By Juan Hernandez
32BJ SEIU Connecticut District Leader
In a few short hours, Hartford voters will go to the polls on a rare Wednesday election to select the Democratic Party nominee for mayor of Hartford in the November elections. If money were all that matters, then wealthy young newcomer Luke Bronin would easily win against longtime Hartford resident and current mayor Pedro Segarra. According to Jonathan Pelto’s “Wait What?” blog, Bronin’s mayoral campaign is on track to become the most expensive in Connecticut history, having raised over $600,000, nearly double the amount of Segarra’s campaign. But countering the power of money in this race is the passion of the people. For the past few weeks, our members have been volunteering their time to speak to the residents of Hartford one on one, answering the fancy TV ads and glossy mailers with a reminder that Pedro Segarra is the only candidate who understands and has dealt with the problems of this city from the inside.
Yes, Pedro Segarra is a Puerto Rican mayor in the largest Latino city in New England, with people of color making up over 70% of the population. But more important, the 56-year-od Segarra has been an integral part of Hartford’s diverse community since the age of 15. Not only has he personally suffered from the same issues of poverty and gun violence (which took the life of his father) that Luke Bronin seeks to exploit in his mayoral campaign, he has also spent a lifetime of public service as a social worker, prosecutor, city councilor and mayor, working hard to alleviate these complex and deep-rooted problems.
As Mayor since 2011, Pedro Segarra has shown that he understands that Hartford’s problems require creative solutions. We saw that when the Mayor successfully introduced a plan for municipal ID cards this spring, which will help thousands to come out of the shadows and gain real belonging in the city. We’ve seen it in his national leadership on the issue of immigration reform. And we’ve seen it in his strong support for $15-an-hour pay for fast food employees.
There’s no question Hartford faces some big problems, but the city has also made great improvements during Pedro Segarra’s first term. Eight years ago, the city’s high school graduation rate was 29%. Now, it’s over 70%. He helped bring the University of Connecticut back to downtown Hartford. And he has contributed to countless overlooked but important projects, like the restoration of the Revolutionary-War-era Amos Bull House, the oldest brick building in Hartford, as part of his general effort to transform downtown and the North Side.
Of course, one of the deepest problems is the growing income inequality that is affecting older, mid-sized cities like Hartford across the nation. But to deal with that, we need a mayor who understands the struggles of workers like our members and other city residents, not a newcomer who would govern from the other side of the divide. You can be sure Pedro Segarra will stand on our members’ side as we enter into the statewide contract campaign this fall, and if you support him for re-election, you can be sure he will always stand on the side of all the working men and women who make up our unique city in the heart of Connecticut.