The chairman of the Hamden Republican Town Committee is questioning the use of emails to Hamden school administrators and teachers by a candidate for the 91st state House of Representatives seat who also is the chairman of the Board of Education.
Michael D'Agostino will face Democratic Town Committee-endorsed candidate John Flannagan in a primary on Aug. 14. The winner of that contest will take on Republican Joe Bertini in November.
Recently, D'Agostino and a Hamden Education Association member sent emails to staff at each school and to administrators soliciting donations, which RTC chairman Ron Gambardella said illustrates the "cozy" relationship between Democrats and the teacher's union.
D'Agostino wrote to school staff:
"All -- I write because I need your help in my campaign to be the next state representative for Hamden. As chair of the Board of Education, I have always been responsive to your needs and concerns; that will not change if you help me reach the state legislature. In order to get there, I need to collect a number of small contributions from Hamden residents. A $5 contribution per person – absolutely no more than that– will help a great deal. I hope you will help by hitting the link below. [Link] Thank you so much! For more information on the campaign, and to volunteer, please visit us at MikeForThe91st.com."
And from Sharon Drumm, Political Action Chair of the Hamden Education Association:
"As many of you know, our Board Of Education Chairman, Michael D’Agostino, is seeking a run for State Representative in the November elections. Michael has always been a source of support for Hamden teachers and has dealt fairly with us in all matters. He has always been open, honest and forthcoming in matters that impact all of us. When other Boards of Education were afraid to stand up in opposition to critical issues in Governor Malloy’s Education Reform Bill, it was our Board Chairman that contacted key legislators and wrote personal letters.
"Michael D’Agostino now wants to be a voice in Hartford where he has promised he will continue to listen to and support educators. The years ahead will be very challenging for our profession. We must be alert and vigilant in the shaping of education reform. We will need legislators who will listen! Michael has earned the support of Hamden teachers and he deserves the support of Hamden teachers. Please demonstrate your support with a small contribution (between 5 and 10 dollars), to his campaign website (MikeForThe91st.com). As Michael will represent residents of Hamden, it is most crucial for you to recognize the opportunity you have to send the right person to Hartford. I am sure Michael will appreciate your support."
The email address of administrators and staff are publicly available on the school district's website.
"I believe, after reading the above, we can agree the taxpayer has no chance whatsoever when you realize how things work at the local level in Hamden," Gambardella said.
"There has always been a cozy relationship between the Democrats and the teacher’s union. Now, Mr. D’Agostino would like to parlay this relationship into a tax and spend frenzy at the state level," Gambardella said. "In Hamden, Mr. D’Agostino help drive up the cost of education so that it will soon be in excess of $100 million when including benefits. This email exchange is the smoking gun tying special interests to political ambitions. The taxpayer always comes out with the short end with this kind of arrangement.
"I strongly suggest [voters] consider a Republican alternative this November," he said.
"I want to thank Mr. Gambardella for pointing out that the people who have worked with me for the past 12 years – from our parents, to our clerks, to our teachers -- think that I am doing a terrific job and think that I would make a very good state representative," D'Agostino said. "I am proud to have earned their trust.
Frankly, I am not upset to have earned the scorn of Mr. Gambardella and the Republican party," D'Agostino said. "His platform on the Legislative Council and in his two failed mayoral campaigns was unwavering in its hostility to public education, public libraries (voting to close the Whiteyville library in the 91st), and importantly, free arts and cultural programming.
"I believe these things are the very fabric of our community and will continue to advocate as such for Hamden on the state level," he said.