WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — House Speaker Christopher Donovan secured the backing on Monday night of the state Democratic Party in Connecticut’s hotly contested 5th congressional district race, but he still has an intra-party fight on his hands.
Donovan, the favored candidate going into the convention held in Waterbury, won 216 of the 337 delegates. He needed 169 votes. But his two chief rivals each won enough support to participate in the Aug. 14 primary. Former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty of Cheshire, garnered 66 votes, while Dan Roberti, a public affairs consultant from Kent, won 54 votes. They each needed 51 votes to make it onto the ballot.
Five Republicans are seeking the GOP’s endorsement. The GOP convention is scheduled for Friday.
Donovan, described by one supporter — former congressional candidate Charlotte Koskoff — as “a bold, unapologetic, progressive Democrat,” said he believes his theme of “fairness, dignity and respect” will resonate not only with Democrats in the primary, but unaffiliated and Republican voters in the general election.
“We’re all working for the same thing,” he said, adding how he has support from small and large towns across the 41-town district, as well as from various constituencies.
But a supporter of Esty, Simsbury Democratic Town Committee member Mike Long, suggested that his candidate, who is seen as more fiscally conservative, has a better chance at winning over the unaffiliated voters in the sprawling district. He said 44 percent of 5th District voters are independents.
“We need a strong advocate for our progressive values and at the same time appeal to independents,” he said, adding how Esty has a record of winning in a swing district.
State Rep. Robert Godfrey, D-Danbury, a Donovan delegate, said he would have preferred there not be a primary, given the level of attention that the national parties and other groups will likely pay to the 5th District seat race. The winner will fill an open seat that’s being vacated by U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, who is running for the U.S. Senate.
“Sadly, on the federal level, it’s all about money,” he said. “I’d rather see a Democratic candidate using this money against a Republican than a Democrat.”
Roberti vowed to continue campaigning on Tuesday.
“Tomorrow we’ll be out on the streets going door to door, which is what we’ve been doing,” he said Monday night.
Roberti sponsored a hot dog stand at the entrance to the convention hall. The hot dogs were free.
The eight candidates running for the seat have raised a total of more than $6.7 million so far in this election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission data posted in April. It’s an impressive sum this early in the campaign as Democrats and Republicans gear up for the battle over one of only two U.S. House seats in New England where an incumbent is not running for re-election.
Both parties like their chances in the largely bipartisan district in northwestern Connecticut.
Five of the candidates already have amassed about $1 million or more apiece in campaign funds. Esty leads the fundraising race, reporting a total of nearly $1.2 million. Among the other Democratic candidates, Donovan, who entered the race in May as the last candidate, has raised about $942,493. Roberti has raised $1.1 million.
Donovan has represented Meriden in the state House of Representatives for the past 19 years. He’s been the House Speaker since 2009.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.