Waterbury delegates support Dan Roberti in 5th District race

Dan Roberti, a 30-year-old from Kent and relative newcomer, came from behind earlier this week to make it a three-way primary for the Democrats in the 5th District congressional race.

Roberti earned just enough support to keep his campaign going through the August primary. While House Speaker Chris Donovan received the support of most cities in the district, as expected, delegates from Waterbury overwhelming endorsed Roberti. Of the 54 delegates who voted for the Kent resident – he needed 51 – 24 stemmed from the Brass City.

A spokesman for Roberti’s campaign said the candidate spent a lot of time in the city last fall knocking on doors for Mayor Neil O’Leary’s election campaign. He  moved his headquarters in December from his hometown to O’Leary’s former headquarters in Waterbury.

Roberti has “adopted the city,” said John Gilmore, a spokesman for Roberti’s campaign.

When Waterbury delegates cast their votes and it was clear Roberti had enough support to enter the primary, he jumped over a railing at the convention with youthful exuberance to embrace his girlfriend, Westport native Hilary Lister.

While this is Roberti’s first time at the helm of a campaign, he’s been serving as a volunteer behind the scenes for the Democratic Party for more than a decade.

Many pundits will agree that it’s going to be tough to  knock Donovan off the ticket come August, especially considering his strong union ties, but there is one thing Roberti will gain during the campaign that’s political gold –  name recognition – especially at the ripe old age of 30.

Some convention delegates compared Roberti to U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, whose U.S. Senate run is leaving the 5th District race an open seat. The swing district has become a target for Washington political strategists on both sides of the aisle.

Of course former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty, an attorney from Cheshire, is also hoping to be the party’s nominated candidate come August. She earned enough support at the convention to gain 19 percent of the delegates – amounting to 66.

Esty had served as a member of the Cheshire town council for three years before winning a seat in the legislature in 2008, where she served one term.

She’s also raised more than any of her opponents in the race, having amassed $1.2 million by the end of April. Roberti wasn’t far behind, however, having collected about $1.1 million.

Donovan came in a close third in fundraising with about $1 million in donations leading into the convention on Monday.

Republicans, meanwhile, are also destined for a primary in the race, as the delegates will make their selection among the four remaining GOP candidates during Friday’s convention.

Still in contention for the Republicans are Lisa Wilson-Foley, state Sen. Andrew Roraback, Justin Bernier and Mark Greenberg.

However this race shakes out, it’s sure to be an interesting summer.

Dirk Perrefort