Tag Archive: State Politics

  1. Death penalty repeal passes in house

    Leave a Comment

    The death penalty’s days in Connecticut are numbered.

    After nearly nine hours of debate, the State House of Representatives passed a bill repealing capital punishment late Wednesday night, setting the stage for Connecticut to become the 17th state to abolish capital punishment. The House’s approval of the bill by a vote of 86 to 62 follows its passage in the Senate early Thursday morning, and Gov. Dannel Malloy has pledged to sign the bill into law once it reaches his desk.

    “For decades, we have not had a workable death penalty,” Malloy said in a statement following the bill’s passage. “Going forward, we will have a system that allows us to put these people away for life, in living conditions none of us would want to experience. Let’s throw away the key and have them spend the rest of their natural lives in jail.”

    The bill replaces capital sentences with life in prison without the possibility of parole. In order to corral support for the bill, Senate Democrats amended the bill to apply only to future convictions, meaning that the 11 inmates currently on the state’s death row — including Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsy, who were convicted and sentenced to death in the infamous 2007 Cheshire triple homicide — will still face capital punishment.

    The bill also created a special felony murder charge carrying additional punishments for offenders convicted of committing murders that would have triggered capital sentences. The bill restricts inmates convicted of the new charge to two hours a day outside their jail cells, allows them only non-contact visitation and keeps them in a facility separate from those housing other inmates.

    “These inmates will face conditions that are similar to and in some cases more severe than conditions on death row,” Senate President Donald Williams, a Democrat from Brooklyn, Conn., said. “It is a punishment and sentence that is certain and final.”

    The bill’s passage in the House comes a day after city officials — including Mayor John DeStefano Jr., New Haven Police Department Chief Dean Esserman and State Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, who represents New Haven and has spearheaded the repeal effort — held a press conference in City Hall to pressure the state to end capital punishment.

    Looney said the death penalty is inappropriate because the criminal justice system is imperfect, citing James Tillman, who served a prison sentence for 16 years before being proven innocent, and Kenneth Ireland, who was exonerated after serving 19 years in prison.

    “The reality is the death penalty cannot be applied in a fair and impartial manner and there can be no guarantee against error,” Looney said. “No fallible human system should have the power to take a life. Our system is subject to both good faith error and deliberate perversions of justice.”

    A Quinnipiac University poll released last week revealed that Connecticut voters largely support capital punishment. According to the poll, 62 percent of Connecticut voters surveyed said abolishing the death penalty is a “bad idea.” Looney said the poll results often vary with how the death penalty issue is presented in polls, adding that previous polls have shown greater support for repeal when respondents are given the option to replace the capital punishment with life imprisonment, rather than the question of whether the death penalty should be allowed.

    A Quinnipiac poll released last October supports Looney’s claim, finding that when given the option between the death penalty and life in prison without parole, only 46 percent of Connecticut voters continued to support capital punishment.

    In 2009, a similar bill repealing the death penalty passed both chambers of the state’s General Assembly, but was vetoed by Republican then-Gov. Jodi Rell.

    In the past 50 years, Connecticut has put only one person to death. In May 2005, the state executed serial killer Michael Ross, who requested the death penalty after being given the option of life in prison without parole.

  2. Yale conservatives optimistic for 2012

    1 Comment

    Although a year remains until the 2012 presidential election, many conservative Yalies have already chosen their favorite GOP candidates.

    Although the GOP field is far from settled, with the latest polls showing former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain leaping to the front of the pack, the majority of right-leaning Yalies who spoke with the News said they supported either Jon Huntsman or Mitt Romney, both former governors, and are optimistic about the Republican Party’s chances to reclaim the presidency.

    “When we’re looking at the bigger picture, when you look at what states the President has to win to be reelected, it seems there is just an enormous amount of momentum pushing the Republicans towards the White House,” said Michael Knowles ’12, chairman of the Yale College Republicans.

    Knowles spent most of last year leading a student group that tried to recruit Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to enter the race. After Daniels announced in May that he would not be running for President, Knowles received a call from former Utah Gov. Huntsman’s senior advisor, met with the candidate, and eventually became a national co-chair for Huntsman’s youth campaign.

    Huntsman currently lags behind the Republican pack in the polls, with the latest Real Clear Politics poll showing him tied for last nationally with former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum. The same poll shows former Mass. Gov. Romney and Cain in a virtual tie, with 23.9 percent and 23.4 percent, respectively, of the national vote.

    West Cuthbert ’14, a member of the Yale College Republicans, said he is disappointed that Daniels and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie decided not to enter the race, but he believes the GOP primary field remains strong. He added that Huntsman and Romney — who both claim executive experience as former governors and “strong conservative track records” — are his two favorites.

    Most conservative students interviewed by the News expressed the same sentiment — summed up by Yang Li ’12, who wrote that although he has not fully decided on a candidate, he is “leaning Romney” with “some interest” in Huntsman.

