Elections Government Politics

West Hartford Deputy Mayor Withdraws from State Senate Race

Beth Kerrigan. Credit: Cara Paiuk (we-ha.com file photo)

West Hartford Deputy Mayor Beth Kerrigan issued the following statement Thursday night, explaining why she will not be seeking the 5th District State Senate vacated by Beth Bye.

By Beth Kerrigan

Back in 2004 when I sought a marriage license so Jody, my wife, and I could marry I didn’t expect to hear “yes.” I knew it was an important statement in this human rights struggle.

The same is true for my decision to seek the 5th District State Senate seat. I didn’t expect to get it – but I thought it was important that I make a statement and put my name in for the nomination.

In the Senate case, 34 delegates will determine the candidate who will run to represent more than 100,000 residents of Burlington, Farmington, Bloomfield, and West Hartford. Once in office, the incumbent stands to stay.

Unfortunately, before it was public knowledge that the seat was available, wheels had already been in motion to secure it.

Nods was given, “yesses” were spoken, handshakes were made.

Nevertheless I asked – I tried.

When I sought a marriage license, people thought it was fruitless. Family and friends tried to persuade us not to be so public when nothing would come of it. Fighting for the Senate nomination, many people tried to persuade me that it was fruitless – to get on board with how things actually were, not how they might be. To avoid risking political capital.

I learned in the marriage fight – as we all did – that each step matters.

District 5 has been a seat of the people, held by a lesbian since 2010 when Senator Beth Bye threatened to primary when she was not the party choice.

The ability to primary serves to give every voter a chance for a voice in a party’s nominating process.

I would love to have had a chance at a primary and to work hard and speak with voters – and have a chance to turn the LGBTQ+ Senate representation from zero back to one. With only 25 percent female representation in the Senate we are moving in the wrong direction. We now have lost two more females senators to the administration, and we have only one woman of color in the Senate.

In fact, in all five special elections that will be held next month, 100 percent of the nominees in this special election process are very likely to be men. The chances of five out of five races nominating men being just chance is 1 in 36. That’s just the mathematical probability of it being by chance. We have to pay attention to these facts – even if they are uncomfortable.

West Hartford elected two women out of their four representatives in November, and neither of these women were the choice of the town committee when they first ran for that office.

Both had the primary process to turn to for leverage. Janée and I do not have such a process  to use to see if the voters would choose us.

Today it is clear, given the math and the process in place, that I have no chance and will withdraw my name. I have to hope that putting my name in and trying at least sheds a light on the problems with the process of nominating in a special election.

In the U.S. Congress, females, people of color and people of various sexual orientations, religious persuasions, and other marginalized voices have won seats in record numbers in 2018. In Connecticut our Senate is sliding backwards, and we can and must do better.

Hard fought progress shouldn’t be lost in a months time to a process that the vast majority of the public neither understands nor has an opportunity to participate in.

Many people encouraged me to run and many said they could not wait to vote for me. When I explained that they would have no vote in the selection they were perplexed.

Last session, when I testified in favor of pay equity, I referenced my first fight for pay equity back in 1981 as well as my fight for gender equality in motocross in 1972 and then marriage equality in 2004.

Our elected officials should work to right the wrongs that lead to imbalance in our elected bodies and our society overall so that everyone has a fair and equal chance.

We need leaders who don’t wait for issues of injustice to become in vogue to be addressed. We need representatives who are the minorities and disenfranchised they represent.

We need bold leaders. Who are willing to fight for our … yes!

As your deputy mayor I will continue to be a strong, unwavering voice for West Hartford. My commitment to put people before politics, as I did when I testified at the Capitol and MDC to put necessary light on the Niagara/MDC deal, remains steadfast.

Thank you to all those who called me wishing it were different – thank you for your support. Thank you to those who genuinely cared enough to check in, offering words of encouragement. Your trust sustains me.

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  • Like you, I was encouraged by many to seek this seat after the strong campaign I ran for state rep. In a hugely Democrat district I put up strong numbers due to my platform and qualifications. I decided to not pursue this opportunity for very different reasons. But wasn’t it you who said that the seat should go to (I am paraphrasing) any Democrat man is better than a Republican woman? Identity politics cuts both ways. Any vote should always go to the best qualified candidate who will represent all, not special interests. Just my humble opinion. Mary Fay

  • Beth: You are a one issue candidate. You don’t represent the diverse issues that are important to 5th district voters of all parties. You made the right choice.

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