Milford home to new national political action committee

MILFORD — The city is now home to a national political action committee — one that puts an onus on public service as well as political affiliation.

The PAC, Democrats Serve, has endorsed 27 federal, state and local candidates, according to the committee’s executive director and founder, Brett Broesder, and all are Democratic candidates who have a public service background.

“We are talking firefighters, nurses, social workers, prosecutors, police officers and others who have been essential workers in government,” said Broesder, who is an alderman in Milford.

He said oftentimes, people who have a background in public service make for great candidates, but most of the time they don’t have the connection with wealthy donors to support their campaigns. That is where Democrats Serve comes in, he said.

“Public service candidates have seen first-hand what the impact of policies is on their communities, having worked in their communities,” he said. “They also can connect well with democratic and independent voters. That being said, they often don’t have access to the strategic guidance or wealthy donor networks that many non-working class candidates do.”

Broesder has been involved in politics and local government roles for years. He is a former director of communications for both the city of Bridgeport and the city of Hartford.

Connecticut Republican Chairman Ben Proto said this is another example of how far to the left the Democratic party has moved.

“This is no longer the party of John Kennedy, Bill Clinton or even Barack Obama,” Proto said. “This is a party that has moved so far to the left that they are looking to create a completely socialistic form of government in the United States.

“They claim to be an organization that supports frontline workers, (but) other than a former teacher and Harry Rilling, who is a (former) police chief, everybody else is a politician and political operative, who worked for a congressman, lieutenant governor or worked for any other number of politicians,” Proto said.

Broesder said Republicans continue to turn their backs on public service professionals.

“Talk is cheap,” he said. “Republicans continue to turn their backs on public service pros, especially law enforcement by refusing to investigate the role politics played in allowing right-wing extremist insurrectionists to kill a Capitol Police officer and injure more than 140 others.

“Republicans have made their priorities clear — appeasing right-wing extremists trumps law and order and public service,” Broesder added.

Getting its start

Democrats Serve launched in mid-May. Broesder said he got the idea to start a new PAC while he was a candidate for the Planning and Zoning Commission in Milford. It was then that he met Cindy Twiss, who was then a first-time candidate for the Board of Education.

“In 2019, I ran for planning and zoning in Milford, and a very dear friend of mine now, who I met on the campaign trail, Cindy Twiss, was running for school board, and it was her first time running,” he said.

In early September, Broesder and Twiss were paired up to knock on doors because they were in the same district.

“She was given the walk-sheets and was told what should be done when knocking on doors and talking to voters, but there is still some ambiguity in it,” said Broesder. “After knocking one time together, I think we learned two things. One is that we were going to become life-long friends and, with a bit more one-on-one guidance, a candidate like Cindy, who has 30 years of education experience and is incredibly interpersonal, became an unbelievably good candidate. From there, we knocked on thousands of doors together, and she ended up being the highest vote-getter in 2019 in the city.”

In 2021, a close friend of Broesder, Achim Bergmann of Bergmann Zwerdling Direct, which is a Democrat direct mail and political strategy firm based in Washington, D.C., contacted him and had an idea to help public service-oriented candidates.

“It just so happened that it was serendipity, we each were very interested in it, and we came up with a plan, and by May, we had also partnered up with Kari Chisholm (Mandate Media, a political consulting firm in Portland, Ore.),” Broesder said. “So the three of us put together a plan we launched in May, and we’ve been honored and humbled by the amount of folks who have reached out, applied for endorsements, sought our counsel and candidate supporters and donors alike have been overwhelmingly supportive.”

To better serve the candidates they endorse, Broesder and his team decided to make Democrats Serve into a hybrid structure, which allows them to have both a traditional PAC and a super PAC.

“In the traditional PAC side, we can contribute directly to candidates and work directly with their campaigns allowing us to have a seat at the table on the strategic guidance side,” he said. “On the Super PAC side, we can raise and spend contributions and funds from corporations or individuals in support of candidates, but we can’t work directly with candidates on the Super PAC side.”

Making endorsements

Five out of the 27 candidates Democrats Serve is endorsing are from Connecticut.

They include Stamford mayoral candidate Caroline Simmons, who is running against Independent candidate Bobby Valentine; New Haven Alderman Daryl Brackeen, who is running against Republican Joshua Van Hosen; and Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling, who is running against Republican John Riddle.

They have also endorsed Sam Carmody for Town Council in Wallingford and Jimmy Tickey, district director for Congressman Jim Himes, who is running for a seat on the planning and zoning commission in Shelton.

“We are looking to potentially have another wave of endorsements at the state and local level prior to the Nov. 2 election,” said Broesder. “But we are really excited about the candidates we have endorsed. The federal-level folks are so important as are the state and local positions that are really making decisions where the rubber meets the road.”

On the congregational level, Democrats Serve has endorsed Representative Jahana Hayes of the Fifth Congressional District, a former teacher.

‘Not a new angle’

Paul Herrnson, professor of political science at the University of Connecticut and Fellow at, said PACs that support candidates with public service backgrounds are common.

“I would guess that every one of those occupations has some political action committee supporting its candidate already,” said Herrnson. “Not sure how original it is. I think the National Education Committee has a political action committee so they support teachers, so I don’t know how unusual it is. There are political action committees that support ideological causes, candidates of one party, there are political action committees that support folks who are strong on labor, strong on business, and as well as, I’m sure public service. So that’s not a new angle.”

Even though Democrats Serve would like to endorse and help every Democratic candidate, they can’t because of logistical reasons, funding and more, Broesder said. That’s why the Democrats Serve team has criteria they look for in a candidate.

“There’s a laundry list of thresholds that need to be met in order for us to support,” said Broesder. “But overall, the crux can be boiled down to, do you have a front line public service professional background and can we be of service because helping support great candidates will make for great policymakers.”

Herrnson said it is not unusual for local PACs to endorse candidates from different parts of the country and at different levels of government.

“In terms of the federal level, there’s a national economy of campaign finance, and political action committees from across the country will often endorse candidates in different locations. Their goal is to encourage their contributors and followers to contribute to the candidates they support no matter where those candidates are located,” he said.

“So if you think in terms of Political Action Committees associated with trade associations, they represent members across the country and maybe across the world,” Herrnson said. “So an endorsement for a candidate located in Alaska may, in fact, have a contributor who is located in Texas.”

Democratic Serve isn’t a policy-oriented organization, but as a Democratic organization, they look for candidates who align with their political policies.

“The main piece of it is if you’re a Democrat, a front line service pro and if your policies are in line with working families across, whether the locality, state or country, are in line with,” he said.

“Overall, we’re thrilled with the support we have received thus far and whether it’s folks with public service backgrounds looking to run for office, or if its candidates who are running for office, or contributors who like the mission and want to support the cause, we are open and here to help,” Broesder said .