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Rep. O’Neill’s Amendment to Eliminate Political Party Convention Requirements Fails Along Party-line Vote

Posted on May 30, 2019 by admin


During debate on legislation to expand voter access across Connecticut, State Representative Arthur O’Neill (R-69) proposed an amendment for legislation he initially introduced that would eliminate the state requirement for political parties to hold nominating conventions.

Unfortunately, the measure failed on a party-line vote of 86 to 59, and without the support of a single Democrat.

“I’m disappointed that my colleagues chose to put party loyalty ahead of sound state policy and opposed legislation that allows for an equitable process, regardless of political party, and helps maintain the integrity of our statewide elections,” Rep. O’Neill said. “It’s unfortunate they could not or did not recognize the importance of allowing political parties the freedom to choose whether to hold a nominating convention based on the needs of their own candidates and party.”

The amendment, based on legislation Rep. O’Neill proposed earlier in the session (HB 5041- An Act Concerning Major Party Conventions), and which had a public hearing that garnered support but absolutely no opposition, would eliminate the requirement for political parties to hold state or district conventions, as applicable, for the purpose of choosing a candidate for nomination to any state or district office. The bill would not prohibit political parties from holding a convention if they chose to do so provided they conformed with applicable law and do not choose more than one candidate for nomination to any office.

“Interestingly, Democrat opposition to the amendment centered around minor, technical concerns about how to establish ballot order in cases where no convention was held,” Rep. O’Neill said. “Instead of asking for clarification on that point, or working across the aisle to amend the bill’s language to allay their concerns, they rejected the amendment out-of-hand.”

Connecticut is in the minority of states with respect to how candidates are selected. The political convention was originally created in the 1830s and in most parts of the country has been superseded by the primary process for many decades. For many years, the convention seemed to serve the best interest of the voters of the state of Connecticut. Since 2006, however, it has become clear that the convention is an expensive, inconclusive and time-consuming hoop through which candidates must jump. Connecticut is one of only three states that still uses the political convention system.

“The costs of hosting political conventions greatly surpasses the benefit to candidates or voters, with recent candidates for governor spending about $250,000 to speak with a small group of delegates instead of conducting a conversation with the general public,” Rep. O’Neill said. “This measure would have allowed voters more access to candidates during the nominating process and saved untold amounts of money that could be better utilized in getting a candidate’s message to the people. Conventions have become a place for political insiders to wheel and deal with little or no regard for the will of the voters or the best interest of the people.”

In 2006, the Democrat convention for U.S. Senate and governor endorsee was rejected by the Democrat primary. In 2010, the GOP convention endorsed candidate for governor was only able to garner 42% of the vote in the primary. In 2014, the Republican endorsed candidate for lieutenant governor was defeated in the primary garnering only 33% of the vote. In 2018, the Republican convention endorsed candidate for governor was defeated, garnering only 21% of the vote; the candidate for lieutenant governor got less than 50%.  In 2018, 6 out of 7 endorsed offices went to primary in the Republican Party; in the Democratic Party every office not occupied by an incumbent went to primary while both parties had primaries for the open 5th congressional district.