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Donovan Holds Little Support Among Farmington Valley Town Committees

What support he once had in bid for Fifth District Congressional seat may be slipping away among local Democrats.

Chris Donovan may have easily secured the Democratic nomination for the Fifth Congressional District at the party’s convention in May, but he may have a hard time holding on to it at the upcoming primary Aug. 14.

There are no Democratic Town Committees in the Farmington Valley that are endorsing Donovan, the current House Speaker who is knee deep in a federal investigation into alleged illegal campaign contributions. And late last week editorial pages saw some begin calling for him to drop out of the race to give the party the best chance of retaining control of the seat that Chris Murphy has held since 2007.

While some town committees are seeing a shift in support, mostly from Donovan to competitor Elizabeth Esty, no town formally endorsed Donovan to begin with.

“There was a fair amount of diversity of opinion,” said Avon Chairman Daryl Worobow in a telephone interview Friday. “Even at caucus we ended up 5-3-2 in terms of candidates. There is not one monolithic view." 

But Worobow, who said he initially leaned toward Donovan, was won over by Esty after meeting all three candidates.

“I think Elizabeth Esty could do the job. She’s got the right intellect, the right ability and she’s got some political experience behind her.”

Canton Democratic Town Chairman Mary Tomolonius said Sunday that her town committee had also hosted all three candidates and had chosen to back Esty.

“After we heard from all three, we unanimously agreed we would endorse Elizabeth Esty. She was the most competent, had the best ideas for the problems and solutions facing the Fifth District,” Tomolonius said.

In light of the Donovan campaign’s troubles, which include now eight arrests, including that of former campaign manager Joshua Nassi and former finance director Robert Braddock, Tomolonius said Canton Democrats stand firm in their support for Esty and are just hoping voters will turn out for the August primary.

“I hope and pray she can [gain support] because Donovan has this cloud hanging over him, and for a candidate who typically likes to talk all the time and be out there, he’s been very reticent to talk, held very brief press conferences and not allowed press to ask questions, which makes you wonder,” she said.

Like Mark Greenburg said in a statement following the unsealing of the indictment, Tomolonius said, “whether he knew or whether he didn’t know, shame on him.”

Farmington Democrats were split evenly 7-7 at the nominating convention, Town Committee Chairman Robert Huelin said Sunday, but some of those votes may have migrated.

“I did talk to a lot of people in advance of the convention and a majority were for Donovan,” he said. “Now there seems to be a lot of indecision. A number of people who have been supporting Donovan with varying degrees of strength are having real doubts.”

And while no one has publically revoked their support for Donovan, Huelin said, the question remains whether he can win in a general election.

“Whether they believe he’s culpable for campaign finance stuff is a different story, but they now have increasing doubts about whether he can get it together to win an election or whether this mess shows he doesn’t have the organizational strength to run a tough competitive race,” Huelin said.

Tomolonius thought not.

“I’m just not sure Chris would stand a chance [in the general election]. Republicans could make quite a case out of this going forward,” she said.

Worobow said he thought Donovan, with influential support throughout the state, would win the primary at least.

Tomolonius and Huelin, who hosted a meet-and-greet for Esty with other local Democrats at his home recently, hope not. 

“It’s important to Democrats and by extension to Connecticut and perhaps the country that we send a good, solid progressive to Washington who’s going to push back the every-man-for-himself budgeting. And to do that, we need to elect a Democrat. So If you’re a Democrat and have doubts about Donovan winning the seat, sitting by and letting him win the primary is a little bit irresponsible,” Huelin said. “I’m not going to let the seat fall by the wayside because I’m concerned about rocking the boat.” 

The DTC chairmen said their committees disliked the negative campaigning Dan Roberti had done and felt he lacked necessary political experience. 

Ned Statchen July 31, 2012 at 04:53 AM
I have to disagree with the article. The delegates and supporters for Chris Donovan are as supportive as ever and there are more of us. There are concerns over the campaign but the people who have known Chris, don't have concerns over his integrity. I like Elizabeth Esty but she is more conservative than people think, some of her votes speak for themselves. Mostly she is short on experience, and lost her first re-election election campaign for state rep so something was lacking in the eyes of the voter. The voters continuously sent Chris Donovan back to the State House and his own peers who know him best, elected him to Speaker. That record speaks for itself.
Robert Kalechman August 03, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Let the facts speak for the people of Simsbury and what Mary Glassman may say or do can not change facts I know from the attacks at the Board of Selectman and letters to newspapers that the attack dogs and hit men and women are out and they will say and do anything to people who disagree with their dogma to protect their self serving ways and democratic appointments given by elected democratic look around you will see what I mean What ever may be said in regards to The Connecticut state house Speaker Donovan one of the four most powerful men and women in our state the facts remain that the democratic party and its Fifth district of Connecticut democrats leaders have ENDORSED CHRIS DONOVAN the democrat for Congress get the idea ...sorry but facts are facts I suggest you read the Hartford Courant and Jon Lender or the Editorial page
Paul August 05, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Chris Donovan has done an exemplary job as Speaker and is key to the enactment of effective socially conscious and worthy legislation being enated in Connecticut. There is absolutely no evidence he was involved in any bribery or malfeasance. As for the idea he should step down even if he did not know, on the premise that he was responsible for knowing, that is just disengenuous hogwash. Any person can betray another. Does that mean we should punish the betrayed?
Ron White August 07, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Paul I’m afraid it does mean he deserves to get punished. Even if he did nothing illegal he deliberately did not monitor his staff. He needs to step out of the race and focus on regaining public trust.
Liz Fitzsimmons August 10, 2012 at 02:01 AM
Ron, I have to disagree with you here. I think to say that he deliberately did not monitor his staff is an overstatement. it is clear that he deliberately TRUSTED his staff, and for that you certainly have every right to disagree with him. But, I have known Chris Donovan for over a decade and I can tell you that there is NO WAY that he knew about any of what was going on. And, I plan to vote for him based on his exemplary record for women, children, education, and working people throughout Connecticut for many years. I hope that whatever the result is on Tuesday, we as democrats can pull together on Wednesday and work together!

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