Hartford’s Democratic primary is next Tuesday, with three candidates vying to run Connecticut’s capital city. However, the race slipped the minds of some local residents.
“Honestly, I knew about it but I forgot, so I guess it wasn’t at the top of the list,” said Ray Shaw, who lives in downtown Hartford.
“I think I knew vaguely, but I really haven’t been following it closely,” added resident Susan Shea.
Shea said she doesn’t have plans to vote. Neither does Bobbie Edwards.
“I do care but people don’t stick to their word,” said Edwards.
Voter apathy appears to be strong ahead of the primary. Current mayor Luke Bronin, former mayor Eddie Perez, and four-term state legislator Brandon McGee are running for the nomination.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said even in a contested primary race like Hartford’s she only expects a 20-30 percent voter turnout. Compare that to the last presidential election that saw 75 percent of voters turn up at the polls statewide.
“There’s a big drop off for local races,” she pointed out.
“You’ve got to get in front of people and you’ve got to get the message out,” said McGee.
But, even some who’ve heard the message say they plan to sit this election out.
“It is important, it just hasn’t captured my attention for some reason,” said Shea.
“That’s too bad because you know honestly at the local level is where you really do have a voice,” Merrill said.
The candidates know this and say they are focused on the people who have a pattern of voting in primaries.
“We know who those voters are and those are the voters we all concentrate on,” Perez said.
“We’re trying everything we can to make sure we get our message out every way we can,” added Bronin.
Whether voting or not, everyone seems to have an opinion about what needs to be fixed in Hartford.
“The crime rate is still really high for me,” said Rochelle Lesure.
While some major crime rates are down, the homicide rate in Hartford is going in the wrong direction. By this time in 2016, the year Mayor Luke Bronin took office, there were 12 homicides in the capital city. The murder rate has grown since then, with 19 so far this year.
“We’ve been recruiting aggressively. We’ve included more than 100 police officers,” said Bronin.
One of his opponents, four-term state lawmaker Brandon McGee, says poverty needs to be addressed which talking about crime in the capital city.
“We have a problem in our city, and we have to get to the bottom of it and just throwing money at it is not going to do it,” said McGee.
Former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez has his own criminal past. He pled guilty to corruption charges, including receiving bribes in 2017. He doesn’t believe his history has hurt his chances.
“I know that Hartford is a city of opportunity and second chances and that’s what I’ve asked for,” said Perez.
As he goes door to door, Perez said he’s reminding residents of what he did for the city during his three terms as mayor and what he can do again.
“I know what Hartford needs and I know how to get it there,” said Perez.
What Hartford needs, say some residents, is more to do.
“I would like to see more retail downtown,” said Shea.
“I live down here and I would like to see more people come down here and enjoy the city,” Shaw added.
Perez said the city needs to market itself from the inside.
“It’s not bringing residents. It’s really helping the existing residents in each and every neighborhood,” he said.
“I can see a change in the city with the cleanliness and things like that, day to day life, I noticed that downtown is a lot more up and coming than it has been in the last few years,” said Lesure.
McGee believes that when it comes to economic development, for too long the focus has been on downtown.
“Many of our residents have been left behind or out of the conversation,” McGee.
However, Bronin says the downtown is part of a long-range economic plan to grow the entire city.
“I think for the first time in a long time we’ve got a path, we’ve got a plan, a little bit of momentum and we’ve got to work hard to keep it going,” said Bronin.
You must register with a party to vote in a primary. You have until noon on Monday to change your registration from unaffiliated to the party running the primary in your town or city.
If you wish to change your affiliation from one party to another there is a three-month waiting period before you are entitled to party privileges. So, those voters won’t be able to change their affiliation in time to vote in Tuesday’s primary.