As a hard-core Republican, I believe Joe Visconti should drop out of the Governor’s race. His presence can do nothing but hurt the Republican nominee Tom Foley and if Dan Malloy holds the Governor’s mansion, Connecticut will no longer be on the ropes: it will be down for the count. We simply cannot afford to have a state government that is basically a criminal enterprise – shaking down taxpayers to pay off corporate cronies, creating six-figure sinecures for political insiders and pushing our young people out of the state.
Having said that, Joe Visconti has earned the right to run. Connecticut is one of the few states in which Party Insiders determine who will be allowed on the ballot. Thus, prospective candidates must appear before numerous Town Committees in the hope of getting their support. Visconti played by the rules. I will never forget at one meeting where the Town Chairman introduced him as Joe Bentivegna (I was running for Congress in the Fourth District). I pointed out to the Chairman that although we both had Italian names, Joe Visconti was the tall handsome guy with good hair and I was the short, bald guy with thick glasses and big ears. We were not that hard to tell apart.
When Visconti and his supporters realized that the Party Insiders would not allow his name on the ballot of the Republican Primary, he decided to run as an Independent. Party Insiders have rigged the rules so that this extremely difficult to do. I remember while I was running listening to Party Insiders ridicule a very decent and sincere man, Walter Reddy, who was trying to run for State Senate. Mr. Reddy did not realize that he had no chance of getting a single delegate at the rigged State Senate Convention and that new rules instituted by Party Insiders required him to get 5% of Republican voters in his district to sign a petition in a two week period in order to get on the ballot.
Nonetheless, Visconti and his supporters worked like dogs to get him on the ballot. To qualify, he needed over 10,000 signatures that had to be notarized and then approved individually by Town Clerks from every town where they originated. Visconti supporters went door to door, stood at various fairs in the rain and handed out leaflets in front of gun stores.
Visconti represents a lose coalition of voters – the Tea Party, those upset about the new restrictions on gun ownership (the Connecticut Citizens Defense League or CCDL) and those opposed to Common Core, the new national education curriculum. What is fascinating is that as these various groups have become more involved in the political process, they have come to the same conclusion as the Party Insiders – the only thing Joe Visconti can do is ensure a Malloy victory. Thus the CCDL has endorsed Foley and the Tea Party has urged Visconti to withdraw. One of the more conservative State Senators, Joe Markley, produced a brilliant video on this topic.
If Visconti continues with his race and causes Foley to lose, everyone will blame him – but that would be unfair. Had Visconti been allowed on the ballot for the Republican gubernatorial primary, he would have lost. But his supporters would have felt they had been treated fairly. There would have been a much greater chance that they would have united behind the nominee.
But what really is going on here is a national phenomenon. As politicians from both parties have become nothing more than Dancing Bears for Big Money, populist candidates have emerged. While it is virtually impossible for these candidates to win, their presence on the ballot places a level of unpredictability that professional politicians find disconcerting.
I have no idea what Visconti will do. I am not sure that he does. But I do know this. He will find it extremely uncomfortable to bow out after so many people worked so hard to put him on the ballot.