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The group of delegates New Haven’s Democratic Party selected at its meeting last night to vote on the party’s endorsement in the gubernatorial primary race are unanimously in support of Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s bid for governor.

The delegates will also vote on the party’s endorsement in the primary race for U.S. senator, but no tally has been made of whether the delegates support challenger Ned Lamont or incumbent Joe Lieberman. Lamont’s campaign manager, Tom Swan, said he was confident that Lamont will receive a fair number of votes from the New Haven delegation, but Susie Voigt, the chair of the town party, said she thought most of the delegates would be in support of Lieberman, who has had ties to the New Haven area for more than two decades.

“It is good to be together, and it is good to speak with a strong voice,” DeStefano said after the 69-person delegation was announced.

Also at the meeting, Voigt was re-elected unanimously to the party chairmanship after a rumored challenge by Ward 5 Alderman Jorge Perez failed to materialize. The only contested seat in the party leadership — the position of assistant secretary — was won by the incumbent, Robert Melvin, who had the support of City Hall.

While the two Yale students serving as Ward 1 co-chairs were the only Yalies who participated in the vote, students active in local politics said they were glad to see Voigt re-elected.

“Susie Voigt has been a strong town chair and has made herself accessible to students who are involved in New Haven politics, and we look forward to continuing to work with her,” said Brendan Gants ’08, the president of the Yale College Democrats.

Perez said he was never in the running for town committee chair, and had not intended to challenge Voigt, who has served as chair for four years. Perez, who has expressed support for Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy — DeStefano’s competitor for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination — said the rumors grew out of conversations he had with other Democrats about whom to support as delegates to the May convention.

“The idea came up about running for town committee chair, and I found it intriguing and interesting, but I never sent out any letters to anybody,” he said.

Two different slates of 69 delegates were presented to the committee for a vote — one slate of delegates who all support DeStefano, and a second slate that included some delegates in support of Malloy. The second slate, “Practicing Democracy in New Haven,” was submitted by the party’s vice chair, Norma Rodriguez-Reyes. The slate in support of DeStefano won with 45 of the 50 votes tallied, though some members complained that the voting procedure was too complicated and had not been explained adequately.

“I think people needed to have time and have a conversation [about the two slates],” said Susan Campion, a Ward 18 co-chair and one of the five who did not vote for the DeStefano slate. “I’m a believer in an open process, and in our ward we represent different folks, and I want to make sure their views are represented.”

Lamont’s campaign manager Swan said that while the Lamont campaign recognizes Lieberman’s strong ties to the New Haven area, conversations with some of the delegates convinced him that Lamont’s Senate bid “will be treated fairly.” Although Swan said he doubts Lamont will receive the party’s endorsement, he said the Greenwich businessman challenging Lieberman will likely receive the votes of 15 percent of the delegates, which would earn him a place on the August ballot.

A few Yale students who were volunteering with Lamont’s campaign attended the vote and spoke highly of the candidate’s on-campus support.

“When we were on Cross Campus with a table … people were very much anti-Joe Lieberman and very for Ned Lamont,” said Geoff Buller ’09, a co-chair of Yale Students for Lamont.

The 69 delegates elected to represent New Haven will join 1,600 others from across the state at the May convention to determine endorsements for all statewide campaigns, including those for governor and U.S. senator. Primary elections will take place on August 8, and general elections in November.

Malloy also received a big-city endorsement Monday night from Bridgeport Mayor John Fabrizi. A majority of the Bridgeport delegates will be in support of endorsing Malloy, according to the Malloy campaign.
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