Independent Party Nomination War Continues In Court
Two factions within Connecticut’s Independent Party are still fighting for control of their ballot lines with only weeks to go before the November election. In the latest round of acrimony, the party’s Danbury faction on Tuesday sued Secretary of the State Denise Merrill and two members of the other faction of the party in Waterbury.
The lawsuit filed in Hartford Superior Court claims that Merrill’s office decided there would be no Independent Party candidates for the office of U.S. Senate, the 14th Senate District and the 118th and 119th House Districts.
The ballot will be left blank without a candidate’s name on the Independent Party line because the candidates endorsed by the two factions within the same party were different.
The Danbury faction of the Independent Party, which filed the lawsuit, is headed by John Dietter. The Waterbury faction of the Independent Party is headed by Michael Telesca and Rocco Frank Jr., who are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
The Waterbury faction held its convention Aug. 30 and nominated John Price for U.S. Senate. Dan Carter, who is the Republican nominee and who hoped to get a second ballot line with the Independent Party, was not endorsed by the Waterbury faction even though he received the nomination from the Danbury faction Aug. 23.
“I would like the Republicans to cede this position to the Independents and let us go about our business,” Price said in his speech to the convention.
There’s criticism that the Danbury faction of the party has been hijacked by the Republican Party, which has been using the ballot line to support conservatives much like the Working Families Party has been using the cross-endorsement process to support liberal candidates.
Merrill’s office informed the Independent Party on Sept. 1 and Sept. 6 that its ballot lines would be blank in November, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The lawsuit claims that two previous lawsuits did not resolve the underlying dispute between the warring factions of the party regarding the validity of its 2006 bylaws and the declaration of legal officers and board for the Independent Party.
The Danbury faction is again asking the court to resolve those issues. It is also asking that the names of its nominees be placed on the November ballot. The Danbury group endorsed Carter for U.S. Senate, Patricia Libero in the 14th Senate District, Rick Varrone in the 118th House District, and Pam Staneski in the 119th House District. The Waterbury group endorsed Price for U.S. Senate, Sen. Gayle Slossberg, a Democrat from Milford, in the 14th Senate District, Rep. Kim Rose in the 118th House District, and Ben Gettinger in the 119th House District.
A spokesman for Merrill referred all questions about the lawsuit to the attorney general’s office.
“We will review the complaint and respond at the appropriate time in court,” Jaclyn Falkowski, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office, said Tuesday. ”We would decline further comment at this time.”
Judge Thomas Moukawsher will hear arguments in the case at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 16.
Meanwhile, the Working Families Party, which also cross-endorses candidates, has endorsed U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat who is seeking a second term, and 92 other candidates, including four of the five Democratic incumbents in Congress. It did not cross-endorse U.S. Rep. Jim Himes.
It also cross-endorsed 85 Democratic candidates for state Senate and House and two candidates — Aldon Hynes and Anna Duleep — who will only appear on the Working Families Party line.
Editor’s note: Since this story was posted at least three candidates for the state House did not receive the Working Families Party line due to paperwork issues. That brings the number of cross-endorsed candidates who will appear on the WFP line down to 89.