It’s not just Democrats and Republicans on the ballot in West Hartford this election. Voters will soon see the A Connecticut Party back on the ballot for the first time since the 1990s.
The party was formed by Lowell Weicker, who went on to be elected governor as a third-party candidate.
Weicker is known for signing the state’s income tax into law.
By the end of the decade, the party disbanded. Lee Gold, a life-long Republican, resurrected it.
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“I didn’t like seeing where the Republican Party was headed,” said Lee.
Lee said neither he nor the other A Connecticut Party members running for local races in West Hartford support former president Donald Trump. He said he was disturbed by the January 6 Capitol riots and the conservative direction the party was moving in.
“It is a centrist moderate party taking our cues from being fiscally responsible and socially open to discussion,” he said of his new party’s philosophy.
“It’s neat to be able to split the two if that’s what you’re into,” said West Hartford voter Daniel Barrett.
There are five candidates in all on the ballot from A Connecticut Party of West Hartford, four for town council and one for the Board of Education.
Gary Rose, the chair of the Government Department at Sacred Heart University, said the Republican Party in Connecticut is getting smaller and moving more to the right.
“I don’t know if it’s Trump or if it’s just ideological conservativism,” said Rose.
“There was a void in the middle that I’ve been experiencing and there’s been a lack of voice for people in the centrist moderate view,” said Gold.
“They weren’t receiving support for their ideas both on the Republican side and the Democrat side,” countered West Hartford Republican Town Committee Chairman Shawn Daly.
The Democratic Party Chairman, John Bailey, believes the split says more about the internal politics going on in the Republican Party.
“Ya, it’s surprising. I mean as a Democrat for me to leave my party it would have to be a huge issue,” said Bailey.
Nearly half the registered voters in West Hartford are Democrats, three times as many as Republicans. However, there’s also a large contingent of unaffiliated voters that A Connecticut Party hopes to appeal to.
“They’re going to have to let people know what it is they represent. They have a challenge in front of them to really get that message out,” said Rose.
There are 15 people running for nine positions on the town council. A Connecticut Party could draw votes away from the major party candidates next Tuesday.
“When you have this many people running for this few seats you’re always worried,” said Daly.
“I think that to have a healthy democracy we need as many participants as possible,” Bailey said.
The Bull Moose Party is Back
“In my heart I’m a Republican and I believe in Teddy Roosevelt’s values,” said Tanya Carver who is heading up the Bull Moose Party in Oxford.
When Roosevelt started the party in 1912 it was formally known as the Progressive Party, but not the progressives we think of today.
“We do not separate ourselves from the Trump Republicans, we are separating ourselves from the Oxford Republicans at the moment,” said Carver.
Carver said the party was resurrected by members who didn't like the current administration's use of executive orders during Covid-19 and felt like decisions were being made without public input.
She said the mask mandate in schools was a major issue.
"We believe in freedom of choice," said Carver.
“We’re possibly seeing the splintering of the Republican Party here at the local level in Connecticut,” said Rose of West Hartford and Oxford.
Five candidates are running for the Bull Moose Party in Oxford.
“It’s time to unite. There’s room in the Republican party for all views. This whole splinter thing I think is the wrong direction to go. We have to work together,” said Arnold Jensen, the Oxford Republican Town Committee Chair.