Now that Gov. Rell has announced what many have predicted for some time—that she would not seek re-election—just about everyone who cares about politics in Connecticut and beyond will have a theory as to why she bowed out. The author of The Hanging Shad, who has been predicting and writing for the better part of a year now that she would not run, is no different. The thought here is that the governor looked at the landscape, the challenges, stress, anxiety, and the prospect of debates another campaign would bring, the multiple investigations of the what appears to the latest ethical lapse of her administration that was built on a pledge of maintaining the highest ethical standards, and decided she simply preferred to pursue the next chapter in her life; a chapter filled with spending time with her husband, children and grandchildren. One can hardly blame her. Those that say there are health issues involved or that she was scared off by an ever-increasing field of Democrats who want the job are very likely wrong in this writer’s view.
Governor Rell was the right person at the right time when then-Governor John Rowland resigned amid corruption charges and an impeachment proceeding. He would eventually spend time in jail as Rell picked up the pieces. She was a reassuring presence for a disillusioned state and restored confidence in government to the extent that’s possible.
But Rell was a Gerald Ford-like figure for the state. She came in as a calming force during turbulent times but never really seemed to put her mark on the office, many times proposing and then retreating from bold action (raising the income tax for a massive infusion of funding for education, drawing a “line in the sand”against new taxes, etc.).
And the albatross that has been her chief of staff Lisa Moody may have proved to be just too much to take for another term. Moody proved to be an interesting paradox for Rell—her greatest asset and her biggest liability. There is no question Rell could not have governed without her. Yet there is also no doubt Moody proved to be an out-of-control, puppet-master in the Rell administration; operating with immunity from the rules everyone else had to abide by and with complete power.
Jodi Rell should be thanked for her public service and wished well as she enters what will assuredly be a more peaceful, family-centric time in her life. Godspeed.
The question now is: Who will be the Republican nominee for governor with Rell stepping aside? This past summer, Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele declared, “I will be the nominee [if Rell doesn’t run].” The certainty of the statement (he didn’t say “I’m running” or “I will seek to be the nominee”) speaks volumes. Fedele clearly views the nomination as his to have after spending years as the loyal number two to Rell—it’s hard to look back on any press avail during Rell’s tenure and not see Fedele over her shoulder.
But there are questions about his electability. He has not won anything on his own, sans Rell, and in fact was soundly defeated in race for an open state senate seat from Stamford in 2002. It is unlikely the Republican party will simply hand the nomination to Fedele. Republican leaders realize that the governor’s office is a unique position in Connecticut. Many voters who otherwise vote for Democrats can be convinced to support a Republican for governor simply because they don’t want to turn to reigns of the state over to one party. The state House and Senate both have a super-majority of Democrats. Many average voters in the state are reluctant to give all the power—particularly the power to tax and spend—to the Democrats. As such, Republican party leaders know they must not blow the chance to retain the office by nominating an untested, relative novice. This bring us back to what The Hanging Shad wrote back on Oct.16: The GOP may look to Senate Minority Leader John McKinney. He is a tested political heavyweight whose concern for his family kept him out of a 4th district congressional race. There is also speculation that former Congressman Rob Simmons may ditch his seemingly stalled candidacy for the US Senate and run or that fellow former Congressman Chris Shays, a moderate, will get in the race. House Minority Leader Larry Cafero has formed an undefined, statewide exploratory committee but his shrill, strident, conservative views make him a tough choice.
Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy’s phone is ringing off the hook today.