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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Former Hartford Mayor Mike Peters endorses I. Charles Matthews, throws Eddie Perez under the bus

Since I was in Newport for the last few days, I'm playing a bit of political catch-up.

Seems like Joe Lieberman's favorite mayor, Hartford's Eddie Perez, lost a key supporter to challenger I. Charles Matthews.
In the first major endorsement of Hartford's 2007 mayoral election, former Mayor Mike Peters has thrown his support behind I. Charles Mathews, a candidate considered among the most formidable challengers to incumbent Mayor Eddie A. Perez.

"I told myself, if I was going to endorse somebody, I wanted to endorse absolutely the right person," Peters said Wednesday. "The person who was going to represent not just me, but my daughter, my grandkids and the people of the city of Hartford."

"I just think it is time for a change," Peters said. "I think I. Charles would make a great mayor."

Mathews, 61, is among six Democrats vying to oust Perez, a party colleague, in what is expected to be a hard-fought battle.


Hartford's mayor must act both as the city's manager and its ambassador, Peters said, and Peters contends that Perez has been ineffective as the city's principal diplomat.

Peters said he had supported Perez in both of the mayor's previous elections but has grown increasingly disillusioned with the current administration. It has alienated Gov. M. Jodi Rell and members of the General Assembly, Peters said, making it harder for the city to get the resources it needs.

And the current administration has done too little to take care of the city's major businesses, several of which have decided to move from downtown to the suburbs, Peters said.

"I do think Eddie cares. I think he is a nice guy. I just think he is miscast, as far as being the mayor of the city of Hartford," Peters said. "You have to have a line of communication with the governor's office, with legislators up there. It is obvious that is cut off."

Peters said Mathews, who also had a reputation in the 1980s as a brash, aggressive politician, has "grounded himself" with age and found the ability to listen and build a broad consensus.

"I. Charles would have a good impact on the state level," Peters said.

Peters said Perez has cut himself off from the city's people and neighborhoods. Even subtle changes at city hall, such as the push-code security system that keeps Perez's office locked and the public barred from entry, have sent the wrong message to the city's residents, Peters said.

"Everyone before pretty much had an open-door policy," Peters said. "Now at city hall, you have to press a button to get into the place. I don't understand that. What are we afraid of here?"
The endorsement of Matthews by Peters could prove to be significant in an primary loaded with Democrats all running for Hartford's top job.