Campaign 2018 King backs Wooden for treasurer
HARTFORD — Before a crowd of more than 100 supporters, Martin Luther King III endorsed Democrat Shawn Wooden for state treasurer at a rally Saturday outside Wooden’s campaign headquarters in Hartford.
“He truly is the best and brightest — not the best and brightest African American, but the best that any community has to offer,” King said.
King and Wooden share a mutual friend, Wooden said. A human rights advocate, King is the oldest child of Martin Luther King Jr. He lives in Georgia, and is active on labor issues around the country.
Wooden received King’s backing while standing among other candidates endorsed by the Democratic party for state office: gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont, lieutenant governor candidate Susan Bysiewicz and attorney general candidate William Tong. U.S. Rep. John Larson, who represents Connecticut’s 1st Congressional District, including Hartford, and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin both shared their hearty support for Wooden in speeches.
“When was the last time you saw a turnout like this for a treasurer candidate?” Bronin asked the crowd.
Hartford’s former city council president, Wooden received the support with emotion.
“Today is extremely special to me,” he said, with his sons at his side.
In his speech, King criticized Wooden’s primary opponent, Democrat Dita Bhargava, a former investment manager who worked at Bear Stearns, Credit Suisse and Citigroup, among other firms.
“Wooden is the only candidate who has put Main Street ahead of Wall Street,” King said. “I imagine his opponent was very good at helping rich folk get richer. That’s not what public service is about.”
He also accused Bhargava of questioning Wooden’s character and making “false claims” about Wooden’s experience.
Bhargava responded by defending her words.
“It just boggles my mind why when a woman speaks the truth — the truth you could easily find in the Hartford Courant or in the Wall Street Journal — it is seen on negative campaigning,” she said. “I am simply pointing out the facts.”
She highlighted an instance in which Wooden, a pension investment attorney for Day Pitney, was involved in advising the New Jersey pension fund to invest in one of the world’s largest hedge funds, BlackRock, an investment that underperformed and was criticized by New Jersey officials and union leaders.
“That was a bad investment, and he collected millions of dollars in fees on it from Wall Street,” Bhargava said. “I did my job and I did the best I could.”
Wooden said it was “utterly false” that his firm made millions from the investment.
“I’ve spent years fighting to protect the retirement security of working families and serving the public,” he wrote in a statement. “In stark contrast, my opponent has bounced from one Wall Street trading firm to another, including some that contributed to the Great Recession of 2008 that devastated the retirement savings of millions of people. I am disappointed that my opponent has decided to run a campaign of desperation instead of telling voters how she will make their lives better.”
King spent Saturday meeting with Connecticut National Association for the Advancement of Colored People leaders in Hartford and with clergy in Bloomfield.
2018 marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. King worked on a tobacco field in Simsbury for a summer in the 1940s and returned to Connecticut several times throughout his life as a civil rights leader.
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