Mark Greenberg, a Republican running for the House in the 5th District, has called upon Chis Donovan, the Democratic Speaker of the state House running for the same seat, to step down from the redistricting commission that will recommend new borders for Connecticut’s five U.S. House of Representative districts.
The committee is split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, and Mr. Donovan is the only member of the commission who will be seeking higher office.
Other members of the commission are:
Senator Martin Looney, (D, 11th District)
Representative Sandy Nafis, (D, Newington)
Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams, (D, 29th District)
Minority Leader Representative Lawrence Cafero, (R, 142nd District)
Senator Len Fasano, (R, 34th District)
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, (R, 28th District)
Representative Arthur O'Neill, (R, 69th District)
“Chris Donovan,” Mr. Greenberg noted in a press release, “is a declared candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 5th District and his participation on the redistricting commission is as blatant a conflict of interest as I have ever seen. In fact, I’m surprised that Chris does not see this for himself.
“A declared candidate sitting on the panel that is recommending new district boundaries gives the absolute worst appearance. Our elected officials must be committed to transparent and open government. By not stepping down, Chris Donovan is engaging in the same old back-room politics and seeking an unfair political advantage. If he refuses to step down, I believe Connecticut voters will see right through his true motives.”
Perhaps. But the true motives of any legislative mover in the General Assembly are hardly transparent. Mr. Donovan – the Speaker of the State House, a position comparable in influence to President of the Senate Don Williams, both of whom steer the business of the General Assembly – is hardly an equal among equals.
In the political barnyard, George Orwell noted in his novel “Animal Farm,” everyone is equal; but the pigs are more equal. Both the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House wield more influence than any other legislative members of the Gerrymander Commission.
So inordinate is Donovan's influence in the General Assembly that at times the Speaker has overturned the gubernatorial ambitions of both Republicans and Democrats. Last June, when SEBAC and Governor Dannel Malloy were pulling budgetary taffy, the coalition of state unions having rejected the governor’s Plan A, Mr. Malloy wanted the General Assembly (read: Mr. Donovan and Mr. Williams) to pass a bill that would calculate pension payouts without including overtime pay.
The bill passed in the Senate but met grief in the House when Mr. Donovan, long a step-and-fetch-it for unions, refused to bring it up for a vote.
Much later, after Mr. Malloy touched SEBAC with his cattle prod, forcing union leaders to accede to PlanA2, the governor was asked by Hartford Courant reporter Jon Lender what should happen now with the bill in the House.
While the SEBAC-Malloy-Donovan-Williams boosted from three to five years the pension calculation method employed for new employees hired since July, tens of thousands of employees were untouched by the more severe pension calculations – until 2022, ten years down the road.
Never mind, said Mr. Malloy, overtime in the future would be reduced through better management practices. Mr. Donovan, now running for the U.S. House in the Connecticut’s 5th District, no doubt appreciated Mr. Malloy’s accommodation. Mr. Donovan will need union support to give him an edge over his competitors in the upcoming election.
The now infamous Gerrymander – a district so shaped by influential politicians to give them an advantage they might not otherwise enjoy in a (small “d”) democratic election – was named after governor of Massachusetts Elbridge Gerry, who signed a bill that redrew state election districts, one of which was so distorted that it resembled in outline a salamander.
The Gerrymander Commission should not permit Mr. Donovan, the largest and most influential pig in the legislative barnyard, to shape a district he hopes to claim in a democratic election. Mr. Donovan is the only legislative member in the above list currently running in a U.S, Senate district that may change as a result of his participation in the committee over which he will wield, by virtue of his position as House leader, an inordinate influence.
Mr. Donovan should withdraw from the commission. Failing that, he should be booted out for the following reason: The Speaker’s participation will forever taint a process that should be non-partisan, fair and un-piggy.