U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy came to New Haven Wednesday with a message: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Curry can still defeat Gov. John G. Rowland.
Kennedy, U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal rallied in support of Curry on Wednesday evening at the Labor Temple on Water Street. A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday showed Rowland leading Curry 55 percent to 38 percent.
But Kennedy said Curry should — and can — win.
Focusing on such issues as minimum wage, education and unemployment, the democratic power players called on New Haven to vote for change.
“Anyone who works 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, should not have to live in poverty,” Kennedy said. “We have a candidate that understands this.”
Brian Anderson, a union official with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said Kennedy understands the economy’s effects on the working class. Anderson said he attended the rally because he is frustrated with the “lackadaisical” way Rowland’s administration has been running the state. Kennedy’s presence at the rally was appropriate because of his history of working with and for the labor movement, Anderson said.
“Ted Kennedy has always been a good union supporter,” Anderson said. “He championed minimum wage for two decades in the U.S. Senate. He is a champion for issues across the board that deal with the working person.”
Lieberman echoed Kennedy, referring to the Massachusetts liberal as “America’s Senator.” In his speech, Lieberman described the influence the working class can have on the state’s political agenda.
“You know it’s time for a change,” Lieberman said.
At the event, Kennedy touted his connections to organized labor. The Kennedy family has served the labor cause for a total of 78 years, Kennedy said. He also made further reference to his politically-active family by drawing parallels between the issues his brother, former President of the United States John F. Kennedy, dealt with while in office and those Connecticut now faces.
“This election is so important, for the same reasons that President Kennedy thought were important in 1960 — to get the economy moving and going,” Kennedy said.
The crowd cheered at Kennedy’s remarks.
Kennedy’s appearance at such a relatively small rally made a statement not only of his support for Curry, but also for the labor unions, Anderson said. Throughout Kennedy’s speech, his statements roused listeners to their feet. With his command over the crowd, he spoke of the weakness of the Bush administration in helping the working class.
“We are facing the most anti-worker, anti-union administration that I have seen in the last forty years,” Kennedy said. “Republicans continue to refuse to do justice to these workers — that is wrong, my friend.”
“We are the most highly-taxed and deeply indebted state in America,” Curry said. “We need a government that can stand up again for the people.”
Nearly all of the handful of Yale students who attended the rally, including Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey, said Kennedy’s speech was the big draw.
“He is the foremost Democrat in the Senate,” said Alan Kennedy-Shaffer ’06.
However, most of the union workers at the rally had more personal reasons for coming out to show their support for the candidate. For Ted Duarde of Local 24, the current state of the economy has affected his views of Rowland.
“It has been [tough] because Rowland, when he came to office, promised to sign more — project labor agreements, which he hasn’t done,” Duarde said. “That’s food on the table.”
“I’m proud of him,” Duarde said of Kennedy’s recognition of his personal struggles and his desire to improve the lives of the working class.
Healey said he views next week’s election as a chance for Yale students to have an impact on New Haven.
“It’s about making New Haven the town we want it to be,” Healey said. “This is our life here in Connecticut and there is no excuse not to come out and vote and there is every reason to come out and vote.”
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