Lieutenant governor candidate Eva Burmudez Zimmerman meets supporters in New London

Eva Bermudez Zimmerman, center, a candidate for lieutenant governor, answered questions and posed for pictures Thursday, June 21, 2018, at a campaign rally at The Social Bar + Kitchen in New London. (Greg Smith/The Day)
Eva Bermudez Zimmerman, center, a candidate for lieutenant governor, answered questions and posed for pictures Thursday, June 21, 2018, at a campaign rally at The Social Bar + Kitchen in New London. (Greg Smith/The Day)

New London — Eva Bermudez Zimmerman, a candidate for lieutenant governor, is a millennial. She speaks to issues that impact middle-class families, such as child care. And she is a diverse face in a mostly white state political landscape.

Perhaps most importantly for state Rep. Chris Soto, D-New London, is that “she will bring young and new people into the party.”

With Soto’s help, Zimmerman attracted a sizable crowd of Democrats on Thursday at a “New London for Eva” event at the Social Bar + Kitchen on Bank Street. It was a gathering reminiscent of Soto’s own campaign run against established incumbent Ernest Hewett in 2016.

Zimmerman, 31, is hoping to shore up support in southeastern Connecticut as she nears a primary against Susan Bysiewicz, a more well-known and politically experienced candidate who has joined forces with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont.

Zimmerman gained a boost in name recognition when, in her first run for a statewide office, she captured 40 percent of the delegates at the state Democratic Convention, 10 percent less than Bysiewicz but enough to qualify her for the Aug. 14 primary ballot.

The fact that she helps diversify the Democratic slate is not the only reason for the support, said Soto, who is her campaign treasurer.

“We shouldn’t put someone on the ticket because they are diverse but we will put someone who is diverse and qualified and speaks to the issues and people she’s going to represent,” Soto said.

Zimmerman said her background and the fact she is speaking to issues separate her from other candidates.

“I got into this campaign season wanting to shake things up. And I’m doing that,” she said. “We’re talking about working-class issues. We’re talking about middle-class people and how we’re going to get a voice for not only poor people but how we’re going to get poor people out of poverty.”

She is presently on leave from her position as child care director for the Service Employees International Union, in which she represents child care centers, Head Start and child care providers.

“I’ve literally been spending every day of my life in someone’s house advocating for these issues and not just in a bubble. That separates me,” she said.

Her background includes experience working on stimulus package legislation in Congress, labor negotiations and time as a Newtown Legislative Council member. She lives in Newtown with her husband.

She was awarded Latina Citizen of the Year by the Connecticut General Assembly for activism in helping residents to understand health insurance options through the Access Health Marketplace.

During a questions and answer session on Thursday, Zimmerman defended labor and especially child care providers. Of the state’s fiscal crisis and education funding issues, Zimmerman said the solution is not about pitting one city against another.

“It’s not about the Bridgeports versus the Hartfords versus Ansonias versus the New Londons,” she said. “It’s not about transferring that pocket of money from one place to another to bridge the deficit. It’s about how we have innovative ideas where we together can make sure we have a path for our children. That path my parents had when they came from Puerto Rico.”

“A lot of people have a lot of debt. They go to college. They get out of college and wonder, 'What’s the future? Do I get to spend my life and retire in the town I love?' We don’t know,” she said.

Among Democrats in attendance at Thursday’s event were Board of Education President Mirna Martinez, City Council President Anthony Nolan, City Councilors Alma Nartatez and Efrain Dominguez, and Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Martha Marx, who has challenged Republican state Sen. Paul Formica in the 20th District.

Marx predicted New London would be a stronghold for Eva.

“She is well qualified. She is a compassionate and fierce advocate for people who don’t have a choice. Which is what is my passion,” Marx said. “We have to represent all people in Connecticut. She does that. She’s been a servant to the people. She’s an impressive young woman and there are a lot of young women that could look to her and say ‘Wow, I could get into politics.'”

g.smith@theday.com

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