New London Democrats back Councilor Nolan for Soto seat

New London — Leaders of the city’s Democratic Party want New London police officer and city councilor Anthony Nolan as their next representative in Hartford.

Nolan, while he is not yet an officially endorsed candidate, received an early show of support ahead of a special election for the 39th House District seat Wednesday with backing from Democratic heavyweights during a news conference at City Hall.

Soto, who was elected to a second term in November, announced last week he had accepted a job as legislative affairs director for Gov.-elect Ned Lamont. He plans to resign his seat when new legislators take office on Jan. 9. The 39th District covers the 1st and 2nd voting districts in the city.

“There is no one more connected to the families and issues that New London residents face than Councilor Nolan — hands down,” Soto said. “He is embraced by every segment of our community.”

Soto was joined by Democrats that included city councilors, Mayor Michael Passero, Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Martha Marx, District 2 Chairman Frederick Kaesar and District 2 Chairwoman Margaret Mary “Peg” Curtin.

Nolan indicated he still was thinking about running.

“At this time, I’m humbly, strongly considering moving forward to try to fill the shoes of a wonderful man,” Nolan said.

Later he said, “this is not a confirmation that this is going to be me because we have a long road ahead of us.”

Nolan did say that if he were to decide to run and were elected, “I will continue to fight for everyone in New London, not just the Democrats.” Nolan said he would not go to Hartford with a set goals or an agenda, but rather poll constituents about how they want to see New London improved.

Nolan, 51, a father of two children and serving in his fourth term as a City Council member, is a familiar face around the city because of his involvement in youth programs. He was the top vote-getter in the 2017 election for City Council and served as its president until recently.

He is a U.S. Navy veteran, an 18-year veteran of the New London Police Department, a youth program advocate and a deacon at Shiloh Baptist Church. Nolan, who works nights at the police department, indicated he would remain on his job as a police officer but likely would give up his role on the City Council if elected.

Soto’s resignation and Lamont’s subsequent announcement of a special election will set in motion a short timeline for political parties to hold conventions, nominate and endorse candidates. For Democrats, it will mean a vote on nominees from the 40 members of the Democratic Town Committee members in Districts 1 and 2.

Nolan, if he eventually is endorsed, could get a challenger.

Green Party and Republican party leaders have said they plan to endorse their own candidates, which could set up a three-way race in a special election expected to be held sometime in February.

The New London Green Party, which broke from tradition and cross-endorsed Soto in the November election, plans to run a candidate in part for fear of losing a spot on the 2020 ballot. Third parties must run a candidate and secure 1 percent of the vote in any given race to retain a spot on the ballot for the following year, New London Green Party Chairwoman Ronna Stuller said.

Stuller was one of Soto’s two opponents in the 2016 election for state representative.

“Unlike the major parties, if we don’t run a candidate in the election, we lose ballot access,” Stuller said. “Every line we have to use every single time or we lose it.”

Republican Town Committee Chairman Rob Pero, who said two people have expressed interested in running, called the Democrats' announcement on Wednesday a political move and perhaps a bit premature.

“I guess they’re trying to influence the outcome of the convention, which has not yet been officially announced since there is no open seat yet,” Pero said. “That’s definitely putting the cart before the horse.”

“It’s politics,” Pero said, “an unusual step to get ahead of the game.”

Marx, who served one term on the council with Nolan, said Wednesday’s event was a show of unity.

“Nobody knows their constituents better than Anthony,” Marx said. “He knows them as a police officer and as a councilor. He will be very accessible to them.”

“I think he’ll be a great representative,” she added.

g.smith@theday.com

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