Tom Foley, who a March 4 Quinnipiac University poll showed running neck-and-neck with Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in a rematch of their 2010 contest that was decided by less than 1 percent of the vote.
On Wednesday, the Greenwich Republican Town Committee is scheduled to ratify its complement of delegates, who Selectman David Theis said is leaning heavily toward Foley after hearing from the favorite in late February.
"I have to say what I saw was a new and improved Tom Foley, much more energetic and impassioned," said Theis, who supported then-Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele over Foley in a bitter GOP primary for governor four years ago.
Theis said there has been little to no attempt by the other GOP candidates for governor to siphon off presumptive delegates from Greenwich.
"I've been surprised at the relative calmness of it all," Theis said. "Perhaps because it is because everybody is ceding the nomination to Tom."
A majority of the 1,250 to 1,300 delegates is required to capture the GOP endorsement for statewide office at the convention. Candidates mustering 15 percent of the vote are automatically placed on the August primary ballot.
Fairfield, the hometown of state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, who ran third to Foley and Boughton among GOP primary voters in the latest Quinnipiac Poll, will send 17 delegates to the GOP convention, the fourth most of any municipality.
McKinney and Foley both hail from the 4th Congressional District, which counts for 185 delegates, the second fewest of the state's five House districts.
The 2nd Congressional District, which covers a vast swath of eastern Connecticut, commands the most delegates with 301. It was with that in mind that Boughton drafted Heather Bond Somers, the former Groton mayor and a town councilor, to be his running mate. Just two of the district's 64 municipalities have 10 or more delegates.
"You can pick up a lot of votes in (groups of) 3s and 4s," Mannion said, alluding to Boughton's likely small ball strategy.
In contrast to the arithmetic going on within the GOP, Democrats are expected to re-nominate Malloy and the state's five other constitutional officers by voice acclamation during the party's May 16 convention in Hartford. A town-by-town breakdown of Democratic delegates, which will total 1,811, was not available from the state party.
Bridgeport, part of an urban stronghold that helped put Malloy over the top in 2010, will send 81 delegates and super delegates to the convention. There is a novelty for some of them, said Mario Testa, the city's recently re-elected Democratic Party boss.
"The new members are very excited," Testa said.
For old timers, not so much.
"There's no competition," Testa said.
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