Politics A record crowd

September 17, 2018

GREENWICH — After a day of campaigning throughout Fairfield County, Ned Lamont returned to the place his political career started more than four decades ago to face the voters of his hometown.

“In 2006 when I stood up against something I thought was wrong, the war in Iraq, you were there for me,” Lamont said, referencing his primary win over former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman.

Lamont was among the guests of honor at the annual picnic hosted by the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee. DTC Chairman Tony Turner said attendance at the picnic was an all time high. Well over 300 people attended the event, which drew Democrats, unaffiliated voters and even four Republicans, Turner said.

Even with hundreds of people in the room, those four Republicans clearly drew the focus of the speakers, who included all of the statewide Democratic candidates.

“If we’ve persuaded you, (Secretary of State) Denise (Merrill) would be happy to help you change your ballot,” joked Susan Bysiewicz, the democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.

And while much of the conversation from U.S. senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, Rep. Jim Himes and the Democratic candidates for statewide office focused on Washington, D.C. — they bashed the Trump administration and opined on the state of democracy in the state and across the country — they all used their time at the podium to speak directly to the local candidates for the state legislature.

“Alex Bergstein, Stephen Meskers and Laura Kostin … you are the key to turning out voters,” Blumenthal said. “Of course you can win. Especially this year.”

Bergstein is running for the state senate, while Meskers and Kostin are vying for seats in the state house.

“We need you,” Blumenthal said, reminding attendees the he as well as many of his colleagues started their political careers in the state legislature. “You go door to door and there’s nothing like a face-to-face conversation with a voter.”

Murphy, who was the first of the Connecticut delegation to speak and is up for re-election, said democracy is at stake in November.

“Right now, democracy itself is on the ballot,” he said. “I say that because this president is poking and prodding at all of these democratic moments. He’s revving up his base and Democrats are taking it for granted. He will start making good on all of the threats that have been just threats ... and all of the sudden democracy starts to slip away. Democracy is not an easy thing to hold on to.”

Merrill, who is running for a third term, said more than 275,000 people have registered to vote since the November 2016 election, adding that many of them are between 19 and 24 years old.

“Like many of you, I was surprised and devastated by the 2016 election,” Merrill said. “I do not think it is too strong to say our democracy is in peril. In Connecticut this year, the good news is, we have a record number of voters registering.”

State Democratic party chairman Nick Balletto said he was stunned by the turnout at campaign events throughout Fairfield County Sunday, especially the Greenwich picnic.

“That wasn’t done by us,” Balletto said. “That was done by all of the activists who decided to come out after that terrible November election two years ago. Everybody here is working so hard.”

Republicans will descend on Greenwich next weekend, as the Greenwich RTC hosts its annual clambake.

kkrasselt@hearstmediact.com; 203-842-2563; @kaitlynkrasselt

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