I wasn’t a great friend of Bennie Benvenuto’s, but I did work on his 1990 Campaign for state senate. It was the most spirited campaign I think we ever had in Greenwich, and this is a good occasion to share my memories of Bennie and that campaign.
The 3-way race’s premise is well known. Bennie endorsed Lowell Weiker’s 3rd party run for Governor of Connecticut instead of the republican nominee, John Rowland (my namesake, I’m John Rowland Bowman). The Greenwich RTC then rewarded his years of service by nominating Bill Nickerson. When he decided to run on Weiker’s “A Connecticut Party,” I signed up. I didn’t normally work on local campaigns, not that I didn’t care to get involved but, honestly, there weren’t a lot of contested races in Greenwich. The Republicans always won and there were only rarely primaries. This was going to be an election pitting Republicans against Republicans. In my mind, the Good Republicans who respected Bennie’s decision to support his friend, and the Bad Republicans who were mean-spirited and mostly North Street-types who probably weren’t inclined to support someone from Cos Cob, from Dumpling Pond, anyway.
So we volunteers took up residence in the Capparelle’s building on River Road. Calling people, planning, etc. We had events every weekend and it was a very spirited campaign. Greenwich is small, so we would run into the other candidates all the time. We did some work with the Weiker campaign. It was a little better funded than ours with a paid campaign staff (Stephanie Sanchez was one of them).
My favorite recollection from that campaign was my then wife Susan’s involvement. She had almost no interest in politics so I had to drag her to weekend events. After Bennie asked her a couple of times to just stand next to him and introduce him or hold a sign, she was hooked; hooked on how committed everyone was. She started coming to every event, including the 6AMs at the train stations.
Speaking of train stations, my big contribution to campaigning was my idea to bring Governor Weiker to Grand Central. I figured he could meet several trains from all over Fairfield County if he just stood at the track entrances as commuters piled out. The North End exits weren’t open then, so everyone had to walk into the terminal. To achieve this, one of the station masters taught me how to read a small almost hidden monitor that showed where the trains were coming in. I would see where the next train was coming, run then Senator Weiker and his entourage over, then run back to the monitor. This was repeated from 6:30 to 9:30 in the morning. All while wearing one of those silly fake straw hats with red, white and blue stripes on it. The station master and later newspapers reported that this was the first time a Connecticut Governor candidate came to New York to campaign. My big moment in politics.
Too bad I didn’t have any great ideas for Bennie, as most know, he lost that campaign. On election night, my wife and I were poll watchers, collecting results and phoning them in. Then we came to the election night party at Laddins Terrace and waited. When Bennie gave his concession speech I looked at my wife and saw she was crying. She wasn’t alone of course, but I just recall how in just a few weeks she had gone from disinterest to crying because Bennie lost. That, for me, best describes how committed and enthusiastic everyone was on that campaign, and it was a tough loss. We couldn’t believe it.
Everyone involved in that campaign (Sam Romeo was chairman) drifted back into the Republican party and it seems all was forgotten. I will never forget the most exciting campaign in my lifetime and the man who made it necessary.