For Some Political Incumbents, the Races Are Real

Jul 24, 2014

The incumbent, Eric Coleman, lost the party's endorsement to Shawn Wooden, the president of the Hartford city council.

Good government advocates sometimes lament how easy it is for incumbent politicians return to office, often uncontested. That's not always the case, though. One long-time, Democratic state senator is facing two challengers from within his party. 

Eric Coleman is a state senator in a district that covers some of Hartford, Windsor, and Bloomfield. He's served in that seat since 1995, but this year, he lost the party's endorsement to Shawn Wooden, the president of the Hartford city council. Another candidate, Len Walker of Windsor, is also in the race.

At a forum on Thursday night that touched on topics like taxes, tolls, guns, public campaign finance, and economic development, things began calmly. Then they warmed up.

Here's a question from a Coleman supporter to Wooden, who she called -- not in a nice way -- a young man. "My question is, do you realize how long it takes?" she asked. "You have to develop relationships. You just can't submit a bill, and automatically it's going to happen. You have to work. "

Wooden responded by saying he's been engaged in city politics for 25 years. Then he took aim at Coleman, the senator he has recently accused of misusing public funds for political mailers. He pulled them out to show on stage. 

"Several pieces from the state capitol," Wooden said,  "paid for with taxpayer money, talking about all the great things that [have] been done by your candidate."

When it was Coleman's turn, he said his mailers were just like those of the other legislators who inform their constituencies of what they're up to.

"The bellyaching that you hear is really because the candidate Wooden knows that he's behind in this race," Coleman said.  He also took the chance to again attack Wooden for his role in the proposal to bring a new minor league baseball stadium to Hartford.

"Write this down," Coleman said.  "Because I bet you, in connection with this stadium issue, the mayor and the city council will be approaching the General Assembly in short order, asking for bonding to finance this proposal."

When it was time to wrap up, Coleman stressed how he's helped his communities thrive. Wooden, like all challengers, said it's time for a change. 

"Voters, you have a choice," Wooden said.  "Most of those years that were talked about, there wasn't a choice. You got one now."

The primary is August 12.