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Bill would eliminate cross endorsements in Connecticut

The elimination of cross endorsements, which has been proposed by a legislative committee, could soon have a significant impact on state and local elections.

Out of nearly 40,000 votes cast in last year’s 13th District state Senate race, only 279 votes separated candidates Democrat Dante Bartolomeo and Republican Leonard F. Suzio. And while the race had just two candidates, five political parties endorsed either Bartolomeo or Suzio.

Suzio was endorsed by the Republican, Independent and We the People parties. Bartolomeo, who went on to win, was endorsed by the Democratic and Working Families parties. State Sen. Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, suggested to the Government Administration and Elections Committee earlier this week that eliminating cross endorsements makes sense.

“Our goal is to make the voting process as convenient and as clear as possible,” Williams, the Senate’s president pro tempore, said in a statement Wednesday. “At least 44 (states) do not allow candidates to appear on more than one line for the same office. It is confusing for voters to have the same candidate appear on two or more lines on the ballot and causes problems such as over-voting.”

The Independent and We the People parties that endorsed Suzio made up more than 10 percent of his 19,655 votes in the 13th District, which includes Meriden, Middlefield and parts of Cheshire and Middletown. The 965 votes Bartolomeo received from Working Families made up just under 5 percent of her total vote.

Bartolomeo said that she is “just watching and listening” to the debate about cross endorsements, but is “interested to see” what comes of it. The bill was proposed by the General Assembly’s Government Administration and Elections Committee, of which she is not a member.

An endorsement from the Working Families Party helped Gov. Dannel P. Malloy edge out Republican Tom Foley in the 2010 election.

The issue is not split down party lines, noted Democrat David Zoni, who won the 81st House District in 2012 after being endorsed by Democrats and Working Families.

“I’m a big proponent,” Zoni said of cross endorsements. “It does change elections ... I think it is part of the democratic process.”

On the local level, the bill could have a significant impact, especially in Meriden. Though the Democratic Party heavily outweighs other parties, Republican and We the People candidates have teamed up to win some City Council seats.

In 2009, Bob Williams won an Area 4 Council seat by 62 votes over Democratic incumbent David Salafia. Williams had 587 Republican votes and 444 from We the People, compared with 969 Democratic votes for Salafia.

Republican Town Chairman Dan Brunet said he was surprised the state would get involved in municipal elections.

“I don’t see why it’s necessary at all to outlaw those,” Brunet said. “It’s a political process; it’s democracy. If a third party did enough to get a line on the ballot, then they should be rewarded to endorse whatever candidate they choose.”

Brunet lost his council bid in 2007 when We the People opted not to cross endorse him. Brunet lost to Council Majority Leader Brian Daniels by 314 votes, with a We the People candidate earning 587 votes. Brunet received a cross endorsement two years later and won his seat.

If passed, the bill would not go into effect until 2014. Still, Republicans may not want to expect any cross endorsements in the upcoming municipal election, according to We the People Chairwoman Lois Demayo.

“I think it looks bad for the party” when there are cross endorsements, Demayo said. Demayo became chairwoman of the party after the 2011 election, in which the former chair jumped ship to the Republicans, leaving a bad taste with We the People members.

On the state level, Williams also suggested that super PACs (political action committees) leave the process.

“Our elections should be decided by the campaigns and ideas of our candidates,” Williams said, “not by groups able to game the system.”

(203) 317-2266

Twitter: @DanBrechlinRJ

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