More than two weeks after Connecticut’s overtime election, defeated candidate for attorney general Martha Dean “conceded” the race; if that’s what you can call it. Dean’s attempt to become AG through the courts rather than the polls is one of the saddest and most pathetic commentaries on this year’s election cycle which had no shortage of either.
Dean was part of two efforts in the vein of “if you can’t beat ‘em in the election, keep ‘em off the ballot.” The first and more publicized was the case of Susan Bysiewicz. Again, if we can stop kicking the secretary of state while she’s down (and hasn’t done herself any favors by bad attempts to get up), we can all realize she got jobbed, but good, when she was not allowed to run for AG. The state Republican party challenged Bysiewicz’ qualifications for the office, citing the arbitrary and undefined “ten years of active practice of law” requirement. A judge ruled Bysiewicz could stay and the voters could decide. The state Supreme Court ruled she couldn’t. To make things worse, the court then defined “active practice” to mean it must include work in the courtroom or, litigation.
Dean seized. When it became obvious that the voters of the state would choose the respected, experienced and even-tempered George Jepsen over the whacky Dean whose positions included requiring gun training in schools and supporting the nullification of federal law, she decided knocking Jepsen off the ballot was the only path to the AG’s office. Using the court’s nonsensical standard (there are plenty of brilliant, experienced lawyers who never set foot in a courtroom), Dean sued to keep Jepsen off the ballot. Again, she couldn’t possibly let the people decide; she’d lose. Superior Court Judge Julia Aurigemma dismissed Dean’s suit. He based the dismissal on, among other things, that Dean lacked the legal standing or statutory authority to bring the suit. Dean did succeed in getting the famously even-tempered Jepsen to nearly lose his cool.
Just yesterday, she decided maybe the voters have spoken. “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court informed the public and the AG candidates of the eligibility criteria too late in the election cycle for this issue to be brought to the voters’ attention properly,” Dean said in a statement posted on one of her campaign web pages. “Mr. Jepsen, the voters, and I all learned of the Court’s interpretation of the statutory eligibility criteria’s full-meaning just days before the election…At this juncture, I believe the best path forward is allow the AG-elect to focus on trying to run the AG’s Office in a way that helps pull Connecticut out of its severe crisis…It was a pleasure running against George. We went head to head on the issues, focusing on substance, and we shared humor along the way. That says a lot about both of us as candidates. I acknowledge his victory and I wish him well.” Gee, thanks Martha.
For what it’s worth, the state legislature would be wise to revisit the “ten years active practice” of law statute. Until recently, one didn’t even have to be an attorney to be a probate court judge in Connecticut. And under the state Supreme Court’s interpretation, we may go through this nonsense every four years.