The race for who will become the next Connecticut attorney general is on—and it’s heated.
From guns to the environment to President Donald Trump and the eligibility for office, the three candidates vying to be the state’s top lawyer have very differing opinions. They also wasted no time after the recent primary to go after each other.
In interviews conducted by the Connecticut Law Tribune Friday and Tuesday, Democratic candidate William Tong went after Republican candidate Susan Hatfield, a 2016 Trump delegate, for her support of the president. Hatfield, for her part, called Tong “hyper-partisan” and questioned whether he even qualifies to be running for the seat. Meanwhile, Green Party candidate Peter Goselin said both Tong and Hatfield are out of touch with mainstream voters for not talking about issues, such as police brutality.
The race will come down to Tong and Hatfield, as even Goselin concedes he does not expect to win and is in the race to highlight issues he feels are not getting the proper attention.
A strong opponent of Trump and his administration, Tong has been highly critical of the president’s actions, comments and policies. From his comments to the Connecticut Law Tribune Friday, Tong made it clear he’ll point out on the campaign Hatfield’s support of Trump.
“You will hear from Sue Hatfield that she does not want to talk about Trump,” said the 45-year-old Tong, who has been vocal in his role as co-chairman of the state House Judiciary Committee on issues such as supporting gay rights and fighting the National Rifle Association. “But this is Connecticut, and we need to talk about his policies and his tax laws that are a direct attack on the people and families of Connecticut.”
Throughout the interview, Tong referred to his 46-year-old Republican opponent, who is on an unpaid leave of absence as a prosecutor, as having “extreme views” on a variety of issues. Tong called Hatfield extreme on immigration and the environment, among other issues. “She takes an extreme view on the environment and supports the president’s rollback of emission standards that pollute our air.”
Fresh off a Democratic primary battle with Paul Doyle and Chris Mattei in which Mattei questioned Tong’s qualifications to run for the attorney general post because of a recent Connecticut Supreme Court case, Hatfield also questioned Tong’s qualifications.
“I am qualified to run,” she said Tuesday. “The [court] standard to run for attorney general is you need at least 10 years’ active practice at the bar of this state. That does not state any court. The plain meaning of that statute is state court. From what I’ve read, his one opening statement [in court] was done in federal court, not in state court.”
Tong, the son of Chinese immigrants and currently of counsel at Finn, Dixon & Herling, has said he had more than 400 matters for hundreds of clients and has emphasized that because of the nature of civil litigation, many times it takes years to handle such cases, which are rarely tried to verdict.
Hatfield, who worked for the New York City law firm Hawkins Delafield & Wood where she represented government entities and public authorities, claimed Tong is too political for the job.
“I believe he [is] hyper-partisan and will make this a very political office,” Hatfield said. “His positions will be based on politics, while I will make my decisions on what is best for the people of Connecticut.”
One issue that is sure to be a lightning rod: guns. Tong has repeatedly taken swipes at the NRA and said his entire political career has been to make the state safer for its residents.
“I’ve been fighting with the NRA and the CCDL [Connecticut Citizens Defense League] for more than a decade,” Tong said. “They [CCDL] endorsed her on the promise she would oppose more gun laws.” He said it appears the CCDL’s rescinding of its endorsement of Hatfield right before the primary was “a sham. Her extreme views will not play in the general election in Connecticut.” The CCDL, the state’s largest gun rights group, rescinded its support of Hatfield after she came out against so-called ghost guns. Connecticut recently joined seven other states and the District of Columbia in filing a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration and a Texas-based company that allows individuals to download instructions for 3-D printed guns from its website. That suit and subsequent motions for and against are pending.
With regard to the CCDL rescinding its endorsement of her, Hatfield said: “I am not in anyone’s pocket. I fight for what I believe in and for what is the right thing to do.”
Hatfield said she is a “strong Second Amendment person” and believes that while law-abiding citizens should have guns, more needs to be done with regards to mental health and not allowing those who have serious mental health issues to own weapons.
Tong said he’s proud that Connecticut Against Gun Violence has endorsed only one candidate for statewide office this year, that being him.
On other issues, Hatfield said she’s work closely with the business community to keep businesses in the Nutmeg State. “We can’t afford to lose anymore businesses. I will create a line of communication with them,” she said.
Tong has called for the creation of a civil rights division within the Office of Attorney General.
Goselin said he is proud to lead the way in talking about issues no other candidate is talking about. Most importantly, he said, issues that deal with police violence.
“There is not anyone I know who does not think police violence against people of color is an important issue,” said Goselin, a 58-year-old West Hartford resident who has practiced law for 23 years, including the last eight as a solo practitioner.
“You can turn to social media and see stories about a young black male being killed by police officers or a young black male who was tased by holding his 2-month-old baby,” Goselin said. “In Hamden, a high-speed police chase involved alleged car thieves and the police decided they needed to conduct a high-speed chase in a residential neighborhood. The result was one man in the car they were chasing was killed and one was severely injured. Are these policies the best policies for a community? Do the police feel they need to treat communities like they are occupied territories.”
All three candidates said they look forward to debating. Goselin said he’d fight hard to make sure he is allowed in any debates between attorney general candidates. No debates have yet been set. The general election is in November.