Boughton Unimpressed with 2013 Legislative Session

Everyone knew going into the 2013 legislative session of the Connecticut General Assembly that the specter of the 2014 race for governor would play a role how certain lawmakers would act. Republicans Senate Minority Leader John McKinney and House Minority Leader Larry Cafero are both possible candidates and of course, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy is running for reelection. However, it can be easily argued that Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton was actually the big political winner among those likely to seek the governorship.

Boughton, who will seek his sixth term as Danbury’s mayor this fall, tells The Hanging Shad that Hartford was not the place to be in 2013. “[The session] was more of the same. There was no grand financial plan to right the state’s fiscal ship,” he said.

By not being part of the session, seen by most as a mixed bag of success, gimmicks and status quo, Boughton was free to take care of his city while making more contacts around the state. He has some statewide name recognition having run briefly for governor in 2010 before becoming the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor.

Cafero and McKinney did distinguish themselves by voting for the bills that were the result of the bipartisan legislative task force formed after the Newtown massacre. They bucked the most conservative elements of their party and voted for the measures that addressed gun control, school safety and mental health. But after that it was all downhill.

Cafero’s over-the-top, meant-to-be-clever quips and sound bites fell flat. He also offered no real alternatives to the legislation pushed through by majority Democrats. He spent part of the session sparing with 2010 Republican nominee Tom Foley over ethics.

McKinney, clearly the more serious and lawmaker, scored points by calling out Malloy for having People magazine pay for a trip to the White House Correspondences’ Dinner (WHCD) where Malloy rubbed elbows with the beautiful people.

Malloy claimed he was promoting the state. McKinney would have none of that argument, asked the ethics commission to look into it and eventually shamed Malloy into paying for the trip out of his own pocket (a smart political move by Malloy in and of itself as it has not been mentioned since and probably won’t be until McKinney brings it back if he runs). The problem for McKinney is that he wouldn’t let it go and continued to try to keep the issue alive when it was obviously settled for now.

McKinney also impressed by leading the General Assembly on all things Newtown which is in his senate district. He was out in front of the move at the end of the session—backed by the parents—to keep private crime scene photos from Sandy Hook. The resulting compromise was also largely McKinney’s doing.

Former Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley looked not-ready-for-prime-time as he badly fumbled an attempt to raise questions about conflict-of-interest ethics problems in the General Assembly. At a legislative hearing he testified in favor of a bill that would essentially disqualify a sizable chunk of sitting legislators.

Obviously that didn’t sit well with lawmakers on either side of the aisle. Honking off your own party’s regulars does not exactly make for a clear path to the gubernatorial nomination.

Many, including Boughton, agree with the idea of taking a look at lawmakers’ potential conflicts but certainly not the way Foley did it. “There was no real, solid conversation about ethics,” Boughton said. As a former state representative himself, Boughton has problems with Foley’s approach. “If you’re going to do it, you’ve got to go all in. You can’t simply do this back and forth, ‘Oh, I didn’t mean it’ approach. It was almost like McCarthyism—‘I know there are those with serious conflicts but I’m not going to tell you who they are.’”

Malloy, who Cafero, McKinney and Boughton may seek to challenge, didn’t have a great session either. His budget was balanced with one-shot revenues, more gambling and, let’s say, a “creative” accounting to move to stay under the spending cap.

Boughton certainly sounds like an eventual candidate for governor but says he is concentrating on winning reelection as mayor of Danbury. “It’s going to be a busy summer and there is always the question of, how do you raise the money [for a run for governor]? For now, I’m concentrating on doing my job.”