List of those interested in gubernatorial run growing

List of those interested in gubernatorial run growing


Three more candidates announced their interest in running for governor, crowding a field that is likely to increase more after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced he won’t seek re-election.

Former Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris and U.S. Attorney Chris Mattei, both Democrats, announced that they’re forming exploratory committees, while Republican Joe Visconti declared his official candidacy and formed a candidate committee.

The crowded field, six declared candidates and about a dozen more official exploring runs, could also force more potential candidates to decide in the near future.

Harris, also a former state senator and West Hartford mayor, said he wants to get started on building support raising funds to qualify for a campaign finance grant.

“I understand it’s a small state, but there’s a lot of people to talk to,” he said, adding other candidates are also vying for support and funds.

Visconti, who petitioned his way on the 2014 ballot as an unaffiliated gubernatorial candidate, also said qualifying for the Citizens’ Election Program could be a bigger challenge than gathering enough signatures to run.

“The only thing I haven’t proved is that we can raise money because I didn’t go after money last time,” he said.

Candidates can qualify for financing grants under the Citizens’ Election Program if they meet fundraising thresholds, with donations not exceeding $100 from individuals.

In 2014, the last gubernatorial race, candidates for governor received just under $1.4 million for a primary challenge and $6.5 million for the general election. Danbury Mayor Mark Bought had to abandon his bid for the Republican nomination ahead of that year’s primary because he couldn’t meet the $250,000 needed for gubernatorial candidates to qualify.

Visconti is one of four Republicans who have declared their candidacy, joining Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, R-Glastonbury and former Coventry town councilman Micah Welintukonis.

L. Lee Whitnum, of Greenwich, and Jacey Wyatt, a Branford resident, are the only Democrats so far to form candidate committees.

Several other notable names, including Democratic Middletown Mayor Dan Drew and Republicans like Boughton, Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker and Fairfield attorney Peter Lumaj, have also formed exploratory committees.

Speculation continues to surround several others, including Lt. Gov Nancy Wyman and Comptroller Kevin Lembo, both Democrats, and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides and New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, Republicans.

Visconti, a former West Hartford town council member, said he’s planning to skip the 2018 GOP convention and forgo the endorsement, instead looking to petition his way to primary. That would require signatures from two percent of registered Republicans.

Visconti said seeking the endorsement requires a crowded field, though, and he feels he can better focus his efforts by skipping the convention. He also said he decided to enter the race after Malloy’s announcement last Thursday opened the field to interested Democrats.

“Maybe anybody can beat Malloy, but not anybody can bear the machine that’s going to try to replace him,” he said.

An early supporter of President Donald J. Trump, Visconti also said he plans to “bring my Connecticut Trump world with me.”

Harris, who resigned from the Department of Consumer Protection Tuesday, said he decided to step down and test the waters to ensure rumors of his candidacy didn’t taint any agency actions. He also said his time at the agency should demonstrate his ability for “creative problem solving,” even as DCP took on additional regulatory responsibilities with a shrinking staff.

Harris said his time on West Hartford’s town council and as mayor, as well as time working as an attorney and as deputy treasurer, give him a diverse background.

“I’ve got a very holistic approach to government,” he said. “I know what I know and I know what I don’t know.”

Mattei, meanwhile, was former head of the Office of the U.S. Attorney’s chief financial public corruption unit, a position from which he helped convict former Gov. John G. Rowland in 2014 of conspiring with Lisa Wilson-Foley, a congressional candidate, to violate campaign finance laws.

Mattei said in a statement that he has also helped convict others on charges of gun trafficking, securities fraud and identity theft, among other offenses, before joining a private law firm.

“What we need now more than ever is a people’s campaign built by us for us in every city and town in this state,” he said in a statement announcing his interest. “If we are willing to work for it, we can build a just and growing economy.”
Twitter: @reporter_savino

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