State Rep. William R. Dyson, who represents New Haven, will take on House Majority Leader James A. Amann in a race for speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives today.
The House Democrats will vote on the speakership at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. Dyson has served the 94th Assembly District, which includes the Yale campus, in the House of Representatives since 1976. Amann, who has been the House majority leader since 2002, has represented the 118th district, which includes Milford, since 1990.
“It’s been a long process,” Amann said Monday. “I know that most elections are over and everyone’s relaxed, but certainly the big [races] tomorrow will be for House Majority Leader with Christopher Donovan, and Bill [Dyson] and I for the speaker race.”
The selection will not be official until the full House, including the House Republicans, vote on January 5, 2005. But today’s vote will likely determine whether Amann has enough support in the House to earn the speakership even if GOP representatives vote for Dyson, as some Republicans have said they might.
Dyson currently serves as the House chairman of the Appropriations Committee and sits on the Education Committee and the Legislative Management Committee. Dyson is also the treasurer for the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus. In the past, Dyson has served as assistant majority leader, assistant minority leader, and chairman of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.
Dyson said he is confident in his ability to perform the duties the speaker position would require of him. He sees his years of service, specifically those he served as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, as strong evidence of his capabilities. Throughout his years on the committee, Dyson said he has learned to put aside partisan interests for the interests of the group and of his constituents, giving him a stronger appeal to the right.
“The speaker cannot engage in the tyranny of the majority,” Dyson said. “If you want to have a workable relationship with the other side of the aisle, then you have to convey some notion that you’re fair. I think its fair to say that the Republicans see me as being fairer than [Amann] because I have done it for the last 15, 16 years.”
His history with Connecticut politics has earned him the support of many New Haven officials.
“Bill Dyson would make a great speaker,” New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said. “He’s eminently qualified, and he’s put in the time.”
In addition to DeStefano’s endorsement, Dyson has the support of Deputy Majority Whip Pat Dillon, who represents the 92nd district — an area that includes the Westville section of New Haven.
“Amann’s a conservative,” Dillon said. “There’s nothing wrong with that, but Bill Dyson has been consistently pro-choice and pro-gay rights, he has more seniority, and he has more experience with the budget than anyone else. With the policy questions he has been consistently on the right side.”
Dillon added that Dyson has demonstrated his commitment to the city of New Haven countless times over his 28 years of service.
“Bill [Dyson] has always been consistent on the issues,” Dillon said. “And every time you see a press conference about all the wonderful things in New Haven, Bill Dyson got them.”
Despite the strong support Dyson has received from the New Haven community, Amann is confident he will win the vote. Currently the House majority leader, Amann has previously held the positions of assistant majority leader and deputy house majority whip. According to Amman, the race is already decided — he anticipates receiving around 80 votes, and only 76 are necessary to win.
“Pretty much, we’ve had the vote count for over a year,” Amman said. “This is an inside game, and most of the people on the inside game know that the race has been over for a long period of time.”