The Hartford Democratic Town Committee endorsed Luke Bronin for mayor after incumbent Pedro Segarra walked out of the nominating convention Monday night.
The drama unfolded at Bulkeley High School, stunning the crowd of mostly party insiders. After the nominations, both candidates were expected to give short speeches.
"There comes a time when someone has to do what is in their conscience as the right thing. I decline the nomination for mayor of the city of Hartford," Segarra said, amid loud applause and cheers from his supporters.
The mayor then walked out.
"I am a resident of this city for 41 years and I will not lend myself to a process," Segarra said, stopping briefly in the hallway to address reporters. "The majority of the people in this city are happy with my leadership and I will take this to the people."
As Segarra supporters chanted "four more years" from the hallway, voting got underway in the high school auditorium.
In the end, 49 committee members voted for Bronin, a Yale Law School graduate and former legal adviser to Gov. Dannel Malloy, well over the majority of 40 required to win. Segarra supporters abstained from voting.
Segarra said he will gather petition signatures to qualify for the Sept. 16 primary.
Bronin, who has received the support of several candidates who dropped out of the race, said he was "honored" to accept the endorsement.
"What I've been talking about in this campaign is a mayor who takes responsibility and who holds himself accountable and what we saw tonight was a mayor who walked away when he knew he didn't have the votes and to me that says it all," Bronin said, accepting the endorsement.
Bronin has criticized the mayor for his response to recent violence in Hartford. His campaign said Segarra walked out before the vote because he did not expect to win the nomination.
Segarra, for his part, has accused Bronin of being an outsider and part of a political machine.
"I couldn't be farther from a machine in Hartford. This is about bringing change to Hartford," said Bronin.