It was apparent from the start that Guy Smith, the retired executive from alcoholic beverage giant Diageo, would be challenged to make the Democratic primary ballot for governor via a laborious signature campaign. His campaign fell well short of the more than 15,000 signatures (two percent of Connecticut’s Democratic electorate) required to qualify for an August 14 primary. This means the Democratic primary will be head-to-head, party-endorsed Ned Lamont challenged by Mayor Joe Ganim.
“It is with sadness that I announce the end of my campaign for Governor of Connecticut,” Smith said in a statment. “Although this is disappointing, I am grateful for the support from friends, family and in particular my wife Marjorie, and the tens of thousands of Connecticut residents I have met over these many months. I want to express my profound thanks to my campaign team for all their dedication and I know they share in my disappointment.”
Smith eschewed the convention process to take his case directly to voters in a petitioning drive. While Ganim has been certified for the ballot in his signature effort, leveraging an army of canvassers in urban areas, Smith found out that a significant chunk of signatures are invalidated because they are not Democratic electors. Knocking on a door of a registered Democrat is good, scouring signatures in front of shopping centers is bad.
While Smith submitted more than 20,000 signatures, about half or so could not be verified, according to the daily tabulation update provided by the office of the Connecticut Secretary of the State.
So now the focus is simply on Lamont, the Greenwich entrepreneur self-funding his race against underdog Ganim whose financial resources pale compared the endorsed Democrat’s vast checkbook. Ganim’s spend-down in the final seven weeks, perhaps a few hundred thousand, leading to the primary will be dwarfed. While the Ganim campaign by the time it’s done will eclipse $700,000 raised in total, much of that money is devoured by consultants and campaign staff across the state as well as the successful petition drive.
Ganim’s trying to drive a wedge with his second-chance message that appeals to urban voters and Lamont’s wealth.
In cities Ganim can turn his conviction into a comeback credential for those embracing his second-change message. Performing well in cities, however, will not be enough to counter suburban and rural areas of the state suspicious of Ganim’s past. Ganim must leverage some unorthodox issues, or benefit from a major gaffe by Lamont, to inspire a statewide Democratic audience against Lamont’s financial firepower in a low turnout. And Ganim must talk about the future. Where’s he gonna take the state?
Ganim, a deft debater, will try to bait the affable Lamont into a deer-in-the-headlights moment. So far, the Lamont campaign has not made Ganim’s past an issue. That won’t happen unless Lamont feels the race is tightening.
Lamont has agreed to debate Ganim but the reality is there’s no upside to the forums for Lamont other than avoiding criticism for ducking them and enhancing his debate skills for a presumed general election against the Republican nominee that will come from a large field, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, Navy veteran Steve Obsitnik and self-funding entrepreneurs David Stemerman and Bob Stefanowski.
When Ganim got into the gubernatorial race it seemed like a large field that could benefit him was on the horizon. But several of the candidate in the race, including Susan Bysiewicz who is running with Lamont, dropped out deferring to Lamont’s finances.
What’s left for Ganim is drawing a sharp contrast with Lamont and hope for a major break. In these types of races it’s not what Lamont spends, it’s what Ganim spends. Does he have enough resources to compete? It’s a looming, disquieting question for Ganim operatives.