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Alpert wants to get a word in at Blumenthal coronation

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published May 12. 2010 4:00AM   Updated May 12. 2010 5:16AM

Will Merrick Alpert get a chance to address the state Democratic convention next week, to make the case to delegates why he, and not Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, should be their nominee in the U.S. Senate race?

As of midday Tuesday, there was no word from party leaders on whether rebel candidate Alpert will have a chance to address the convention.

My guess is no.

Alpert was working on a speech anyway, though, and from what he told me earlier this week delegates might expect to have a verbal bomb or two lobbed their way if he does get a crack at the podium.

Alpert is smarting over his treatment by many Democratic town committee chairmen around the state who have refused to let him address their flocks, apparently unwilling to allow any picking of the lock that Blumenthal appears to have on the nomination.

This, to Alpert's way of thinking, is a mockery of democracy, the makings of a coronation, rather than an open and honest appraisal of the candidates.

Alpert, after all, has been in the race for Chris Dodd's seat longer than Blumenthal.

The Democratic leadership clearly sees the popular attorney general as their best shot at the seat, and they want Alpert, who managed to royally embarrass Blumenthal in their televised debate, to go away quietly.

He hasn't been obliging, though, baiting "Chicken Dick" to debate again.

"They just want to hold the ball at center court and run out the clock" Alpert said. "They simply want to stay away from me."

Indeed, Allison Dodge, executive director of the state Democratic party, said Tuesday no decisions have been made about candidate speeches at the convention.

She said the final decision rests with the elected delegates of the rules committee, which won't meet until next Friday afternoon, just before the Friday evening start of the convention.

Historically, though, a schedule of events has usually been worked out well before that pre-convention meeting of the committee, she said.

I wondered how Republicans might handle the issue of candidate speeches, in this year of so many candidates, but couldn't get an official confirmation of reports that each campaign will get to air a short video.

(Curiously, Connecticut Republicans do indeed seem to be the party of inclusiveness this year. I found at the top of their Web site a prominent banner advertisement for Connecticut Democrats, courtesy of Google Ads. Click on it and it takes you to a handy form to help you register as a Democrat.

I wouldn't be surprised if the ad might be already gone by the time you read this, depending on how early Republicans might be up reading the paper.)

I have no idea what chance Alpert has of getting 15 percent of the convention vote next week, to secure a primary challenge to Blumenthal. But the odds are probably not good.

He said he has heard from some delegates who have pledged their support to him that they've received calls from the attorney general, urging that they avoid triggering a primary.

At one time, when he was still running against Dodd, Alpert talked about mounting a petition drive to go to primary if he lost at the convention.

But it would take a lot of money to hire the help to secure the some 12,000 certified signatures that would be needed, and Alpert seemed unlikely anymore to try that when I asked him about it this week.

So in a sense this convention speech, should it be allowed, could be Alpert's Hail Mary pass.

In the interest of openness and fair play and good democracy, party leaders should allow him to throw it and listen to what he has to say. He's certainly earned that much.

Otherwise, it's not a convention. It's just another chicken dinner.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

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