Stamford rep shifts parties to challenge Blumenthal son
STAMFORD — A Democratic city representative who says his party pushed him out of the race for a state House of Representatives seat — supporting instead a U.S. senator’s son new to the district — is now a Republican.
Anzelmo Graziosi, 46, said he switched parties out of frustration with Democrats, though he’s been one for 25 years.
“One reason I became a Democrat was I grew up on Long Island, where the Republicans were a political machine that ran Nassau County into the ground. The state had to take over fiscal management,” said Graziosi, an attorney. “I came to Stamford and saw that Democrats have control. I think there’s an arrogance when any one party dominates.”
The consequences became clear after he filed papers in February to run for the District 147 seat, Graziosi said. A month later, 32-year-old Matt Blumenthal, son of U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal — a stalwart of state politics — filed his papers. The younger Blumenthal had moved to District 147 a few weeks earlier.
Immediately city Democrats stopped returning his calls, Graziosi said. In May the party endorsed Blumenthal and didn’t give Graziosi enough votes to force a primary.
“No one else had a chance, and the people didn’t get to choose in a primary,” said Graziosi, who represents District 13 on the Stamford Board of Representatives. “I’m a father of five kids in public schools, working and paying my taxes, like my constituents, and I was bullied out. It’s politics as usual. Like most people, I’m fed up.”
Democratic City Committee Chairman Josh Fedeli said the party decided Blumenthal, an attorney who served in Afghanistan as a platoon commander with the Marine Corps Reserve, was the better candidate.
“The 147th is an extremely important race this November, so it is no surprise that the local Republican Party, which was unable to recruit a viable candidate for the race, has chosen to endorse a Democratic castoff,” Fedeli said. “It’s further evidence that the Republican Party in Stamford is nonfunctioning, and continues to fail at its job of representing the over 13,000 Republicans in this city.”
Same, but different
The Republican Town Committee nominated Nick Tarzia as a placeholder for District 147, which includes a portion of Darien. There will be a vote next week to replace Tarzia with Graziosi, committee member Tom Lombardo said.
Graziosi said he’s out gathering signatures to also get on the ballot as an independent candidate.
“I’m going to run for the state seat as a Republican and an independent, just like I ran for the Board of Representatives as a Democrat and an independent,” he said. “The common denominator is that I’m an independent.”
Regardless of affiliation, he’s the same - socially liberal and fiscally conservative, Graziosi said.
“I’m pro-choice and pro-gay rights. I believe in the Second Amendment but I see no reason why people need assault weapons or can’t have background checks. I believe the vast majority of immigrants come here for good reason and will be good citizens, but I think we need border controls so people come legally,” he said. “I told the Republicans and they understand my feelings. There’s more that unites the parties than divides them, especially in Fairfield County.”
He sees eye-to-eye with Republicans on keeping taxes down and controlling spending, including by standing up to labor unions, Graziosi said.
“Connecticut gives some of most lucrative pensions and benefits in the country. We can’t afford it anymore,” he said.
All about the money
Fritz Blau, chairman of the Republican Town Committee, said he likes Graziosi’s focus on fiscal restraint and agrees that the people are not served when one party dominates, as Democrats have done in Hartford.
“I think that in Connecticut we’re pragmatic enough to understand that what we need is more Republican representation to move the status quo,” Blau said. “I don’t believe we all need to talk and think in lockstep to represent people, so if he has views that we consider less conservative, it doesn’t mean I can’t hold him in totality as being a great candidate.”
Fedeli said Graziosi should resign his seat on the Board of Representatives, where he now will caucus with Republicans and give up the committee assignments he held as a Democrat.
Graziosi “has duped his constituents - running as a Democrat to get elected, leveraging the power of our party and its electoral prowess, and then turning his back on those voters,” Fedeli said.
Graziosi said Democrats are angry with him for proposing a $2.8 million cut to Mayor David Martin’s budget request in May. It resulted in a compromise - a $1.4 million cut that angered the mayor, the face of the party in Stamford.
Vie for voters
Graziosi said it shows that he will be a truer representative of the people than Blumenthal, who was born in Stamford but at age 9 moved to Greenwich, where he’d been attending private school.
“He comes from a family of Greenwich millionaires. I doubt very much he is just interested in being a state rep, so he will make deals to move ahead,” Graziosi said.
Blumenthal, who said he moved to the district in March but has lived in Stamford since April 2017, said he is honored to have the Democratic nomination.
“I’m running my race like an underdog — working hard, listening to the voters, and sharing my ideas for solving the challenges we face as a community and a state,” Blumenthal said. “I’ve already knocked on more than 2,000 doors. I can tell you what the voters care about: transportation, health care, taxes and jobs, gun safety, and good education. My campaign will be focused on bringing common-sense solutions to these challenges while standing up for our values. From now through Nov. 6, I will continue to run a campaign that my supporters and I can be proud of.”
Fedeli said Graziosi can’t be as proud. “It’s a shame,” he said, that Graziosi “has chosen to betray his values and join the party of Donald Trump.”
Graziosi said he is not pro-Trump.
“He is far too divisive,” Graziosi said. “Even Republicans will say they cringe at his behavior.”
Once the Republican Town Committee votes to replace Tarzia with Graziosi, as expected, Graziosi must face off against Marcy Minnick, a Darien Republican, in an Aug. 14 primary. Minnick petitioned for a primary and the Secretary of the State’s office counted enough signatures for her to appear on the ballot, spokesman Gabe Rosenberg said Friday.