HARTFORD (AP) — Wealthy businessman Ned Lamont easily won the Democratic nomination for Connecticut governor, defeating Bridgeport mayor and ex-convict Joe Ganim in Tuesday's primary.
Lamont's win comes 12 years after he defeated the party's then-veteran U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman in a Democratic showdown that was viewed nationally as a referendum on the war in Iraq. Lamont later lost in the general election when Lieberman ran as an independent.
It's unclear who Lamont will face in November. Votes were still being counted in the five-way Republican primary battle.
As in 2006, Lamont is hoping to ride a wave of national discontentment among Democrats. He has promised on the campaign trail to "save Connecticut" from the policies of President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans, whether it's the weakening of environmental standards, limiting of access to abortion or scaling back of union members' rights.
"We're going in the wrong direction with what's going on in Washington, D.C., right now. We're going to start going in the right direction here in Connecticut," Lamont says in an early campaign ad.
Democratic Governors Association Chairman Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington, said Lamont "is the only candidate" in the race for governor "who will stand up to Donald Trump when his policies hurt Connecticut."
The Republican Governors Association immediately responded by accusing Lamont of being an "enabler" of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is not running for a third term. Lamont ran in a previous gubernatorial primary and lost to Malloy in 2010.
"Connecticut desperately needs a governor who will turn the page on the Dan Malloy era, but Ned Lamont would continue it for a third term," said RGA Communications Director Jon Thompson.
Lamont, of Greenwich, has called for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, more funding for local education, electronic tolls for heavy trucks, and paid family and medical leave. A financially successful founder of a small cable company, Lamont contends he has both the business and people skills to bring various groups together to help solve the state's ongoing budget problems.
He often speaks about being an outsider and about how the "political class" has failed taxpayers and state employees.
Jenna Baker of Griswold, a 25-year-old residential manager at a group home for people with disabilities, said she voted for Lamont primarily because he received the endorsement of her union. She said Ganim's criminal past wasn't a significant factor.
"By running for governor, I assume he is trying to turn around and be a good person," she said. "I don't have anything personally against him."
Ganim attempted to portray Lamont during the primary campaign as an out-of-touch millionaire who lacks the government experience needed to address major problems facing the state, such as unfunded state employee pension liability or a projected budget deficit of more than $2 billion when the new governor takes over next year.
Ganim, 58, served seven years in prison for steering city contracts as mayor from 1991 to 2003 in exchange for cash, wine, clothes and home improvements. Still, he was elected again as Bridgeport's mayor in 2015 — just five years after his release from prison.