Commuters have clout

The recent elections have shown Hartford an important fact: The 120,000 daily riders of Metro-North have political power.

The Commuter Action Group, of which I am founder, endorsed only five candidates for election and they were all winners. Trust me, there were many others seeking our endorsement, but they didn’t have the track records (pun intended) to warrant our support.

Those we backed have long supported mass transit. They have fought for more funding and understand their commuting constituents’ frustrations. All we did was remind voting commuters who were their real friends in Hartford versus those who were just paying lip-service to the issue during a campaign.

While I have disagreed with him in the past (and will probably do so again), Gov. Dannel Malloy was an easy choice. His opponent was just the latest dilettante billionaire to be chosen by the GOP (remember Linda McMahon’s two runs for office costing $97 million?), bypassing experienced political veterans. Tom Foley was clueless, saying such things as “we spend too much on mass transit” and surrounding himself with “yes men” advisers. Even his fellow Republicans on the ballot couldn’t talk sense into him.

What would give Foley or McMahon, neither of whom have ever been elected to anything, the idea that their track records as CEOs would qualify them for jobs in government? A CEO can snap his fingers and say, “Do this or you’re fired,” but a governor has to deal with a legislature and, in Foley’s case, it would have been of the opposing party. Good luck with that.

Trust me, I am not a fan of one-party rule. With their huge majority and deep pockets I think the Democrats in this state have become abusive bullies.

So why does the GOP keep choosing these kinds of candidates, aside from the fact that they can bankroll their own campaigns? What a shame that veteran state Sen. John McKinney didn’t get a chance to run against Malloy. McKinney was very strong on transportation issues. That would have been an interesting race. Maybe in 2018?

Because we are nonpartisan, the Commuter Action Group also endorsed three Republicans, state Sen. Toni Boucher and state Reps. Gail Lavielle and Tony Hwang, as well as Democrat Jonathan Steinberg. They were all winners, not because of our endorsement but because we helped remind commuters they have been strong allies in Hartford.

What did we ask for our endorsement? Only a single pledge — that if elected, they would promise to do something never done before — to caucus, Republicans and Democrats together, with fellow lawmakers from electoral districts representing commuters.

It was amazing for me to learn that doesn’t happen, that R’s and D’s from Fairfield County never get together to present a united front against up-state lawmakers’ attempts to cut funding for our trains. Well, it will happen now.

Back in the dark days of February when the Commuter Action Group was formed, I reminded Hartford lawmakers that if they didn’t come to the rescue of our trains, commuters would “remember in November” who their friends were. And clearly they did.

Jim Cameron is a longtime commuter and founder of the Commuter Action Group. The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. You may reach him at