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  • Generation Change CT

News Article: New Haven-area leaders launch PAC aimed to expand voting rights

By Meghan Friedmann | Nov. 25, 2020 | New Haven Register

A new political action committee called Generation Change CT, the brainchild of a New Haven alder, aims to create a more inclusive democracy for Connecticut residents.

(Link to full story here.)

The PAC will focus on “expanding democratic and electoral reforms in the state, expanding voting rights and participation as well as supporting candidates ... with a like-minded vision for positive change,” according to New Haven Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr., who came up with the idea for the PAC and will be the chairman of its board.

Some of the other board members will include Alder Richard Furlow, state Rep. Robyn Porter, D-94, Hamden-based organizer Rhonda Caldwell and the Rev. Kelcy Steele, who will serve as co-treasurer along with New Haven Youth Commission member Willie Newton, according to a social media announcement.

Furlow is “proud” to be part of Generation Change CT, which he hopes will uplift “suppressed voices,” he said.

“I think there are so many individuals across the state that are from traditionally underrepresented and underserved communities,” said Furlow, adding that the PAC will help “create policies to address voter suppression in the state and support candidates who agree with that mission.”

“There are so many people who don’t vote, so many who feel that they don’t have a voice,” he said. “I am flabbergasted by the number of people who don’t even know what the governor’s name is. ... They don’t take an interest because they feel nobody cares.”

In addition to expanding voting, another goal of the PAC is to increase economic opportunities.

Furlow spoke of economic inequalities in Connecticut, a state that is wealthy in many ways but still suffers from “abject poverty,” he said.

“We really need to think of how to even this playing field, and it starts with people being able to have a voice,” he said.

While both Furlow and Brackeen have been involved in PACs before, for Steele, a New Haven pastor who has become a familiar face at protests for police accountability and also serves on the state’s parole board, the PAC is new territory.

“This is a deeper dive into the political landscape,” he said, adding that in particular he hopes the PAC will help younger candidates win office.

While Steele is a pastor for New Haven’s Varick Memorial AME Zion Church, his political activities — such as his involvement with the PAC — are conducted in his individual capacity, he said, adding that he is thus compliant with the Internal Revenue Service’s ban on political campaign activity, which applies to tax-exempt organizations such as churches.

“The ban on political campaign activity does not restrict leaders of organizations from expressing their views on political matters if they are speaking for themselves as individuals,” according to the IRS website.

Generation Change CT will aid candidates who “want to build a stronger and more equitable and more inclusive democracy, and those individuals that are forward-thinking in their policies and programs,” Steele said.

Caldwell, a Hamden-based organizer and advocate for police accountability, said she could have used such aid last year, when she struggled to raise money in her unsuccessful run for the town’s Legislative Council.

Now, through her role as a board member for Generation Change CT, she hopes to be able to support other candidates who will “stand behind the Black and brown agenda,” she said.

“This is exciting,” she said of the PAC.

While she has fought against racism as a demonstrator, participating in the PAC will allow her to take a more “holistic” approach to creating change, according to Caldwell, who said the board will vote to confirm her as a member at its next meeting.

Certain laws and policies give “racism the legal authority to continue to operate,” she said, naming zoning laws and policies that keep the public from holding police accountable as examples.

That makes it important to elect officials who are willing to change those policies, according to Caldwell.

After the marches are over, she said, “we have to put together policies and procedures, and people in place that can recognize and hear us.”

But though communities of color are disproportionately underrepresented and disenfranchised, Brackeen said, the PAC aims to assist all “communities that are economically disenfranchised,” which in Connecticut may include certain rural communities.

Generation Change CT will hold a semi-virtual launch party Dec. 6, information for which is available on EventBrite.

Newton and Porter could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The event will include a panel discussion and screening of the documentary film “All In: The Fight for Democracy,” per the online description, which indicates tickets prices range from $50 to $250.

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