Carlos Moreno serves as Connecticut State Director of the Working Families Party, a statewide third party that advocates for organized labor, racial justice, and pushing the Democrats to the left “as much as possible.”
The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Moreno about the party’s priorities for elections this fall,
How do you see your role as state director for the Connecticut Working Families Party?
As state director, my role is to steer the organization’s platform, administrate and manage the endorsement process, embrace issues of the day, and continue to move forward in terms of different ways to expand unions and support Black and brown folks.
We’re progressives, and we work within the two-party system to make sure that the Democrats are as progressive as possible, so we will primary corporate Democrats, folks that don’t center racial justice or support unions, or work to endorse progressive Democrats.
What are some examples of where you choose to cross-endorse Democrats or run your own candidates?
In Danbury, we have a lot of progressive Democrats on the Democratic Town Committee there, so we usually cross-endorse a lot of them. However, in Bridgeport, for example, there is a long, nefarious history of the regime of Mayor Joe Ganim and Democratic Town Committee Chairman Mario Testa. We usually work to primary those folks when opportunities arise with good candidates. We run our own candidates in places where we can strategically make a difference, such as in Hartford, where we have two Working Families Party city councilors, and a Board of Education member.
What are some of the biggest municipal races you’re looking at right now?
The Danbury mayoral race is going to be a big one. The previous incumbent, Mark Boughton had a grip on that seat for about 20 years, and was basically unbeatable. Now we have a new opportunity for a vacant seat, and there’s a real chance we can take it. The candidate we’ve endorsed there is Roberto Alves, a Portuguese immigrant who grew up in Danbury from a young age. He really embraces the cultural history of the city, which has a lot of historical harm to repair, like in the aftermath of Mark Boughton’s 287 (g) program which deputized local law enforcement officers as immigration enforcers.
We’re also very excited about the New Britain mayoral race. Erin Stewart is a difficult person to beat, and there were three very well-qualified candidates running in the Democratic primary. Veronica DeLandro dropped out, but she brought a lot to the table in terms of embracing racial justice issues and understanding the community. It’s now a two-way race between Alicia Strong and Bobby Sanchez. Strong is a young activist from the Black Lives Matter movement in New Britain, and she’s shown she can do a lot with very little resources in terms of mobilizing volunteers, and she has a very bright future. Still, our state committee voted to endorse Bobby Sanchez, a state representative who’s been very supportive of organized labor and immigrant justice issues who shares a lot of Working Families Party values. Sanchez just comes with a little bit more experience, which made our committee more comfortable with him.
How are you thinking about next year’s gubernatorial race?
That’s all up in the air right now, because views on Ned Lamont right now are a little bit mixed. When he was elected, he had a lot of support from progressives and organized labor, and came in very strong with progressive promises, like paid family medical leave and increasing the minimum wage. He came through with those, but my view is that he may think that he has done what he needs to do for progressives. However, you can see that in the past legislative session, there were a lot of disappointments and progressive bills that did not see the light of day, like the public option, which really could have used more support from the governor. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that, and it’s no secret that there is a lot of frustration with the governor. We had majorities in both chambers, and the number one polled issue with the electorate last year was healthcare reform, so it’s very shocking that Democrats did not do anything meaningful on healthcare.
Are you feeling optimistic about next year’s races overall?
Next year is going to be a big year, and I’m a little bit worried about it. Traditionally in midterms, the party in power loses some seats, so we have that to contend with. There are also some very formidable challenges happening next year at the congressional level, like with defending Jahana Hayes’ seat. We’re going to have to watch that race closely, and it’s going to be a very busy year.
In what ways are you trying to grow the Working Families Party in Connecticut?
Our state committee has traditionally been composed of organized labor, community based groups, and then some individuals with political expertise. We’re trying to expand that to give members of social justice movements a seat at that table. We want more chapters around the state, so that the Working Families Party can have more representation in local towns and we can do more to recruit candidates effectively and train local volunteers. We see expanding the electorate as the path forward for our party, similar to the Bernie theory of the small-dollar donor.