The Connecticut chapter of the AFL-CIO threw its support in the Fifth District congressional race behind Democratic House Speaker Chris Donovan this morning in Hartford, a key political pick-up in a heated race less than two months before the August primary.
Donovan appeared much more at ease than rivals Elizabeth Esty and Dan Roberti when addressing the labor group Monday and appeared to get a more energized response from the crowd before him, with loud cheers and some people even rising to their feet to applaud as he closed his remarks on a recurring theme of “fairness, dignity and respect” for workers.
“We need them out there, fighting for working people,” Donovan told the Courant Tuesday as he shook hands moments after the endorsement was announced. “I’m so proud to have the endorsement of a group that works hard every day.”
Donovan did not address the ongoing federal investigation into his campaign’s finances this week, but the ongoing probe appeared to have little effect on the labor group’s support for him at the convention.
Retiring state Rep. Zeke Zalaski, who is also the president of a Bristol-based chapter of the United Auto Workers union, told that the convention that labor groups would not have been able to achieve as many successes at the state legislative level without Donovan’s report.
“He’ll be sorely missed in the state on Connecticut, but he will be a great asset to us in Washington,” said Zalaski, a Democrat from Southington.
No Republican candidates spoke to the labor group this week. Campaign officials for Mark Greenberg and Andrew Roraback said those candidates had scheduling conflicts while Lisa Wilson-Foley’s camp said it had declined the invitation. Campaign staff for candidate Justin Bernier did not immediately return messages seeking comment on his whereabouts.
The AFL-CIO endorsement is significant for the Fifth District race: the group represents some 220,000 people statewide—about 25,000 of them in north-central Connecticut.
That region includes much of the contested congressional district, which stretches from Simsbury and Meriden out westward to Salisbury and south to Danbury.
The labor group’s membership also votes heavily Democrat, meaning the endorsement could be valuable not just in August, but also in November if Donovan should score the primary win.
The AFL-CIO nod this morning marks Donovan’s second major union pick-up of the week. On Sunday, he got the backing of the state’s SEIU council at an event in his hometown of Meriden.