After several members of the Wesleyan Democrats (WesDems) and state legislators expressed concerns, the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) delayed the appointment of Former Mayor of Middletown Sebastian Giuliano to the position of Executive Director and General Counsel and, on Jan. 30 chose to open up the position to other applicants.
Giuliano received his initial nomination to the position on Jan. 12 but has announced his intention to not reapply. WesDems President Ben Florsheim believed that actions of the Giuliano campaign during the 2011 Middletown Mayoral race made his nomination questionable.
“We’ve seen last year all across the country, it’s been reported in many major media outlets, that there is a trend toward restricting voting access particularly for constituencies like students and minorities who tend to vote Democratic,” Florsheim said. “I don’t know what the former mayor’s position on this trend is, but I think that his actions in the past are enough to warrant concern about what he would do as the elections oversight official.”
During the 2011 Mayoral Election, allegations of attempts to discourage University students from voting in the election were raised against the Giuliano campaign and its supporters. One such claim was that Giuliano said students would have to appear in person at the Office of the Registrar of Voters to confirm their identity and address in order to vote on election day. Peggy Reeves, an official at the Connecticut Office of the Secretary of State, later stated that such appearances would be helpful but not necessary. Members of the Giuliano campaign and of the Wesleyan College Republicans have previously denied these claims of voter discouragement.
“The nature of what we saw last November was a consistent pattern among the then-mayor and those associated with him to discourage students from being able to vote and to present them with misleading information about voting procedures,” Florsheim said. “We did not anticipate any actual problems on election day, and none manifested themselves, but there was a flurry of misleading information leading up to election day that led us to believe that the mayor may have played a role in perpetuating false information for the benefit of his campaign.”
Upon hearing of Giuliano’s appointment from several members of the Connecticut Democratic party, on Jan. 13 several members of WesDems and other concerned students contacted the SEEC by email and phone to express their concerns about his alleged past of voter discouragement. Democratic State Senator Gayle Slossberg of Milford and State Representative Russ Morin of Wethersfield also contacted the SEEC and asserted that Giuliano’s retirement from partisan politics was too recent for him to serve as Executive Director of the SEEC. These complaints were issued to delay Giuliano’s appointment, which was originally scheduled for Jan. 20.
“This was not a complaint saying we don’t want him to be chairman but a standard complaint form [which is filed] when there’s any concern about election practices,” Florsheim said.
As a result of the complaints issued by University students and members of the state legislature, the SEEC decided to delay Giuliano’s appointment as executive director until the matter could be examined more thoroughly, and the position was ultimately reopened to other applicants. SEEC Media Contact and Staff Attorney Joshua Foley declined to comment on the reasoning behind this decision.
“Upon further reflection they realized how strongly the local politicians and Wesleyan students reacted to the appointment,” said WesDems Vice President Gabriela de Golia ’13. “They perhaps realized that they should have given more thought to this appointment. It seems like they were very worried by all the opposition to it.”
Giuliano announced on Monday that he would not reapply for the position. In an interview with the Hartford Courant he maintained that there was no valid basis for the complaint issued by the WesDems.
Despite the apparent partisan nature of this complaint coming from several Democrats against a former Republican mayor, Florsheim and de Golia asserted that the complaints issued were not intended as an attack on Giuliano.
“If he were becoming a lobbyist or a different government position this would probably not be an issue,” Florsheim said. “But given the nature of this position it would have been absurd for us to not say anything. We don’t want to see him fail, but it’s important that these questions be asked and raised.”