Senate Votes Down Andrew McDonald for Chief Justice

The Senate voted down Andrew McDonald's nomination for the State Supreme Court of Connecticut on Tuesday. 

One Democrat voted with every Republican. 

The defeat of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's State Supreme Court chief justice nominee on Tuesday has been generating political reverberations in Connecticut, where an open governor's seat and control of the General Assembly are at stake in November.

"No legislative leader, let alone a member of the Connecticut bar, has nitpicked, parsed, and deconstructed the decisions of a sitting judge more than Senator [Senator] Fasano did today. His overtly political behavior and his desire to focus on the outcome of decisions rather than the qualifications of the nominee is the very antithesis of how legislators should handle judicial nominations," Malloy said in a statement on Tuesday after the vote. "It is now an undeniable fact that Andrew McDonald has been treated differently than others who came before him. It begs the question, what is different about Justice McDonald that so concerns Connecticut Republicans?"

Some who support elevating Associate Justice Andrew McDonald to the high court's top job took to Twitter, accusing Republican lawmakers of opposing the former Democratic state senator because he is gay. One Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives said the lack of Republican support for McDonald in the Senate "should motivate progressives across the entire state" to support Democratic candidates.

"We can't let homophobia take control of the legislature in the fall," tweeted Joseph Young of Manchester during Tuesday's debate. He included the hashtag "bluewave2018." If confirmed, McDonald would be the first openly gay state supreme court chief justice.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates also pledged support for McDonald during the debate. Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, who is considering a run for governor, said the next governor should re-nominate McDonald for chief justice, calling him "the right person for the job." He urged other Democratic candidates to take the same stand.

"The bridge is finally connected between Washington Republicans and Connecticut Republicans based on all 18 state Senate Republicans all voting no on a qualified candidate. It's totally unprecedented," explained Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff. "This shows that they are basically bear-hugging the tactics of the Trump administration and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell down in Washington. There's a lot of constituencies out here who will not forget."

Republican Joe Visconti, who recently switched from running for governor to U.S. Senate, fired back at Duff on Twitter, telling him "to get used to it pal" and to "get your Kleenex ready" when Republicans take control of the General Assembly and governor's mansion.

McDonald's nomination narrowly cleared the House of Representatives earlier this month by a single vote. In the Senate, there are an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, but one Democrat is recusing herself, requiring GOP support.

Republican senators defended their opposition to McDonald during Tuesday's debate, strongly denying it has anything to do with the jurist's sexuality, politics or McDonald's longtime friendship with Malloy. Rather, they blamed his record and actions over the past five years on the court, his stances as the co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and a heightened concern about judicial activism — an accusation McDonald denied during his confirmation hearing.

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano of North Haven expressed disgust with the unprecedented robo calls and TV ads that have run in recent weeks, accusing the GOP of homophobia and urging them to support McDonald.

"We didn't push back or fight it because to me it's just noise," he said. "Most people who make those arguments make them because they have not analyzed the case and it's an easy fallback position."

JR Romano, the chairman of Connecticut Republican Party, acknowledged there was "a lot of drama happening up at the state Capitol" on Tuesday during a live announcement on Facebook. He accused Democrats of "not wanting to talk about what's really happening" in Connecticut, mentioning a Democratic lawmaker's proposal for a statewide property tax.

"Every day average families need to understand that in the next year, voting for any Democrat would mean more taxes," he said.

"While you hear all of this other drama that the Democrats are creating about Washington, about all of this nonsense in terms of these accusations against Republicans that are unfounded, the reality is, it's because they have failed you," Romano said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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