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OP-ED | L’Affaire Bacchiochi: An Argument For Nixing The Conventions

by Terry D. Cowgill | May 23, 2014 5:29am
(4) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Election 2014, Opinion

When former independent Gov. Lowell P. Weicker told WNPR’s John Dankosky and readers of the state’s largest newspaper last week that the Connecticut Republican Party is “irrelevant,” he had no idea that a couple of days later a GOP candidate for lieutenant governor would say something so stupid that she would become the very embodiment of his observation.

Just when they were hoping to have a painless convention that would happily renominate 2010 gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley by a huge margin, GOP officials were grappling with the bizarre comments of state Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, who only 24 hours earlier and without foundation, had accused one of her Republican LG opponents of trying to make an issue of her biracial family.

The story is beyond strange for several reasons. First, Bacchiochi made her comments last Friday morning on Jim Vicevich’s morning show on WTIC radio. Early in the interview, she mentioned that there were some state Republicans who were slinging mud at her.

When Vicevich neglected to ask her what the charges were and who was making them, Bacchiochi eagerly brought the subject up again a few minutes later and invoked her biracial family, adding that, “Can you believe that my own Republicans would try to make that an issue in this convention? I’m devastated and I’m shocked by that.”

Yet again, Vicevich failed to ask Bacchiochi who raised the matter of race but instead blathered on about his own multiracial family and how he was astonished that anyone would make an issue of such a thing in this day and age. It took a follow-up interview later in the day with WFSB’s Susan Raff to get Bacchiochi to finger opponent David Walker as the one who allegedly made the offending remarks.

Since he hadn’t said anything of the sort, Walker quite rightly denounced Bacchiochi for “going nuclear” and demanded an apology. After her exchange with Raff, Bacchiochi avoided reporters, presumably because she could not back up her ridiculous claim.

The apology Bacchiochi subsequently issued was weak tea indeed: “Neither Dave Walker nor his campaign made any insensitive remarks toward me or my family. I apologize to Dave and his family. Dave and I have met and agreed to put this matter behind us, and to focus on the critical work of the convention.”

Huh? If Walker made no such remarks, then why did you attribute them to him? Did a different opponent play the race card? Were you confused? Did you simply make it up?

As stunning as Bacchiochi’s pratfall was, the cherry on top of this whole sordid affair is that she not only cruised to victory after making that scurrilous accusation, but Bacchiochi received more than half the delegate votes at Saturday’s Republican convention at Mohegan Sun.

There is, however, a sliver of hope for the GOP. Two other qualifying candidates for governor and lieutenant governor (John McKinney/Walker, Mark Boughton/Heather Somers) have aligned themselves to run as a team in the August primary, though I understand Boughton and Somers recently broke up. Shockingly, no one seems to want Bacchiochi. Will the bomb-throwing Foley reach out to her to be his running mate? Imagine that combination — those two will spend half their time on the campaign trail apologizing for defaming their opponents.

Maybe this incident will serve as a catalyst for the elimination of the state conventions, whose candidates qualify for a primary with 15 percent of the delegates. It seems just plain silly to have both conventions and primaries — a notion that wasn’t lost on The Courant, which editorialized last week for a primary-only approach.

Weicker said as much himself in his latest ruminations. This time of year candidates should be talking to the people and selling their ideas to likely voters, not sucking up to insiders and town committee chairs at a distraction fest like the Mohegan Sun. As Bacchiochi herself can attest, currying favor with insiders is fraught with peril. And unlike the insider delegates at the convention, voters will surely be less forgiving come August and November.

Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com and is news editor of The Berkshire Record in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill.

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(4) Comments

posted by: Matt from CT | May 23, 2014  8:27am

The last 50 years of U.S. politics doesn’t seem to show that primaries are a better system than well led parties making smoke-filled room deals for candidates instead. 

Would either the Republican or Democratic parties be so polarized to their fringes today without primaries?

Eliminating the primaries, eliminating the financial advantage in the public financing law for Democratic and Republican candidates over third parties, and implementing an instant run-off general election would all do more to reform our politics than eliminating conventions.

(Instant run off primaries would be an interesting idea, too.  Unlike the days of mechanical voting machines, with todays computerized ballot scanners instant run off voting would be technically trivial to implement.)

posted by: dano860 | May 23, 2014  9:06am

The “race card”, like the joker needs to be removed from the deck. There aren’t many serious games that are played with either. Why and how did she pull the votes she did might be because we are all “race card"numb.
I have met her a few times, I never knew, until this incident, that she was in a blended family situation. Moreover, who cares! I liked her style, beliefs, manner of deliberation, the things I would look for in a job interview.
I was disappointed that she leveled this accusation, even if it was true.
The only way we’re going to get past any race issue is to not make it an issue.
I haven’t met the other woman in this race, the one that just dumped Mark Boughton, but until I do and also get to hear more about her, I will continue to support Penny.

posted by: GBear423 | May 23, 2014  10:31am

GBear423

Terry you are right on. I am appalled and ashamed of the delegates that voted for such an irresponsible careless drama seeking candidate.  I asked my own town delegation why, and they were completely ignorant of the news.
I have only been a resident since 2010, but I can see that this Convention system is completely flawed. Primary in July and get to the general election. Keep it simple and remove the opportunity for stupidity and corruption.

posted by: PaulW | May 26, 2014  7:24am

Dano, I agree that race shouldn’t be an issue and wish that were the case but I don’t agree that it shouldn’t be confronted when it really occurs.  People who honestly confront racism are courageous.  Bacchiochi, a liar and a coward, just made it harder for them.