Lamont and Ganim address urban issues

July 16, 2018

NEW HAVEN — Ned Lamont, the endorsed Democratic candidate for governor, continued his uphill battle to relate to voters in the state’s urban areas at a candidates’ forum Sunday at Varick Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church.

A panel of black clergymen and local leaders asked Lamont about his affiliation with the Round Hill Country Club in Greenwich, which has been criticized for its exclusivity and lack of diversity. “Why should racial, ethnic and religious minorities trust you?” one panelist asked.

“In my personal life, I did play golf at a place that I should not have been there,” Lamont said. “I changed my location immediately, I now no longer am a member there. But you have to understand from my heart where I stand. I stand with each and every one of you. If I cannot convince you that every day I will be fighting for you, I will be fighting for the folks of New Haven, the folks of this neighborhood, of neighborhoods just like this, I’m going to be there, looking you in the eye. Look, I’m somebody, you have to take me at my word, you’ve got to look me in the eye and know that I’m going to be there each and every day for you.”

Lamont was a member of the club for 16 years, and the issue was first raised by former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman when Lamont challenged him for his seat in 2006.

His challenger for the Democratic nomination, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, has been campaigning hard in the city, and using his status as an urban mayor — and the street cred that comes with having served seven years in a federal prison on a corruption charge — to criticize Lamont, who is a wealthy Greenwich executive.

“I want to build a new candidate that works for everyone, not just a few, and not just a wealthy few,” Ganim told the crowd.

Lamont, Ganim and lieutenant governor candidate Eva Bermudez Zimmerman all answered questions from the panel of community leaders.

The questions covered isues such as immigration, poverty, affordable housing, the economy, jobs and guns. Only Bermudez Zimmerman stayed to mingle following the forum. A small meet and greet took place after the forum, where members of the campaign teams were present.

Susan Bysiewicz, Lamont’s running mate and the endorsed candidate for lieutenant governor, did not attend the forum. Her campaign did not immediately return calls about her absence.

“Where was she?,” Cynthia Teixeira, a retiree from New Haven, said. “And I think the other two candidates should have stuck around. I just felt, (Ned)’s trying to meet the people and you want to convince them you’re the man to run this state, you need to be there. I think they need to make a difference to help people perceive your interest in the community at large.”

Jeanette Morrison, an alder who represents the Dixwell neighborhood and facilitated the event, said the forum provided an opportunity for the community to get to know the candidates.

“I think that it really gave the community a chance to have that one-on-one discussion regarding the topics that affect us day to day,” Morrison said. “As a local legislator, the topics addressed today are the topics that we’re faced with on a daily basis. So to be able to have the opportunity to hear from someone that wants to be at the helm on the state level, that was really good.”

Carolyn Mutts, 63, of New Haven, recently retired from Yale, and said she was interested in hearing from the candidates directly in hopes of deciding who to vote for in the August 14 primary. The forum, she said, didn’t sway her one way or the other, but it gave her some new things to think about.

“It’s tough, but I must say that if you have walked the shoes of where this state is at, Ganim has a lot to offer,” Mutts said. “He has a lot of experience and he knows what the people need. He’s been there. But also I listen to Ned, and he also has a lot to offer. So I took notes and I’m going to go and Google those questions that I have to answer within myself.”

Mutts and Teixeira were both impressed by Bermudez Zimmerman, though.

“I like her energy,” Teixeira said. “She’s got a lot of good ideas, I think that she can be a force for younger people, bringing them into the world of voting ... I don’t dislike (Susan), but you know, sometimes, changing course to someone new, energetic, who can potentially be a mover and a shaker, I think is a good thing.”

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

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