An old political tradition in the CT returns but the Democrats have jumped wide this year


BRISTOL — A long-standing company tradition to set aside political differences for comic relief and a good cause – a dying art in today’s partisan political landscape – has returned after a two-year hiatus with notable guests missing.

No Democratic running for statewide office showed up Friday for the Crocodile Club’s 139th annual luncheon at the historic Lake Compounce Ballroom.

Almost the entire top of the Republican ticket – including candidates for governor, US Senate, secretary of state, comptroller and attorney general – appeared on stage before a crowd of 200 politicians, seated at long tables lined with American flag-themed tablecloths, gently mocking themselves and their opponents.

The event had “a few cancellations,” Brian Shactman of WTIC News Talk 1080, who hosted the event, said at the start, noting the no-shows, we’re all Democrats. “What are they afraid of?” Schactman said.

Among those absent were U.S. Representative John Larson, D-1st District, who was due to travel to Washington, D.C. for a vote on his party’s flagship climate change and health care bill, as well as the prosecutor General William Tong and US Senator Richard Blumenthal. , D-Conn., who had to skip the event because there were too few TV cameras, Schactman joked about the men known for holding frequent press conferences.

Spokespersons for Blumenthal and Tong said they were invited but we could not attend due to other commitments. Nancy DiNardo, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, said she was unaware of this year’s event, but had attended before. DiNardo added that there was no coordinated effort by members of his party not to attend. His GOP counterpart, Ben Proto, chairman of the state’s Republican party, was there.

On stage, Madison’s Bob Stefanowski, the GOP gubernatorial nominee, echoed a rumor that Governor Ned Lamont, who showed up in 2018, was unaware of the event, hence why he was not there. Emails sent between staff at the New England Carousel Museum, which hosted the event, and Lamont’s office show the governor was invited to attend.

“I’m disappointed that my opponent, the governor, isn’t here today,” Stefanowski said, “and I know the excuse is that he didn’t invite.”

But the real reason for the governor’s absence, Stefanowski joked, was that he didn’t meet the height requirements to ride the roller coaster at America’s oldest amusement park.

Stefanowski, who is in a second run for governor, then ticked off five reasons why he will win the race in November with the biggest line of applause coming from ‘number 1’ on the list, which he joked which his wife had told him not to use. “Governor Lamont, he’s actually thinking about pulling out of the race, move to Nashville, Tennessee because it’s just too hard to do business in Connecticut,” he said.

The line – said in jest this time – was a frequent attack from Stefanowski during the rematch between him and Lamont. Last fall, after being repeatedly criticized for his wife’s venture capital firm’s investments in two state-dominated companies, Lamont told reporters that Annie Lamont was in Nashville “to start businesses there because Connecticut is pretty complicated.” The governor has since said he made the flippant remark out of frustration over his wife’s political complications in doing business in a state he governs.

Anthony Anthony, director of communications for Lamont, said after the event on Friday afternoon that scheduling conflicts prevented the governor from attending. “Governor Lamont has a very busy schedule and unfortunately cannot attend all the events he is invited to,” Anthony said.

When it was her turn to take the stage, Leora Levy of Greenwich, who won the Republican U.S. Senate primary earlier this week, played the Democratic attacks on her endorsement of former President Donald Trump. “A lot of people are trying to make me President Trump,” Levy said. “Well, Donald Trump and I have something in common, we both like red meat. However, he likes his well done with ketchup. I’ll have my steak tartare.

Dominic Rapini of Fairfield, winner of the Republican primary for secretary of state, was quick to bring charges of voter fraud in Connecticut, many of which turned out to be unfounded – and wasted no time making those same statements on Friday when it was his turn to speak. Rapini said primary ballots in Litchfield County on Tuesday had his name crossed out by mistake, so he called Staples, “they sent a box of white outs, sharpies, problem solved,” he said – highlighting how much of a problem he would be if elected to Labor.

Other Republican candidates to address the crowd included Jessica Kordas, who is running for attorney general, the state’s top law enforcement official, and Mary Fay, who is vying to be comptroller , state fiscal guardian, payer, and head of state employee health services. and retirees. Mike Reiss, Simpsons writer and Bristol native, headlined the event. The rules for the afternoon were simple: no politics and no stump speeches.

Several Democratic state lawmakers in the audience said they were disappointed that party leaders or top candidates could make it happen. Sen. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, and Rep. Kerry Wood, D-Rocky Hill and Edwin Vargas, Jr., D-Hartford, all attended the luncheon.

“If I was running for a statewide job, I would have been there,” Vargas said. “You never give up on an opportunity to have a good time, and let your hair come down a bit, and don’t get so serious about politics every once in a while.”

Wood first came to the event several years ago, “a year without an election,” when Larson was the only Democrat on stage. “There were a lot of Republicans and I said ‘When it’s a (big) election year, it’s going to be great because we’re going to have bipartisan (turnout), lots of laughs, it’s going to be great,’ ” she says. “I was disappointed that a lot of people were cancelling.

Wood said she would make a more concerted effort to promote the event, which serves as a fundraiser for the Carousel Museum, to her colleagues before next year.

julia.bergman@hearstmediact.com

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