    Still, some Yale conservatives said they supported other candidates. Elizabeth Henry ’14, who is Yale’s director of campus operations for Students for Rick Perry, said that Romney is a “flip-flopper” and that Huntsman is “for people who think there’s something wrong with the Republican party.”

    While some have taken the volatility of Republican primary polls as a reflection of a weak field, Yale Political Union President Jonathan Yang ’13 said that may not be a valid inference.

    “Whenever we have an election we have people proposing solutions, and the reason we’re cycling through them is that the platforms are less all-inclusive than in the past,” Yang said. “All the candidates that have a quality that appeals to people also have a quality that makes people pause.”

    Yang added that trends seen in students at Yale — discontent with Obama’s performance and uncertainty about the shifting GOP field — are reflective of the Republican electorate as a whole.

    This sentiment was echoed by Christopher Pagliarella ’12, a former YPU president, who said that different candidates’ “rise and fall” are due to an “optimistic Republican electorate” that eventually finds each successive candidate “uninformed, insufficiently conservative, or both.” Pagliarella said he thinks the current Republican field contains few candidates prepared to handle the responsibilities of commander-in-chief.

    Nathaniel Zelinsky ’13, president of the William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale, meanwhile, said he thinks that the primary focuses too much on policy and not enough on candidates’ broader visions. Zelinsky said only Huntsman has offered a glimpse of his philosophy of government during one of the Republican debates. Some Republicans, Zelinksy added, are “riding a wave of anti-intellectualism” characterized by Christine O’Donnell’s “I didn’t go to Yale” advertisements in last year’s midterm elections.

    The majority of students interviewed agreed with Democrat Avi Arfin’s ’14 assertion that this election is “the Republicans’ to lose,” much as the 2008 election was viewed as a clincher for Democrats given then-President Bush’s unpopularity. Yang said that the election might not be about the “challenger winning” but instead the “incumbent losing,” adding that he is skeptical of Obama’s chances.

    The Iowa caususes, traditionally the first stop during the primary season, are scheduled for Jan. 3. The New Hampshire primaries may take place as early as Dec. 6.

  3. Behind governor’s campaign, a Yale wife

    1 Comment

    In the most recent ad for Tom Foley’s gubernatorial campaign, Leslie Fahrenkopf Foley ’90 appears against an idyllic, backlit suburban background.

    “As an attorney, I’ve worked with many impressive people, but no one more impressive than Tom Foley,” she says, pearl earrings glittering against her brown hair. “So I married him.”

    Fahrenkopf Foley’s presence is vital to her husband’s campaign, said Scott McLean, a political science professor at Quinnipiac University and a political analyst at the Quinnipiac Polling Institute. During the race for the Republican primary in August, Foley’s 1994 divorce from his ex-wife, Lisa Foley, became a hot news item and threatened to derail his image, McLean said.

    Now Fahrenkopf Foley is out campaigning for her husband, trying to show Connecticut that he has a stable home life. But she is doing more on the campaign than just being a figurehead : She has also been leading her husband’s education policy team, applying the same work ethic that served her in the White House, at News Corporation and at Yale.

    “She attends a lot of political gatherings with me, which I think is important,” Foley said. “People care about people’s families, who they pick as spouses and what kind of people they are.”


    Fahrenkopf Foley is no a stranger to politics — she grew up entrenched in the Republican Party.

    When she was in her teens, her family picked up and moved from Reno, Nev., to Washington, D.C. Her father, Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. was summoned by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan to chair the Republican National Committee, which he did from 1983 to 1989.

    “Politics sort of disrupted their lives in many ways,” said Fahrenkopf, who is currently the president and CEO of the casino lobby group American Gaming Association. “You couldn’t be in our household without being exposed to politics.”

    Still, he said his three daughters are moderate Republicans: “They aren’t as conservative as their old man,” he said.

    After Fahrenkopf Foley entered Yale in the mid 1980s, she joined the Yale Political Union’s Tory Party and the Yale College Republicans to spend time with fellow conservatives, who she said were “quieter” than her more progressive classmates. Politics were not her main activity on campus, though, she said. Being in a largely liberal atmosphere at both Yale and her high school — one that, to her sister Amy Fahrenkopf ’95 MED ’02, expected conservatives to be “irrational or emotional” — made both Amy Fahrenkopf and Fahrenkopf Foley develop intellectual arguments to defend their conservative beliefs, Fahrenkopf said.

    Meanwhile, even though Fahrenkopf Foley helped to organize her father’s visits to the YPU, she kept his political celebrity status mum. Fahrenkopf Foley’s English professor Karla Taylor, who is now at the University of Michigan, wrote in an e-mail that her student wanted her successes to “be hers alone.”


    Fahrenkopf Foley first met her future husband in 2004, when she was working as an associate counsel at the White House. They started dating in 2008 and eventually married in 2009, after she had left the White House for New York and began working as a lawyer for News Corp.

    But as her husband started to campaign for governor of Connecticut, commuting to the Nutmeg State proved difficult. Fahrenkopf Foley found herself sprinting to Grand Central Station to make it to campaign events. So she made her decision to leave News Corp. to work for her husband’s campaign.

