Kevin Rennie: Political disenchantment grows in CT; that means we all lose

Disenchantment with our two major political parties continues to grow while ticket-splitting declines.

These contradictions combine to confuse the hopes of candidates running without the endorsement of either the Democratic or Republican party. Despite the odds, people come forward and put themselves before their neighbors in a local campaign.

Cracking the two parties’ hold on government defeats most challengers in Connecticut but compelling ideas can emerge from determined independents. J. Stan McCauley is making another bid for mayor of Hartford without the benefit of a party endorsement.

McCauley is running on a six-point platform crammed with ideas. The proposals include strengthening Neighborhood Revitalization Zones and assisting the Minority Construction Council for economic development, improving police and fire retention rates, re-establishing neighborhood block watches and tear down the walls between city agencies so they may more easily work together.

McCauley’s ideas demonstrate he has devoted serious thought to improving life in Hartford.

The most important one may be the least obvious. McCauley, who leads the Greater Hartford African American Alliance, wants to launch a citywide adult literacy plan. “Hartford is in the grips of a persistent silent crisis of adult low literacy,”  McCauley’s campaign website states. Literacy remains an essential element to creating a thriving community. Pens may be alien instruments to a new generation, but everyone needs to know their way around a keyboard and a screen with words on it.

McCauley, who brings a courtly dignity to the campaign, wants to use “neighborhood schools as community learning centers with extended afterschool hours for tutoring and instruction.” He wants to make Hartford “a thriving dual language city,” where residents speak and write both Spanish and English.

Hartford Democrats’ slate of endorsed candidates mostly familiar faces

In a Wednesday telephone conversation, McCauley made a point that many of us who comment on politics overlook. The Democratic primary for mayor in September attracted a dismal 14% of Hartford’s registered Democrats. Just 5,235 of nearly 40,000 eligible voters participated. Eight years ago, when Luke Bronin challenged incumbent Pedro Segarra, more than 9,000 Democrats voted, 5,110 chose Bronin. This year Arunan Arulampalam received 2,121 votes, defeating two rivals. One reason for the dismal turnout is that people who cannot read are often isolated and do not vote.

Let me declare a personal interest. A third party is trying to establish itself in my hometown of South Windsor. One of its leaders is Janice Snyder. She is my friend and was a model public official, serving as a Republican for more than 20 years on the Board of Education and Town Council.

In 2021, Snyder did not anticipate a challenge to her renomination to the Town Council slate and lost at the party caucus. She has continued to serve the community as a volunteer and a founder of the United Community Party. She’s one of three United Community candidates for the town council.  The other two, Marek Kozikowski and Philip Koboski, were elected as Republicans two years ago and switched to United Community last year.

Snyder and her running mates were inspired to take the hard road to public service because they saw the ugly aspects of national politics taking root locally. They believe South Windsor can keep its long commitment to our public schools  while prudently managing local finances.

In this fractious age, Snyder was chosen this month as vice chair of a new charter revision commission. Blessed are the peacemakers. Snyder enjoys a reputation as one. To remain active and kind in politics these days, Snyder is brave, too.

Suffield Democrats may have erred in not nominating a candidate to challenge First Selectman Colin Moll, a Republican. Suffield has had trouble holding on to a library director. Most towns have a library board that quietly oversees the administration of the building and books.

In March, Moll “ordered the library director to remove LGBTQ+ inclusive children’s book from a ‘kindness display’ at the library,” according to the Courant. He then sought information on who was reserving meeting rooms at the library at the same time he was embroiled in row with Anti-Bias Anti Racist Suffield (ABAR). Moll’s interventions and responses to ordinary discourse have been rude and harsh.

Rick Sotil is a petitioning candidate and Moll’s only opponent. Sotil was born in totalitarian Cuba and has made the First Amendment his calling card in the campaign. In a 1981 profile of Sotil as a young professional jai alai player, The New York Times wrote that Sotil was “known for his ability to scramble up the side wall to make electrifying catches and returns.”

Suffield voters may want to break the mold of local politics and choose a candidate who can electrify, not alienate.

Kevin F. Rennie of South Windsor is a lawyer and a former Republican state senator and representative. Reach him at

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