April 6, 2007
By Andy Hart • Courtesy of the Hartford News • 9:10 AM EST
State Representative Minnie Gonzalez has officially entered what is shaping up to be the most fiercely contested race for mayor of Hartford in 14 years.
Way back then, in 1993, the Democratic Party split and Mike Peters used a coalition of Democrats and Republicans to unseat incumbent mayor Carrie Saxon Perry. Peters went on to serve five terms before endorsing current Mayor Eddie Perez as his successor.
Perez was first elected in 2001 and re-elected in 2003, the second time as "strong mayor" with a term of four years instead of two. Perez will formally announce on Monday, April 9 that he is seeking re-election.
All seven candidates are Democrats with the exception of Stan McCauley, who is a Republican. However, political insiders believe that several Democratic candidates may run in the general election even if they lose – but have a strong showing – in the primary.
In fact, Peters lost to Perry in the 1993 Democratic Primary but won the general election in a landslide. How it all plays out is anyone guess and it is certainly possible that some candidates may drop out before the primary.
But with so many people vying for only so many votes, the race will probably remain in doubt right up to Election Night in November. Gonzalez is expected to add a little more heat to the campaign as she has long been a bitter political rival of Perez.
In her formal announcement speech, Gonzalez did not mention Mayor Perez by name, but she did allude to the current administrati several times, saying, she was "firmly committed to fight the politicians who have hijacked our dream for too long," and, "we can put an end to insider politics, sweetheart deals and old boy networks."
Later in her speech, she said, "Let’s face it, the current administration is not what you would call fiscally responsible. From the [Pathways to Technology] Magnet School fiasco to the sweetheart parking patronage deals, they have failed to safeguard taxpayer dollars."
Although Gonzalez’s political stronghold is the Parkville and Frog Hollow neighborhoods that make up the 3rd District which she represents, she ventured outside that area to make her announcement at the Construction & General Laborers Union Hall on Ledyard Street in the South Meadows, a clear indication that she is counting on the unions to support her candidacy. About 200 people, primarily union members, attended the event.
In addition to attacking the current administration, Gonzalez said she would bring the voice of the people to City Hall.
"I am for real and I am running for all of us. I want to be the voice of Hartford’s neighborhoods," she said.
Later in the speech, while discussing a "government bureaucracy [that] has failed us in battling crime and drugs," she emotionally admitted that one of her own sons is currently in prison.
"He has become a statistic like so many of Hartford’s youth. He has been swallowed up by the system," she said.
"He is a drug victim; not a threat or danger to our community but a victim of the streets. And he and the many young men and young women like him all across our city are in pain and crying out for help."
Gonzalez said current drug laws are "biased and prejudicial to urban children of color" because of "zero tolerance" drug enforcement procedures, a punitive plea bargaining system and drug-free school zone laws which, according to Gonzalez, unfairly impose higher penalties on urban dwellers since the school zones have been extended and, in a densely populated city like Hartford, these zones now include almost the entire city.
As the theme song for the event, Gonzalez chose the old disco hit, "I Will Survive" and it stands as an apt summation of her political career so far.
Although Hartford’s political establishment has made several efforts to unseat her, she and close political ally Ramon Arroyo have been able to win the Third District again and again. Whether they can extend their political success city-wide remains to be seen.