Chris Donovan may have easily secured the Democratic nomination for the Fifth Congressional District at the party’s convention in May, but he may have a hard time holding on to it at the upcoming primary Aug. 14.
There are no Democratic Town Committees in the Farmington Valley that are endorsing Donovan, the current House Speaker who is knee deep in a federal investigation into alleged illegal campaign contributions. And late last week editorial pages saw some begin calling for him to drop out of the race to give the party the best chance of retaining control of the seat that Chris Murphy has held since 2007.
While some town committees are seeing a shift in support, mostly from Donovan to competitor Elizabeth Esty, no town formally endorsed Donovan to begin with.
“There was a fair amount of diversity of opinion,” said Avon Chairman Daryl Worobow in a telephone interview Friday. “Even at caucus we ended up 5-3-2 in terms of candidates. There is not one monolithic view."
But Worobow, who said he initially leaned toward Donovan, was won over by Esty after meeting all three candidates.
“I think Elizabeth Esty could do the job. She’s got the right intellect, the right ability and she’s got some political experience behind her.”
Canton Democratic Town Chairman Mary Tomolonius said Sunday that her town committee had also hosted all three candidates and had chosen to back Esty.
“After we heard from all three, we unanimously agreed we would endorse Elizabeth Esty. She was the most competent, had the best ideas for the problems and solutions facing the Fifth District,” Tomolonius said.
In light of the Donovan campaign’s troubles, which include now eight arrests, including that of former campaign manager Joshua Nassi and former finance director Robert Braddock, Tomolonius said Canton Democrats stand firm in their support for Esty and are just hoping voters will turn out for the August primary.
“I hope and pray she can [gain support] because Donovan has this cloud hanging over him, and for a candidate who typically likes to talk all the time and be out there, he’s been very reticent to talk, held very brief press conferences and not allowed press to ask questions, which makes you wonder,” she said.
Like Mark Greenburg said in a statement following the unsealing of the indictment, Tomolonius said, “whether he knew or whether he didn’t know, shame on him.”
Farmington Democrats were split evenly 7-7 at the nominating convention, Town Committee Chairman Robert Huelin said Sunday, but some of those votes may have migrated.
“I did talk to a lot of people in advance of the convention and a majority were for Donovan,” he said. “Now there seems to be a lot of indecision. A number of people who have been supporting Donovan with varying degrees of strength are having real doubts.”
And while no one has publically revoked their support for Donovan, Huelin said, the question remains whether he can win in a general election.
“Whether they believe he’s culpable for campaign finance stuff is a different story, but they now have increasing doubts about whether he can get it together to win an election or whether this mess shows he doesn’t have the organizational strength to run a tough competitive race,” Huelin said.
Tomolonius thought not.
“I’m just not sure Chris would stand a chance [in the general election]. Republicans could make quite a case out of this going forward,” she said.
Worobow said he thought Donovan, with influential support throughout the state, would win the primary at least.
Tomolonius and Huelin, who hosted a meet-and-greet for Esty with other local Democrats at his home recently, hope not.
“It’s important to Democrats and by extension to Connecticut and perhaps the country that we send a good, solid progressive to Washington who’s going to push back the every-man-for-himself budgeting. And to do that, we need to elect a Democrat. So If you’re a Democrat and have doubts about Donovan winning the seat, sitting by and letting him win the primary is a little bit irresponsible,” Huelin said. “I’m not going to let the seat fall by the wayside because I’m concerned about rocking the boat.”
The DTC chairmen said their committees disliked the negative campaigning Dan Roberti had done and felt he lacked necessary political experience.