He thought he had bid farewell to the City Council last year, but just when he thought he was out former council President Tom McCarthy was pulled back in courtesy of court intervention involving a Democratic primary in the 133rd District that looks like it will finally be resolved in the upcoming general election.
Last September, McCarthy’s council partner Jeanette Herron and Michael DeFilippo, running to replace a retiring McCarthy, engaged in what became a four-seasons battle with former State Rep. Bob Keeley and Anne Pappas Phillips to represent the North End district. Primary results were challenged by Keeley and Phillips based on absentee ballot allegations upheld by Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis. The Connecticut Supreme Court was also involved. A couple more primaries took place until Herron and DeFilippo finally prevailed. Bellis allowed that Herron and McCarthy could maintain in their seats until a successful vote resolution.
The long, strange primary trip finally ended in April when district Democrats voiced loud and clear their support for endorsed candidates DeFilippo and Herron who ran up a three to one win over their challengers. Keeley abandoned his running mate in the final weeks, checking out mentally and physically by not even bothering to vote in a primary battle that had been overturned twice by Bellis. In a surreal move, after urging the court to order new primaries, Keeley didn’t even bother voting for himself, trekking off to California.
Keeley’s sole interest in running for City Council centered on what he perceived as a path to become City Council president to place him next in line should a vacancy occur in the mayoralty, and he used the court system to prop up that option before Bellis, suspicious of the city’s political establishment. Ironically, Keeley has been much a part of the city’s political establishment when convenient to his self interest. When the option to become council president vanished in the timeline of the court battles he lost interest in the race. And it showed in the April primary results.
Saying goodbye a second time Monday night a choked-up McCarthy thanked his council peers for their service, following a slide show presentation of McCarthy’s years accompanied by the Paul Anka-penned My Way recorded by Frank Sinatra.
McCarthy won the council seat in 2001. He became council president in December 2007 shortly after the election of Bill Finch as mayor.
McCarthy is well-liked by his peers and political operatives for his gregarious temperament and enthusiasm for highlighting community success stories at the start of many council meetings. He also became a poster child of conflict of interest in the city. While serving as council president he also was deputy director of Labor Relations for the city. How can the head of the legislative branch serve as a check on the executive branch while working at the pleasure of the mayor? McCarthy scoffed at that notion, arguing he voted his conscience, even though he never publicly challenged Finch during his eight years as mayor. McCarthy argued those battles took place behind closed doors, away from public view.
McCarthy left his city position shortly after Joe Ganim’s return to the mayoralty in 2015. McCarthy is now head of Labor Relations for New Haven, working for Mayor Toni Harp struggling to close a major budget deficit.
McCarthy witnessed a lot on the council. He started during Ganim’s first tenure as mayor, watched as Ganim resigned following his 2003 conviction on federal public corruption charges, followed by the John Fabrizi mayoral years, then Finch’s eight years, and then watching it come full circle with Ganim’s dramatic return to office.
While McCarthy ran strong in his council district he was not successful in two primary runs for the state legislature, losing to State Rep. Jack Hennessy more than a decade ago and most recently to State Senator Marilyn Moore in 2016.
Oh by the way, the general election for the City Council’s 133rd District will take place next Tuesday June 26th when DeFilippo and Herron face one lone Republican challenger, Neville De la Rosa.