The announcement by Senator Christopher Dodd that he will not seek reelection came as a surprise for some Democrats. WNPR's Jeff Cohen spoke with party veterans at a Hartford small business event Wednesday morning.
Congressman John Larson and leaders of Hartford's African American community gathered at the Rajun Cajun restaurant in Hartford Wednesday morning to talk about ways to bring more money to the city's struggling small businesses. But Dodd's decision had people, including Larson, talking.
"I'm happy for him and Jackie and the kids, sad for the state of Connecticut, because we have lost an unbelievable treasure."
Not everyone, though, had praise for Dodd. Chef and owner Thomas Armstrong says he needs a half a million dollars to rehab his aging restaurant, but he can't get it. Unlike Dodd, who famously got special consideration on a mortgage deal.
"He got his sweetheart deal. I didn't get any. I closed my business down, they almost tried to run me out of town. They did everything to try to keep him around."
Steve Harris has been coming to the Rajun Cajun for almost forty years. He asked Larson to organize the morning meeting that packed Armstrong's restaurant. A former firefighter, city councilman, and self-described Democratic foot soldier, Harris says he was shocked to see Dodd go.
"I guess his 'i'm not running for re-election' wasn't quite out his mouth yet when Blumenthal says 'I'm running', and again, see, Blumenthal doesn't excite me."
Harris says that he's disappointed in his party and that it no longer stands for working people like him. Former State Senator Biaggio "Billy" Ciotto, who now assists Larson, says the senate race is now wide open.
"Who's gonna be on the other side? Is the wrestling queen gonna get the nomination?"
The wrestling queen is Linda McMahon, one of the many Republicans in the race.
Dodd's departure could create a shift in the race for governor, and Ciotto says that's the one Democrats need to focus on. If they can't, he says, the next four years could be another Democratic disaster.
For WNPR, I'm Jeff Cohen.