    When Foley was picking teams to work on his various policies, he said, Fahrenkopf Foley expressed interest in working on education.

    “This was an opportunity for me to really sink my teeth into something I’ve been interested in for a long time,” she said.

    Taking cues from states, such as Massachusetts and Florida, whose school systems she deemed successful, Fahrenkopf Foley helped to construct her husband’s education policy. In an interview last week, she singled out the issue of “choice” — that a state should provide a number of public school options, such as magnet schools, for students. Regardless of the outcome of the November elections, she said she plans to continue her work in education.

    “She really likes Connecticut,” her husband said. “She has a temperament and a value system that fit well here.”

    McLean said it is important that Fahrenkopf Foley is a big part of the campaign. During the Republican primary race earlier this year, a report in the Hartford Courant came out that in 2006, 12 years after a bitter divorce and just before he would be approved as U.S. ambassador to Ireland, the White House asked Foley to have his ex-wife sign a statement that he never “physically abused” her. Foley, in response, told the Hartford Courant that his ex-wife was “very upset” that the marriage had ended and that he was insisting on joint-custody for their son, also named Tom.

    “Our relationship has improved, but it is still not as good as I would like,” he said to the Courant.

    McLean said that since Foley secured the Republican nomination, Fahrenkopf Foley, who now chairs political support group Women for Foley, is a “very important political asset.”

    Otherwise, McLean added, he “would say that’s just sort of campaign fluff to have the wife involved.”

    The election takes place on Nov. 2.

  4. Clinton LAW ’73 backs former classmate Blumenthal at local rally

    1 Comment

    Bill Clinton LAW ’73 returned to New Haven on Sunday to headline a campaign rally for his former classmate, U.S. Senate candidate and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73.

    The former president joined Blumenthal at Wilbur Cross High School in East Rock for a rally that brought together several prominent state Democratic candidates, including gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy and his running mate, Nancy Wyman, as well as incumbent U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who represents New Haven. While it was organized by Blumenthal’s campaign, the rally, which packed the school’s 1,300-capacity gym, was also an opportunity for candidates down the Democratic ticket to boost their campaigns.

    [ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”6129″ ]

    Blumenthal, the Democratic candidate for the Senate seat being vacated by Chris Dodd, has been running an increasingly tight race against former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon, the Republican candidate. Clinton said he came to support Blumenthal not only because of their long personal friendship, but because he believes that Blumenthal is “by light years” the better candidate.

    “I am not here as a courtesy,” Clinton said. “I’ve known this man for almost 40 years — he was a good person when I met him, and he’s a good person today,”

    In addition to praising Blumenthal as a public servant, Clinton, who spoke for about half an hour, defended the national Democratic Party’s legislative agenda on issues that have made incumbents vulnerable in primary elections across the nation, such as health care, financial regulation and economic stimulus. He was unapologetic in his support of the recently passed health care reform legislation; he also advocated major investments in clean energy technology to promote job creation and urged greater assistance to small businesses.

    Clinton said he made the defense of Democratic policies to the mostly supportive crowd at Wilbur Cross because he wanted to supply them with points they could use to convince other potential voters.

    “Since this is a Sunday, and I’m a Baptist, this is the equivalent of preaching to the saved,” he added.

    Clinton said Democrats can also use his defense to address the political backlash against Democrats because of the stagnating national economy.

    Blumenthal, who took the stage before Clinton, praised his former classmate for his “historic courage and leadership of this nation,” highlighting his handling of the economy during his presidency in the 1990s.

    “We need to stop sweetheart deals to pharmaceutical companies, giveaways to oil and gas companies, and tax breaks to big businesses that send jobs overseas,” Blumenthal said.

    Clinton’s appearance comes at a time when polls suggest that the senatorial race is tightening. With five weeks before the election, the latest Quinnipiac University poll, released Sept. 14, puts Blumenthal just six percentage points ahead of McMahon, a gap that has narrowed from 41 in January. And RealClearPolitics, a website compiles and analyzes national polling data, found early September polls to have Blumenthal ahead by 7.5 points.

    McMahon campaign spokesman Ed Patru said in a statement Sunday that Clinton’s appearance at the rally was evidence that “Blumenthal’s campaign is in serious trouble.”

    Over the past several months, McMahon has outspent Blumenthal by a ratio of 16 to one, mostly drawing on personal wealth. She has spent more than $21 million on the campaign so far and has told the press she may spend up to $50 million on the election.

    At the rally, Blumenthal criticized McMahon’s spending.

    “The people of Connecticut want an election, not an auction,” he added after the rally, saying that her spending may be unprecedented for the state.

    Blumenthal, who has served 20 years as the state’s attorney general, told the News after the rally that despite McMahon’s deeper pockets, he had come into the race expecting it to be highly competitive and took confidence from the enthusiasm the crowd showed Sunday.

    Election Day is Nov. 2.