HARTFORD (AP) - With robocalls and TV ads, the level of politicking enveloping a modern-era Connecticut chief justice nomination has reached unprecedented levels as Democrats and Republicans spar over whether Andrew McDonald should lead the state judiciary.
McDonald, nominated by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, would be the first openly gay state Supreme Court chief justice in the country.
His chances were put in jeopardy more than a week ago when a tie vote by the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, following a marathon 13-hour hearing, sent the nomination to the full General Assembly with an unfavorable recommendation. The vote was mostly along party lines, with Republicans opposing McDonald.
The House of Representatives is scheduled to take up the nomination Monday.
Democrats have suggested Republicans are against McDonald because he is gay. Republicans criticized Democrats for making such an allegation, saying their opposition was based solely on decisions McDonald has made during his five years as a Supreme Court associate justice.
In support of McDonald, Democratic U.S. Reps. Jim Himes and Rosa DeLauro have called Republican lawmakers. McDonald’s friends, meanwhile, formed the lobbying group True Justice LLC.
True Justice is behind thousands of robocalls made to state voters urging them to call on their legislators to support McDonald. The group also has run an ad on local TV and its Facebook page that begins with a picture of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, with the words “Stop the Hate.”
Bethany Berger, a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, said the partisan rancor surrounding McDonald’s nomination appears unmatched compared with other state Supreme Court nominations in recent history.
“I think it’s partly dislike of Gov. Malloy,” she said. “But I also think it’s a reflection of the polarization of politics nationally. And some members of the GOP here appear to be saying maybe we can win with these politics.”