Is state Sen. Maynard electable?

The Day reported on Aug. 6 that state Sen. Andrew Maynard was not able to communicate with friends and relatives keeping a 24-hour bedside vigil, two weeks after he had a serious fall at home.

And yet a letter dated Aug. 8, from a group of 25 state legislators asking Attorney General George Jepsen to look into the failure of Ocean Classroom and its links to the schooner Amistad, included Maynard's signature.

News of the Ocean Classroom failure did not break until after Maynard was hospitalized, and his injuries clearly must have kept him from following progress of the story.

So who authorized the signature of a hospitalized, apparently incommunicative senator, to be included on a letter to the attorney general on a subject he could have known nothing about?

It's a curious puzzle and one that leads to bigger questions about Maynard's health, recovery and the November election in which he is a candidate.

The most recent public report on his condition came from his family, which said Aug. 13 that he suffered a traumatic head injury in the fall and had been transferred from Rhode Island Hospital to the Hospital for Special Care in New Britain, a long-term, acute-care facility.

His family said at the time that he was "awake and responsive" and making a "slow, yet positive recovery."

In the interest of disclosure, I should say I have known Andy for many years, long before he was a state senator, and consider him a friend. I know I speak for many, many people around the state who took his accident as a heartbreaker.

And yet I worry that party officials are not being forthright enough in bringing the public along in a conversation about what happens next, as the election fast approaches.

I know it's not easy. No one wants to diminish the focus on his recovery.

Adding to the stress of the situation for some of his friends and supporters is that Maynard, who at 52 has served almost eight years in the Senate, needs to complete one more term to be eligible for early retirement, reduced pension and medical benefits, at 55, according to rules that apply to all state employees. His seven years of service makes him eligible for a full pension once he turns 65.

So what will happen if he is unable to campaign for re-election? Or, if he wins, what if he can't perform the duties of the office?

According to the Office of the Secretary of the State, only Maynard himself can withdraw from the race and, if he does, the Democrats have up until three weeks before the election to substitute another name on the ballot.

The only other way anyone else, besides the Republican, Kevin Trejo of Groton, who is on the ballot, could run would be to wage a write-in campaign. The deadline for a write-in candidate to get into the race is Oct. 21.

Once someone is elected, according to the secretary of the state's office, there are no specific provisions in state law to remove them if they are unable to serve for medical reasons.

Maynard's political supporters have been keeping his campaign for re-election active, asking for donations that would allow him to apply for up to $95,000 in public campaign financing.

As of Friday, neither Maynard's campaign nor that of his Republican opponent in the 18th District had filed petitions with evidence of the 300 individual donations needed to qualify for the public financing.

Naturally, the best outcome would be for Maynard to make a swift recovery and join another spirited campaign season for the 18th District.

Lacking that, I would hope that district voters, whom Maynard has tirelessly and professionally represented for four terms, would give him a chance to return to office, while his recovery continues.

I am sure others in the eastern Connecticut delegation, colleagues of Maynard, could help to be sure that the interests of 18th District voters are heard and represented during that time.

However, the process needs to be transparent going forward so that the public knows exactly what's going on. Let there be a full and honest discussion, as the election season unravels.

Calls for transparency about the senator's condition have understandably rankled some of his friends, who cite federal medical privacy laws in the defense of less disclosure.

Really, no one wants to look into his medical files. But he holds public office and voters - his employers - deserve regular, honest and thorough updates on his abilities to carry out their business.

And let's not see the senator's signature appear on any more official documents about which he has no knowledge.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

Twitter: @DavidCollinsct


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