Nine months before the next statewide election, Democratic candidates in New Haven have already begun gearing up to run for Congress and the state legislature.

At a Greater New Haven Young Democrats Meeting on Thursday night, several candidates for state office spoke about their goals and campaign ideas, including U.S. Congress hopeful and Milford Alder Bryan Anderson, as well as Ward 26 Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr. In the second half of the meeting, a panel consisting of Ward 4 Alder Evelyn Rodriguez and state representative Patricia Dillon, D-New Haven, addressed the issues women face in politics.

“It was always some guy’s turn to run,” Dillon said in describing the obstacles she faced in running for state office. “I needed permission to run, and I never had permission.”

Anderson, who announced his run for Connecticut’s third congressional district in September, will face U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-New Haven, in the Democratic primary in August. In his speech to the crowd of roughly 25 people, Anderson positioned himself as a progressive and refreshing alternative to DeLauro, who has been in office for 27 years.

Speaking to a topical issue, Anderson outlined his support for stricter gun control, including possible bans on so-called bump stocks and the AR-15, which was the semi-automatic weapon used in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting on Feb. 14, which left 17 people dead.

He also said he supports the expansion of Medicare-for-all and the termination of the nation’s undeclared “proxy wars with Russia and Iran.”

He also highlighted his support for LGBT rights and said that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in hiring and employment — “has languished in Congress” since 1994.

Sean Grace, a Hamden resident running for District 17 of the state senate, noted that several areas in Connecticut that were solid blue for decades had voted for President Donald Trump in 2016. He called on Connecticut Democrats to refocus their strategy on appealing to working-class voters.

Brackeen — who is exploring a run for the District 92 seat in Connecticut’s House of Representatives, which represents parts of New Haven — said he has noticed evolving economic needs and frustrations such as increased foreclosures and unemployment rates over the last three decades.

In the panel portion of the meeting, Dillon and Rodriguez reflected on the obstacles they have faced and the support they have received as women running for and holding political office. Dillon said politics has become more welcoming to women, but she still said she was shocked by some of the gender-based criticism directed at Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 in the last election.

Rodriguez expressed gratitude for the support she has received from other women in politics and from city politicians. According to Rodriguez, she was encouraged to run by the Ward 4 Committee after helping with local political campaigns since her youth.

“Even if you don’t have a cent, you have your voice,” Rodriguez said in Spanish, urging New Haven residents to take political action at the grassroots level.

Of the 30 wards in New Haven, 14 of them elected female alders in the 2017 election. In the state legislature, meanwhile, 93 of the 338 representatives are women. Of the 50 states, Connecticut ranks 21st in terms of gender balance in the legislative branch, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.

Nathalie Bussemaker |