Monday, November 06, 2006

Christopher Kennedy, Independent, for Connecticut State Rep

EASTERN CONNECTICUT

A Grudge Match?

Challenger Has Filed Federal Suit Against Incumbent's Brother By RACHANA RATHI, Courant Staff Writer
Democratic state Rep. Ted Graziani, running in the 57th House District for a fifth term, is facing a challenge from an unaffiliated candidate who has a tense personal history with the incumbent's family.

Graziani, of Ellington, has no Republican challenger, but Christopher Burke Kennedy of Ellington is running as a petitioning candidate. Kennedy, a University of Connecticut graduate who works as a senior mechanical engineer at Pratt & Whitney, was a write-in candidate in the last election, garnering four votes.

The 57th House District encompasses East Windsor and Ellington.

Kennedy, 39, has a pending federal lawsuit against Graziani's older brother, Vernon Superior Court Judge Edward Graziani, who presided over a portion of Kennedy's lengthy and contentious legal battle with his ex-wife for custody of their three children.

Edward Graziani, who is a former state representative, granted Kennedy's ex-wife sole custody of the couple's children in February 2003. The judge also held Kennedy in contempt of court, but a state Appellate Court later overturned the contempt ruling.

The lawsuit, which alleges that Kennedy's civil rights were violated during the proceedings, also names three other judges and two family relations officers.

"This campaign has become personal," said Graziani, 58, a senior buyer and planner at Hamilton Sundstrand. "The best I can determine is it's his way of getting back at my brother through me."

But Kennedy said that while his personal experiences, in family court and as a taxpayer, prompted him to run for office, it is not a means for revenge. He said Graziani has been in office too long and is not fighting for what people in Ellington and East Windsor need.

"They need an advocate," Kennedy said. "They need a true advocate, who will hold judges accountable, get more state funding to the schools and provide gas tax and property tax reform."

Kennedy said he would like to have the gas tax capped during the next two years and the state income tax cut by 1 percent to 2 percent. He would also push for the state to provide more funding to lessen property tax pressure on towns, he said. Education, veterans' rights and affordable health care are also on his agenda.

But Kennedy's primary issue is judicial accountability. He contends that judges operate in secrecy and that complaints against judges are largely ignored. In particular, he would like for the state Judicial Review Council to be composed of citizens instead of judges and lawyers.

"You need an independent investigating committee to hold judges accountable," said Kennedy, an Ellington resident for 16 years who has never held elected office. "They should be civilly liable if they abuse their power."

Graziani said his record in office and in the community speaks for itself. That the Republican Party organizations in Ellington and East Windsor have not put up a challenger in the past four elections is a reflection of his good relationship with both communities, Graziani said. And the Working Families Party, which challenged him in at least the past two elections, cross-endorsed him this year.

Graziani is vice chairman of the executive and legislative nominations committee, and he also serves on the banks committee and the select committee on veterans affairs. A U.S. Army veteran, Graziani was a four-term selectman in Ellington when he was elected in 1998 to the seat held by his brother. Married with five children, he has lived in Ellington since 1965.

Graziani said his primary focus would be to have the state provide heating oil assistance to schools, which lock in their rates at the beginning of the year, from the surplus in the general fund; to improve security in schools; and to allow unemployment benefits be given if the spouse of a military officer has to leave his or her job when the officer is transferred out of state.

"We talk about keeping families together," he said. "I feel we should be supporting those spouses who have to leave through no fault of their own to be with their spouses."

Contact Rachana Rathi at rrathi@courant.com.

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POLITICS

Pelosi Visit Targets Key House Conflicts

Democrat Could Become Speaker
November 6, 2006
By DANIELA ALTIMARI, Hartford Courant Staff Writer
Forget former Speaker of the House Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill's adage that all politics is local.

For Nancy Pelosi, all politics is personal.

The California Democrat is poised to become the next speaker if her party wins control of Congress Tuesday. And that explains why she came to Connecticut Sunday to rally supporters of Democratic congressional challengers Chris Murphy, Joe Courtney and Diane Farrell. The state is a key battleground, and polls show that all three races are too close to call.

"We need ... 15 seats to win back the House," Pelosi told a group of Courtney backers at the candidate's headquarters in Colchester. "Connecticut can lead the way [and] supply one-fifth of what we need."

Connecticut Republicans view Pelosi as a divisive figure and said they were thrilled that she decided to visit the state.

"It is very telling that Diane Farrell, Joe Courtney and Chris Murphy would ask the queen of the left wing, Nancy Pelosi, to come into town the last weekend before Election Day to campaign for them," state GOP Chairman George D. Gallo said in an e-mail to reporters. "In these close races in Connecticut, there are few things that motivate Republicans and independents more to vote for our candidates than the thought of Nancy Pelosi being two heartbeats from the presidency."

Pelosi's first stop was a pasta luncheon at a function hall in New Britain to stump for Murphy, who is trying to unseat Republican Nancy L. Johnson. Her last stop was a pasta dinner at a Fairfield restaurant for Farrell, who is battling GOP incumbent Christopher Shays. In between were stops in Colchester at Courtney's headquarters and the local Democratic Party's annual spaghetti supper. Pelosi said the abundance of pasta was fitting, since she would become not just the first female speaker, but also the first Italian American one.

At the St. Joseph's Polish Society in Colchester, Pelosi mixed easily with local Democratic officials. The atmosphere was folksy: Blue and white balloons decorated the room and Courtney's daughter Elizabeth was collecting orders for Girl Scout cookies. Also working the crowd were Democratic gubernatorial candidate John DeStefano Jr. and members of the party's under ticket.

If Democrats gain the majority in the House, Pelosi said, she will immediately pursue initiatives including an increase the minimum wage; enacting the national security recommendations of the 9/11 commission; negotiating for lower prescription drug prices for seniors on Medicare; cutting interest rates on student loans; and rejecting privatization of Social Security.

During a brief press conference at Courtney headquarters, Pelosi was asked if she supported a push to build more nuclear-powered submarines at Electric Boat in Groton. She demurred, saying the money the government is spending to fight the Iraq war is draining resources from other military needs.

Courtney said Pelosi would be an excellent leader. "She's whipped us into position ... on the things that matter the most."

However, Pelosi rejected the notion that she sets an agenda and her fellow Democrats walk in lockstep behind her. "We're rejecting rubber stamps," she said. "We don't want them in our party. ... The differences of opinion are what make us strong."

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