(Danbury News Times Op-Ed) Sen. McLachlan: Why was war declared on the Independent Party in Connecticut?

September 9, 2013

Op-Ed as it appeared in the Danbury News Times
It was a stunning discovery.

On an afternoon at the State Capitol in late May, during the busiest and most chaotic week of the Connecticut General Assembly’s legislative session, my colleagues and I came across language which had been slipped into a working draft of a nearly 100-page campaign finance bill.

What did we find? Language that would have barred the use of the word “independent” in political party names.

The measure, if passed, would force the Independent Party of Connecticut — the third-largest political party in the state which has a 30-year history — to change its name. By the stroke of a pen, the 14,000-member party that started out in greater Danbury before spreading to other areas of the state would have been erased from existence.

Why was war declared on the Independent Party? The answer boils down to two words: political power.

In the last two statewide elections, more votes were cast on the Independent Party line than the Working Families Party line. The Working Families Party is a third party that traditionally cross-endorses Democrats. The Democrat writers of the draft bill’s language had an obvious goal. They wanted to neuter the Independent Party of Connecticut by eliminating them.

Fortunately, Republican leaders and I saw this for what it was: an arrogant power grab. We were witnessing an attempt to turn our political process upside down in order to serve partisan interests. So we blew the whistle — loudly. Once we did so, Democrat leaders backed away from the unconstitutional proposal quicker than you can say “Independent Party.” The assassination attempt on the “I” word had been thwarted.

I tell this story to remind voters that the process we currently have is always vulnerable. Especially in a state like Connecticut, where one party rules the executive and legislative branches of government, we need to be mindful of attempts by majority Democrats to consolidate their power even further. When we see it, we need to expose it and shout from the rooftops about it.

This year’s failed attempt was outrageous — an insult to Connecticut voters. If legislators neglect to read through future 100-page bills that are circulated at the last minute, entire parties, like the Independents, could one day see their names vanish entirely. Heightened vigilance and public awareness are the keys to keeping Hartford’s hoarders of power at bay.

State Sen. Michael McLachlan represents Bethel, Danbury, New Fairfield and Sherman. He serves as ranking member on the Legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee. www.senatormclachlan.com.