*Update. In response to Rep. Robyn Porter’s statement that the citations were “signed by President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, Speaker of the House Matt Ritter and Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas”, the Secretary of the State’s office issued the following statement.
“Those citations were not ‘from’ or ‘offered by’ Secretary Thomas alongside the General Assembly. One of the capacities of the Secretary of the State is as the official keeper of the Seal of Connecticut. Therefore, the Secretary affixes the Seal of Connecticut to all such citations, and signs them, as a formality. Additionally, it’s the prerogative of the General Assembly (and its members) to choose to whom they grant citations.”
In official citations, the General Assembly and Secretary of State Stephanie Thomas offered their “sincerest congratulations” to recipients at the Amistad Awards on Dec. 9, an annual ceremony organized by the communist Connecticut People’s World Committee.
This year’s honorees were Sen. Gary Winfield (D-New Haven), AFSCME Council 4 President Stacie Harris-Byrdsong and Husky 4 Immigrants activist Luis Luna. Meanwhile, Rep. Robyn Porter (D-New Haven) presented the citations on behalf of the General Assembly and Thomas at the event marking the 104th anniversary the Communist Party USA’s founding.
Initiated by Sen. Winfield, Rep Porter, Rep. Patricia A Dillon (D-New Haven), Rep. Alphonse Paolillo (D-New Haven), Rep. Juan Candelaria (D-New Haven), Rep. Roland Lamar (D-New Haven) and Rep. Toni Walker (D-New Haven), the citations noted that the recipients’ stewardship aligns “seamlessly” with this year’s Amistad Award theme — “It’s an Enough is Enough Moment, Time to Organize!”
Expressing the General Assembly’s gratitude, the citations state: “Congratulations and thank you for being a catalyst for change in the ongoing struggle for a better and more inclusive society. The entire membership extends its very best wishes on this memorial occasion and expresses the hope for continued success.”
The documents were formally signed by President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D- New Haven), Speaker of the House Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) and Thomas.
Sen. Winfield — Chief Deputy Majority Leader and chair of the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee — received the award for his work on police accountability including body cameras, raising the age juveniles can be tried as adults and his support for rent caps.
In his acceptance speech, Sen. Winfield reassured the audience that he was “happy to be here” as well as being cognizant of the award’s affiliation with the Communist Party, subtly implying that he differs from past attendees like Sen. Julie Kushner (D-Danbury) and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who claimed they didn’t know the event was hosted by communists.
His award was presented by Sen. Jan Hochadel (D-Meriden), who is not only Sen. Winfield’s colleague but also the president of the Connecticut American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and a recipient of the 2020 Amistad Award. She characterized him as exemplifying “the values of the Amistad Award” and described him as a “tireless advocate for working people everywhere.”
As a first-time Senator, she sought Sen. Winfield’s guidance, recalling a moment of frustration during the 2023 session with the initial biennial budget (that reduced funding for higher education and nonprofits). According to her “he was able to get us results” and ultimately “in the end, we made significant improvements to the budget. Not everything we wanted, but significant improvements.”
It’s important to highlight that Sen. Hochadel — who voted in favor of the budget — serves as the president of the union representing faculty and staff in higher education. While the details of these improvements were not specified, if they resulted in financial benefits for members of her union, it raises concerns about a potential conflict of interest, as she utilized her position of influence to potentially benefit herself and her union.
The Connecticut Communist Party, led by Joelle Fishman, is headquartered in New Haven. Fishman also serves as a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission, serves on the executive board of the Alliance of Retired Americans. Additionally, she was a candidate for Congress from 1973-1982 maintaining minor-party ballot status for the Communist Party in Connecticut’s Third Congressional District according to CPUSA.
*Click HERE to view the 2023 Amistad Awards Advertiser book.