Eric Coleman explores Hartford’s mayoral race; he is not ‘a carpet bagger’


Hartford – A longtime Democratic senator and judge is testing whether to run for mayor of Hartford in 2023.

Superior Court Judge Eric Coleman, a Bloomfield resident, explores a race challenging incumbent Mayor Luke Bronin.

“I am writing to express my interest in becoming mayor of the City of Hartford,” Coleman wrote to attorney Bruce Rubenstein, a Hartford resident, in a July 22 letter. “I am extremely public service oriented and believe that the experience and insight I have gained over many years of service in the state legislature can be helpful in resolving many of the thorny issues facing Hartford is confronted.”

Coleman sent similar letters to other Hartford residents and members of the Democratic Town Committee.

Although he has resided in Bloomfield for decades, Coleman, 71, is no stranger to the city, having represented the 2nd Senate District, which includes parts of Hartford, Windsor and Bloomfield, from 1995 to 2017. He also served in the State House of Representatives as a Representative for the 1st District from 1983 to 1994, serving as Majority Whip in 1991 and Vice President in 1993.

He resigned from the Senate in January 2017, just before the start of the legislative session, and submitted his name to become a judge. While the Senate easily approved his candidacy for the judgeship, the House narrowly approved him, 74-72, in 2018 in part due to claims that there was no money for judges. of the Superior Court.

Around that time, Themis Klarides, who was then the House Republican leader and is currently running for the U.S. Senate, said she clashed with Coleman when they were in the Legislative Assembly.

“I will say this, as the only female leader in this building and in this era of mansplaining that we live in, I feel I must speak on behalf of every woman when commenting on my concerns with [the] behavior of this candidate,” Klarides said at the time. “I will say that the former senator and I had a conversation afterwards. He apologized and I accepted that apology, but as we hear day in and day out, words and actions have consequences.

Judicial ethics rules have prohibited Coleman from commenting on this story, but people who know him say he would be a formidable candidate for the position currently held by Bronin, who is serving his second four-year term.

Bronin declined to comment on Coleman’s potential candidacy.

“Judge Coleman, by virtue of his test of the waters, has galvanized city activists, Democratic Town Committee members, union members and progressives in a way they haven’t been galvanized in a very long time,” said Rubenstein, a longtime friend and colleague.

“In his more than 30 years as a state representative and senator, there has never been a shred of scandal – no ethics violations, no lawsuits, no criminal cases. , nothing,” Rubenstein said. “He’s the most honest person I know. … People all over town felt a little Bronin fatigue. He’s had two terms. People think he’s got two terms. It’s the custom for a mayor. That’s enough.”

Ken Kennedy, a former Hartford councilman, said Coleman “is a strong candidate” who not only has name recognition but hasn’t lost an election — primaries included — in three decades of public service.

“He has been a civil servant for a long time. Many people know Eric. Lots of people love Eric,” Kennedy said. “He has credibility with city voters and political leadership voters. … One of the best politicians, very cerebral. He wasn’t one to shout and all that. Eric thought long and hard before saying anything. From a political point of view, he would be a very good mayor.

Kennedy added that Coleman’s age and experience worked in his favor.

“The problem with being mayor of Hartford is that it’s not a great job,” Kennedy said. “As mayor of Hartford, you have to say no. So if you’re a promising politician, it’s not a great job. But for an older politician, who doesn’t have those ambitions or concerns, it’s not a bad job. You can say no, because you’re not trying to run for Congress, the Governor, or the Senate. Generally speaking, a candidate like Eric is simply seeking to be mayor of Hartford. He is not looking for the next step.

Bronin considered a possible run for governor in 2017, but did not. He has not publicly expressed a desire to run for any office other than mayor since then.

Kennedy echoed Rubenstein and said people were “excited” about Coleman’s potential candidacy.

“I talked to a lot of people,” Kennedy said. “People know the name. No one says, ‘Who is he?’ No one says, ‘Who is it?’ Eric is a known commodity. If you tell people Judge Coleman is running, they know who he was because he was a senator. [and state representative] in this field for 30 years and it’s not like he lost an election.

Coleman enjoyed massive supermajorities when he ran in the general election, garnering at least 77% of the vote when he faced an opponent. He was also chosen three times by his fellow Democrats, including a victory over Shawn Wooden, the current state treasurer, in 2014.

“He beat the challengers. It has not always been approved. He had to run and fight people,” Kennedy said, adding that victory over Wooden “wasn’t close.” (Coleman got 51.7% of the vote, Wooden got 45.9% and Len Walker 2.4%, according to the secretary of state’s website.)

“Shawn was president of the city council at the time, I think,” Kennedy said. “And Eric won Hartford, by the way, when he was up against Shawn. Shawn didn’t make it to town.

“Eric has never lost a primary or a general election,” said Rubenstein, who co-led Coleman’s first run in 1981.

Rubenstein said that by the end of the election season, Coleman will be a Hartford resident and that shouldn’t be a problem.

Kennedy added that Coleman is not “a baggage handler.”

“Eric has represented the City of Hartford for [22] years,” Kennedy said. “It’s crazy. … He’s represented Hartford for so long, litigate before the legislature as both a state representative and a senator.

Coleman received his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University in 1973 and received his law degree from UConn School of Law in 1977. He worked as a public defender and as a consultant for Aetna before entering private practice as a lawyer in 1986.

While rumors have swirled about potential mayoral candidates, Coleman is the first to officially test the waters. Bronin hasn’t announced whether he will be seeking re-election, but he still has plenty of support in town.

“For the first time in many years, our rate per mile is going down and Hartford is growing,” City Council Speaker Maly Rosado said. “If Mayor Bronin runs again, he will have tremendous support in the community and will be extremely difficult to beat.

Ted Glanzer can be reached at [email protected].

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