Questions Linger About Who Will Lead Democratic Party’s Political Operation
HARTFORD, CT — There was no keynote speaker at the Democratic Party’s biggest fundraiser of the year, but maybe it wasn’t necessary.
Democratic candidates retained the governor’s office and expanded their Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate. Appetizers and an open bar less than three weeks before Christmas was more appealing to an estimated 500 party insiders than a sit-down, rubber-chicken dinner with speeches in May.
The lingering question for party insiders gathered at the Connecticut Convention Center Monday night was whetherDemocratic Party Chairman Nick Balletto would retain his position.
There are those, including outgoing Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who feel Governor-elect Ned Lamont should install a party chairman with whom he feels comfortable.
“I personally believe that whoever is going to lead the party should be somebody the governor is extremely comfortable with,” Malloy said.
Balletto was Malloy’s choice and wants to be re-elected, but insisted he wasn’t thinking about that Monday night.
“I just think today’s about a big celebration of a Democratic victory that a lot of people thought was impossible a year ago,” Lamont said, declining to comment further.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said he supports Balletto and it would be hard to get rid of a guy who was chairman during such a successful election cycle. Looney’s district — the city of New Haven — delivered more than 20,000 votes for Lamont in November.
Former Democratic Party Chairman John Olsen said that if you want to be a successful Democratic Party, then it has to be a team effort.
Olsen also said Lamont has to feel comfortable “with his top officer on the ground.”
One of the other names that came up Monday as a possible chairman was Justin Kronholm.
Kronholm, a senior counselor to Attorney General George Jepsen and grandson of late Democratic Party Chairman John Bailey, said it’s up to Lamont. But he added that he was not actively seeking the role.
Kronholm was executive director of the party between 2006 and 2010 and he was executive assistant to U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal while Blumenthal was attorney general.
Balletto wasn’t necessarily on the Lamont team when he first announced his candidacy, but quickly got on board before it became apparent Lamont would be the Democratic Party’s nominee. The party worked in concert with Lamont’s campaign with few hiccups.
And Balletto does want another shot at running the party.
“I won’t start thinking about the chairmanship until tomorrow,” Balletto said.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy also has been heavily involved with the party and might want to have some say in who becomes the next party chairman. Malloy didn’t disagree that Murphy should have some input, but not as much as Lamont.
Malloy said Murphy is in Washington most of the time and the governor needs access to the party apparatus.
It’s unclear how Lamont, who is still in the process of building his administration, will proceed. He will be sworn in on Jan. 9.
Balletto said Lamont has already proven he has the “exact skill set we need to move Connecticut forward.”
He also praised Lamont’s campaign.
“Lamont ran his campaign on the premise of optimism,” Balletto said. “And on the idea that Connecticut’s best years are ahead of us.”
Lamont said he’s going to show Connecticut that Democrats can govern.
“That means paid Family Medical Leave,” Lamont said. “That means raising the minimum wage.”
Lamont also talked about a move toward early voting so that people are not waiting in line to vote on Election Day.