Some two dozen activists, camera crews and reporters squeezed into the narrow entry to the second-floor Registrar of Voters office to present their request to Ferrucci. Ferrucci said she wasn't familiar with the law. In a friendly encounter with the surprise crowd in her office, Ferrucci promised, "I will read it and get back to you" within 48 hours or sooner.
The activists cited Section 9-61 of Chapter 143 of the state statutes in their request. That section allows for a Democrat's party afffiliation to be "stricken or excluded" for two years if he runs for office as a candidate of a different party. To read the section of the statute, click here.
(Photo: Paul Bass)
Daniel Tapper, a spokesman for the Secretary of the State's Office, said the decision rests first with the local registrar about whether to begin proceedings to remove a candidate's voting affiliation; then with the local party town committee about whether actually to strip the registration. He said another relevant section of the statute is 9-60. To read that section, click here.
The activists Monday insisted they were operating independently of the Lamont campaign. The Lieberman camp, on the other hand, characterized the move as a "purge campaign launched by Ned Lamontís supporters" that constituted "dirty political tricks at its worst, ranking up there with the outrageous tactics that Katherine Harris and the Republicans used in 2000 in Florida to stop all the votes from being counted."
Lieberman campaign manager Sherry Brown issued the statement. ďThis kind of ridiculous, partisan game-playing is not going to provide anyone in Connecticut with better jobs, better health care, or better schools," she stated. "All itís going to do is deepen our divisions and add to voters' frustration with our broken political system.
ďJoe Lieberman is running to change that, to builld a new politics of unity and purpose that will bring our state and country together to solve our common problems. We will leave it to Ned Lamont to defend the old politics of partisanship and polarization that he and his supporters want to continue.Ē
Lamont campaign manager Tom Swan swung back.
"Sherry Brown should know whatís she talking about before she starts whining in public," Swan said. "The Lamont campaign had nothing to do with this. We didnít even know the law they were quoting. All our work is focused on beating Joe Lieberman on Nov. 7. Joe Lieberman has had 18 years to bring about change in Washington D.C., and all we continue to hear from him is itís time to stay the course."
Monday's action in New Haven continues a central question in this fall's three-way Senate race: Is Joe Lieberman a Democrat or a Republican?
Lieberman has won three terms in the U.S. Senate as a Democrat. But he lost this Aug. 8's party primary against challenger Ned Lamont, who accused Lieberman of being too close to Republican President George W. Bush, especially on the war in Iraq, civil liberties, health care, and the Terry Schiavo case. Lieberman protests that Lamont distorted his record.
After his primary defeat, Lieberman launched a bid for the seat as an independent third-party candidate for the November general election. He formed a party called "Connecticut for Lieberman." He continues to call himself a loyal Democrat; he repeated that claim on "Face the Nation" Sunday. Meanwhile, top national Republicans, like Newt Gingrich, have openly endorsed him, while top White House Republicans like Vice-President Dick Cheney and adviser Karl Rove have offered encouragement and support. Lieberman enjoys far higher support in polls from Republicans than from Democrats. Top Republicans from the White House to Connecticut's governor's mansion have refused to support the endorsed Republican candidate in the three-way race.
Meanwhile, some Democrats, including national figures like John Edwards, John Kerrey and Hillary Clinton, have called on Lieberman to pull out of the race. They fear he will hurt the Democrats in the fall, not only by opposing their choice for Senate, but by helping three endangered Republican Congressman in Connecticut -- Chris Shays, Rob Simmons, and Nancy Johnson -- revive their campaigns and help the GOP hold onto control of the U.S. Congress.
The protesters in New Haven, led by Henry Lowendorf (pictured) of the Greater New Haven Peace Council, picked up that theme Monday. They argued that by running against the candidate chosen by Democrats -- in effect working to defeat a Democrat -- Lieberman has clearly acted in a way that qualifies for his expulsion under the law. Section 9-60 cites an intention not to "support [the party's] principles or candidates" as grounds for expulsion. Section 9-61, as well, cites an intention not to support " the principles or candidates of the party." By running against the Democratic nominee, the argument goes, Lieberman is clearly exhibiting such an intention.
"He shouldn't call himself a Democrat while he's running against the bonafide Democrat," Lowendorf told reporters outside New Haven's Hall of Records. "He's running against the candidate the Democratic Party chose in a vote. He should be out."
"We are upset that he's dividing the Democratic Party," Lowendorf said. "He's taking resources from Democrats who are trying to reverse the course of the Bush administration. And President Bush is supporting him."
Other activists signing Lowendorf's letter to Ferrucci included veteran activists Paul Hodel and Tom Holahan, a former Democratic alderman.
Ferrucci said she has never encountered a question like this in her 17 years as Democratic registrar of voters. In the early '90s, third-party Gov. Lowell Weicker created the A Connecticut Party, which cross-endorsed liberal Democrats like U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro and then-Secretary of the State Miles Rappoport. No one complained then when those Democrats ran under the banner of a third party; the difference between then and now was that their names also appeared on the ballot as the endorsed Democratic candidates.
Lowendorf said his group acted independently of Ned Lamont's campaign Monday. He said he didn't even notify Lamont of the event. Indeed, in recent weeks some members of New Haven's antiwar community have expressed frustration with Lamont, as well, because even though he opposes the war in Iraq, he has spoken out against Hezbollah and on behalf of Israel in the war in Lebanon.
© Reuters 2006