In what passes for a seismic shift this early in a 2018 gubernatorial campaign, consensus frontrunning Democrat Kevin Lembo, the Connecticut comptroller, is throwing in the towel on any potential bid for the top spot, opting instead for reelection. The race on the Democratic side certainly still has viable candidates but eyes are now on Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman who has not decided whether to run. She shouldn’t. Fair or not, she is joined at the hip with Gov. Dannel Malloy whose approval rating is among the worst in the country.
Lembo’s exit (technically, he wasn’t ever officially “in”) is curious. His fundraising was strong and he had the best name recognition among those actively exploring a run. “Now more than ever, Connecticut needs someone in the state comptroller’s office who they can count on as an independent government watchdog and advocate for essential fiscal and economic reform,” Lembo said in a statement.
Those in a position to know tell The Hanging Shad Lembo’s decision was very personal. With an exploratory committee comes consultants and would-be advisers telling him how to act “gubernatorial.” He simply decided he is currently doing exactly what he wants to do. It’s that simple.
Lembo opened an exploratory campaign back in April. He showed prodigious fundraising ability from the start. Now he’s out. “This journey has also reinforced and reminded me what I’m most passionate about: a health care system and a state financial and economic system that works for everyone…I am determined to continue that fight, and believe the best place for me to do that is as state comptroller. And so – after reflection, consideration and consultation with my family – I am officially declaring my candidacy for re-election,” Lembo said.
As for Wyman, she is said to be “weighing her options.” One option she doesn’t seem to have is to run for the top spot free of any political baggage carried by the current governor. Wyman is no doubt popular in her own right but one could see Republicans salivating over the chance to run against Malloy 2.0.
Lembo’s move naturally bolsters the other Democratic candidates. Middletown Mayor Dan Drew is officially running, announcing his exploratory committee even before Malloy made the obvious decision not to seek a third term.
Drew is young, smart and has seen considerable success leading Middletown. A curious decision he made in July was to hire political campaigns hack Geoff Luxenberg for a job at Middletown City Hall. It’s unclear what role Luxenberg will have in the campaign, if any. He has his own baggage.
Former West Hartford Mayor, state senator, state party chairman and consumer protection commissioner Jonathan Harris may benefit the most from the Lembo departure. He has more experience and more statewide appeal than Drew although that could change. Harris was an exceptional consensus builder in the Senate.
Also exploring a run is convicted felon and Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim. If nothing else, Ganim gets the prize for audacity. He not only wants to run for the top spot, he wants the public to finance it. The former mayor spent seven years in the hooscow for political corruption. That’s a long time in the pokey—plenty of time to hatch a plan to retake the mayor’s office (which worked) and run for governor on the public’s dime (which hopefully won’t). He’s already suing.
Republicans sniffing around a gubernatorial bid include the obnoxious First Selectman of Trumbull Tim Herbst, who seems to make an enemy out of just about everyone, and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton who also can’t stand Herbst and has run twice before.
Other members of the GOP considering a run (stop me if you’ve heard of any of them): David M. Walker, former United States Comptroller General; pro-gun whack-job Joe Visconti of West Hartford; Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti; Glastonbury state Rep. Prasad Srinivasan; Micah Welintukonis, a retired Army Sergeant First Class (and Purple Heart recipient); state Sen. Toni Boucher of Wilton; Peter Lumaj, former GOP nominee for secretary of state; and former state Sen. John McKinney.
Ironically, quite possibly the party’s strongest potential candidate, state Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, has taken a pass on the race.