Donovan: Open Mouth, Insert The Union Label

There’s an old quote about keeping quiet and being thought the fool rather than opening one’s mouth and removing all doubt. For Democrats in Connecticut’s 5th congressional district who want to keep that seat out of Republican hands, Chris Donovan is the walking, talking embodiment of Shelley’s maxim.

Since announcing his run for Congress last year, the current speaker of the state House of Representatives and the presumed front-runner for the Democratic nomination has stumbled repeatedly. From clumsy interviews, to ethical challenges to cheap stunts, Donovan has created several cringe-worthy moments, casting doubt on his ability to battle likely GOP nominee Andrew Roraback, the popular state senator. Worse yet, many of those moments have unmasked Donovan as too far left to carry the moderate fifth.

Most recently, Donovan has engaged in redistributionist rhetoric that has made him the butt of jokes from the right. Conservative columnist and blogger Don Pesci has branded the speaker “Huey” Donovan for his brand of populism resembling that of a famous Louisiana governor named Long.

At a candidate forum last week in Waterbury, Donovan said, “We can tax the millionaires in Washington and we can make Connecticut a better place for working families.”

Perfect. Let’s invade the District of Columbia and get some money from other people and take it back to Connecticut. Why go to out-of-state taxpayers? Because they have it and we need it. After all, we just endured the largest tax increase in Connecticut history to support the habits of leaders like Donovan, so it’s unlikely we Nutmeggers would be in the mood to give him more if the speaker asked us to.

Donovan also played a key role in getting legislation passed that mandated employers provide paid sick leave to employees. And he has proposed to raise the minimum wage by more than 18% and tie future raises to the consumer price index.

Obviously, those are not firing offenses. But also tucked into the bill was a foolish proposal to eliminate the so-called “tip credit” that allows restaurants to pay wait staff and bartenders less than the minimum wage on the premise that tips more than compensate for the difference.

After restaurant owners complained loudly that the measure would cost them each hundreds of thousands of dollar a year, Donovan retreated and laughably insisted the tip-credit elimination was included in the bill only because of a “drafting error.” This despite the fact that the legislation’s title included the phrase “Removing the Minimum Wage Tip Credit.” No, I’m not making this up.

At another debate later in Southbury, Donovan asked his fellow candidates for the Democratic congressional nomination to, in effect, sign on to a completely unenforceable non-aggression pact that would prohibit negative advertising.


Of course, Donovan’s proposal, first floated by the Southbury Democratic Town Committee, is transparently self-serving since he has a long record in the General Assembly that leaves him vulberable to attack on a variety of fronts. To her credit, fellow Democrat Elizabeth Esty said as much when she alone among the candidates refused to take part in Donovan’s pious gimmickry. Interestingly, earlier this week, Esty picked up the endorsement of two key Democrats on the General Assembly’s Environment Committee.

In an interview in December with Brian Parker of Hartford Online Radio, Donovan was asked how he proposed to help Connecticut’s economy, which has not had any net job growth in 22 years. The speaker waxed philosophical about hiring more public servants and teachers but said next to nothing about what he would do to get the private sector moving. That would be the same private sector that generates the revenues to pay for all those public employees Donovan wants to hire. In that same interview, Donovan referred to North Korea’s illegitimate dictator family, installed by fellow illegitimate dictator Joseph Stalin, as “kings.”

Furthermore, Donovan has stood against Gov. Malloy and the state’s town clerks in their attempt to reform absurdly impractical freedom of information laws that protect certain classes of state employees who wish be exempt from disclosure of their home addresses in publicly available documents in town halls.

Most amusingly, a bill raised last month would mandate the teaching in public schools of “labor history and law, including the history of organized labor, the collective bargaining process and existing legal protections in the workplace.” Donovan’s spokesman, Doug Whiting, insisted to me in an email that it didn’t come from his boss:

This is not Chris’s legislation. Bills are raised by committees, and this legislation originated in the education committee. Chris, as Speaker, is not a member of any committee. When the legislation comes out of committee, he will take a look at it and determine whether he supports it.

Perhaps, but the bill has the speaker’s fingerprints all over it. When and if the proposed legislation emerges from committee, guess which way Donovan, a former community organizer and public employee union official, will vote on it.

Connecticut’s 5th is a swing congressional district that kept Republican Nancy Johnson in office for 24 years. Will its voters send to Washington an anti-business, ethically blind politician who was endorsed by CT Free Radicals and whose principal mission is to represent the public employee unions — the most powerful special interest in the state?

Democrats would be committing suicide by nominating Donovan. Indeed, I know a politician in Goshen who is salivating at the thought of running against him …

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