An old-time political tradition in CT returns but Democrats largely skipped this year

BRISTOL — A long journey tradition of putting political differences aside for comic relief and a good cause – a dying art in today’s partisan political landscape – returned after a two-year hiatus with some notable guests missing.

No Democrats running for statewide office showed up Friday at the 139th annual Crocodile Club Luncheon at the historic Lake Compounce Ballroom.

Nearly the entire top of the Republican ticket, including candidates for governor, U.S. Senate, Secretary of State, Comptroller and Attorney General, appeared on stage before a crowd of 200 politicians, who sat at long tables lined with American flag tablecloths. to gently mock themselves and their opponents.

The event had “a few cancellations,” said WTIC News Talk 1080’s Brian Shactman, who hosted the event, at the start, noting no-shows, we’re all Democrats. “What are they afraid of?” Schactman said.

Among those not in attendance were U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, who was scheduled to be in Washington, D.C. to vote on his party’s flagship climate change and health care bill, and Attorney General William Tong and US Senator Richard Blumenthal. , D-Conn., who must have skipped the event because there were too few television cameras, Schactman joked about the men known for holding frequent press conferences.

Spokespeople for Blumenthal and Tong said they were invited but unable to attend due to other commitments. Nancy DiNardo, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, said she was not aware of this year’s event but has attended in the past. DiNardo added that there was no coordinated effort by members of his party not to attend. His Republican counterpart, Ben Proto, chairman of the state Republican party, was there.

Onstage, Bob Stefanowski of Madison, the GOP candidate for governor, picked up on a rumor that Gov. Ned Lamont, who appeared in 2018, I didn’t know about the event, so why wasn’t there. Emails sent between staff at the New England Carousel Museum, which hosted the event, and Lamont’s office show the governor was invited to attend.

“I’m disappointed that my opponent, the governor, is not here today,” Stefanowski said, “and I know the excuse is that he didn’t extend the invitation.”

But the real reason for the governor’s absence, Stefanowski said, was because he didn’t meet the height requirement to ride the roller coasters at America’s oldest amusement park.

Stefanowski, who is making a second run for governor, pointed to five reasons why he will win the race in November with the biggest line of applause coming from the “No. 1” on the list, who joked that his wife told him not to use. “Governor Lamont is actually thinking about withdrawing from the race, moving to Nashville, Tennessee because it’s too hard to do business in Connecticut,” he said.

The line – he said jokingly this time – has been a frequent attack by Stefanowski in the rematch between him and Lamont. Last fall, after facing repeated criticism over his wife’s venture capital firm’s investments in two companies that did business with the state, Lamont told reporters that Annie Lamont was in Nashville “to set up businesses there because Connecticut is pretty complicated.” The governor has since said he made the revealing statement out of frustration over his wife’s political complications in doing business in a state he governs.

Anthony Anthony, Lamont’s director of communications, said after the event Friday afternoon that scheduling conflicts prevented the governor from attending. “Governor Lamont has a very busy schedule and unfortunately cannot attend all the events he is invited to,” Anthony said.

When it was her turn on stage, Leora Levy of Greenwich, who won the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate earlier this week, played down Democratic attacks on her support of former President Donald Trump . “A lot of people are trying to turn me into President Trump,” Levy said. “Well, Donald Trump and I have something in common, we both love red meat. However, he likes it well done with ketchup. I’ll have my steak tartare.”

Dominic Rapini of Fairfield, the winner of the Republican primary for Secretary of State, has been quick to file allegations of voter fraud in Connecticut, many of which have proven to be without foundation – and he wasted no time making those same claims on Friday when it was his turn to speak. Rapini said the Litchfield County primary ballots on Tuesday had her name crossed out in error, so she called Staples, “they sent a box of blanks, sharpies, problem solved,” she said, noting how much of a problem it would be if it were chosen for the job. .

Other Republican candidates to address the crowd included Jessica Kordas, who is running for attorney general, the state’s top law enforcement officer, and Mary Fay, who is running for comptroller, the guardian state prosecutor, paymaster and head of health services for state employees. and retirees Mike Reiss, writer of The Simpsons and native of Bristol, headlined the event. The rules for the evening were simple: no politics or stump speeches.

Several Democratic state lawmakers in the audience said they were disappointed neither party leaders nor candidates running at the top of the ticket were able to pull it off. Sen. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, and Reps. Kerry Wood, D-Rocky Hill, and Edwin Vargas, Jr., D-Hartford, attended the luncheon.

“If I was running for state office, I would have been there,” Vargas said. “You never pass up a chance to have a good time, let your hair down a little and don’t take politics so seriously every now and then.”

Wood first came to the event several years ago, “a year out from the election,” when Larson was the only Democrat on stage. “There were a lot of Republicans there and I said, ‘When it’s a (big) election year, it’s going to be great because we’re going to have bipartisan support, lots of laughs, it’s going to be great. ‘” she said. “I was disappointed that so many people canceled.

Wood said he would make a more concerted effort to promote the event, which serves as a fundraiser for the carousel museum, to his colleagues before next year.

julia.bergman@hearstmediact.com

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