Courtney nominated for fifth term as congressman

Enfield — In a move that’s unlikely to surprise anyone, state Democrats on Wednesday nominated Joe Courtney for a fifth term as the U.S. Representative for Connecticut’s 2nd District during a convention at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield.

Delegates made no other nominations for the position, and as soon as Courtney began to state his “enthusiastic acceptance,” his words were drowned out by applause despite the microphone.

Although the delegates were enthusiastic and most Democrats consider Courtney’s seat safe, the congressman assured the audience that he did not take their support for granted.

Speakers at Wednesday’s convention frequently referred to Courtney by the two nicknames he’s picked up, “Landslide Joe” and “Two-Subs Joe,” the first of which refers to his narrow victory during his first election.

“I hate tattoos, but if I ever have a tattoo, I’m going to put 83,” said Courtney, referring to the 83-vote margin by which he defeated then-three-term Congressman Rob Simmons in 2006 after an unsuccessful bid for his seat in 2002.

Courtney won his next election by a two-to-one margin, but he said the “squeaker” on 2006 left a lasting impact — the realization that a seat in Congress is “borrowed time, and if you’ve got an opportunity, you better take it when you can.”

“Entering Congress knowing every vote is precious,” added Courtney, “my office treats everyone that calls us as the most important voter in the district.”

Courtney’s other nickname refers to his work to authorize the building of two submarines a year at Electric Boat in Groton, and there were no shortage of remarks on Courtney’s track record on defense at Wednesday’s convention.

Frank Gulluni, director of the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center at Asnuntuck Community College, reminded the audience that Courtney recently helped create the largest shipbuilding contract in U.S. history, a $17.6 billion deal that guarantees the production of 10 submarines over the next five years at Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia.

The Courtney campaign also chose to highlight the congressman’s work on education.

Christopher Soto of New London, who directs a nonprofit called Higher Edge, provided the initial nomination for Courtney. In January, the congressman visited Soto’s organization, which helps low-income high school students in New London through the process of applying to college and securing financial aid.

It was “amazing” to watch Courtney converse with the students in the program, said Soto, and it allowed the students to “realize the impact (he has) on their lives.”

Soto praised Courtney’s work last year on a bill that limited student loan interest rate increases, making college more feasible for the students in Higher Edge. He also thanked the congressman for his support of expanding the post-Sept. 11 G.I. bill, which allowed veterans like Soto to continue their education.

“We are fortunate to have someone who authentically cares about the people he serves” while representing the second district, said Soto.

Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman presided over the convention and spoke fondly of Courtney after confirming his nomination.

He “has one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever met in my entire life,” she said, calling Courtney a man of “caring and sharing” who gets energy from spending time with his family.

Although several guests and state politicians spoke Wednesday, the one who got the most attention was former state Sen. Edith Prague. As she made her way to the stage, she received a standing ovation, and one man shouted out, “Edith, I love you!”

Her speech was simple and straightforward.

“We’re here to nominate a good guy,” said Prague, who endorsed Courtney in 2006, a move he said might have determined the outcome.

k.catalfamo@theday.com

Editor's note: This version corrects the number of terms Courtney has been in office.

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