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Segarra Wins Democratic Nomination

Jeff Cohen/WNPR


Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra easily won the nomination of the city’s Democrats Thursday night, as they gathered for a party ritual of horse trading and power brokering.  But as WNPR’s Jeff Cohen reports, people inside the party say that this year, the nominating convention has a different feel.
First, remember that Hartford is an overwhelmingly Democratic city, and the Democratic nomination for mayor and city council carry a lot of weight.
But also remember this – this is the first city election in a decade that didn’t include a candidate named Eddie Perez. His absence, and his influence, were noted. Here's Segarra.
SEGARRA: There’s unpredictability. I don’t know what’s going to happen tonight
COHEN: And what happened four years ago?
SEGARRA: I think there was a lot more predictability
Segarra says one reason for that is he does politics differently than his predecessor.
“He carried a lot of influence. He was a lot more connected I think to the members of the town committee than I have (been).”
John Kennelly, a Perez political opponent, put a finer point on it.
"In the past you had Eddie ruling out of a sense of fear and retribution if you didn’t follow his lead.  There’s a difference between supporting somebody and threatening repercussions for failure to support somebody.  Eddie’s way was threatening. Pedro’s way is -- It is a democratic process, I like some individuals, but it is up to you, the organization.”
Inside the auditorium at the city’s Bulkeley High School, others like Ralph Arena and Jan Appellof noted the difference in the feel of the evening – but they didn’t put it all on Perez. They say it goes back at least as far as to a previous mayor, Mike Peters.
COHEN: Did Eddie wield a stronger role in this town committee than anyone else does now?
APPELLOF: I would say so. It was much more organized.  It was organized from the beginning to the end. We knew exactly what was happening and when…
RALPH ARENA: When Eddie came into it you had Mayor Mike who was helping him out and you don’t have any of that now.  It’s just different because there’s so many new people that have never been involved before.  It’s not better or worse.  It’s just different.
Sean Arena ran the town committee under Perez.  Here’s his take:
SEAN ARENA: This time, the mayor has not gotten involved as much as the previous mayors – not just mayor Perez.  This mayor has not stepped in, he’s gotten involved somewhat behind the scenes for one or two candidates, but as far as putting a slate together he has not in public done that. .   
When it came time to vote, Segarra won the mayoral nomination in a landslide.  His opponents say they’ll wage a primary.  Then began what looked to be a long fight, between 16 candidates for just six nominations to the city council.  Here’s current councilman, and Perez critic, Ken Kennedy.
KENNEDY: No one has said, this is how it’s going to happen, and I’m God-on-high ruling.  That hasn’t been the case at all. 
COHEN: And that used to happen?
KENNEDY: I think, yes.  Not to be critical, the previous mayor had a very hands-on, authoritative approach.  This mayor wants the council to be the council and he wants the town committee to be the town committee.  It’s returning back to a different time.
A time Kennedy calls both more transparent and chaotic.
For WNPR, I’m Jeff Cohen.

Jeff Cohen started in newspapers in 2001 and joined Connecticut Public in 2010, where he worked as a reporter and fill-in host. In 2017, he was named news director. Then, in 2022, he became a senior enterprise reporter.

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