Jeff Kohut, Bridgeport’s studious political nerd, offers this prediction for the November gubernatorial election, a battle between Bridgeport residents Joe Ganim and David Walker. As Kohut points out, “P.T. Barnum would have put it all under a tent and sold tickets.”
The 2018 Connecticut gubernatorial contest is taking definite shape even as the ultimate definition of the contest begs to be acknowledged.
Reducing the analysis toward an elucidation of the most probable, November contest description requires an efficient elimination of improbable members from the present, hopeful cast of characters. In this regard it would appear logical to expose the hopelessly clueless, message-less Republican side of the contest for what it is.
In that regard, presently there is a large line-up of Republican candidates, including familiar names from past, failed gubernatorial, and lower-level campaigns, such as Mark Boughton, Mark Lauretti, Steve Obsitnik, Tim Herbst, David Walker, and Toni Boucher, as well as some new names and faces (new to the Connecticut gubernatorial/political arena), such as Mike Handler, Peter Lumaj, Bob Stefanowski, Prasad Srinivasan, and David Stemerman.
The main points that define the Republican field are: 1) The absence of any sort of comprehensive message or plan by any of the Republican candidates in regard to a carefully considered, interrelated set of policies and definite steps needed to create and sustain a prosperous, Twenty-first Century Connecticut (other than the obvious, cliché non-solution of “Cut spending. Cut taxes.”; 2) A prevalence of non-populist, suburbanite/small-city candidates; 3) A heavy presence of Gold Coast/Wall Street-Hedge Fund-Finance backgrounds that are predictive of detachment from the economic reality and indifference to the needs of 95% of the people of the state.
The above Republican candidate platform/background description, on the backdrop of a wobbly, gyrating, unfocused Connecticut Republican Party, describable in the raw terms of disorganization, disunity, and internecine warfare (note the Trumpian attitudes and antics of candidates Herbst and Lumaj) speak of an early write-off of the prospects of a Republican governor in 2018. Indeed; the residents of the urban and rural regions of the state should feel relief in this regard–especially in the context of the Supreme Court ruling against the Moukawsher Decision.
And, while former banker and Hartford-area Chamber of Commerce (Metro-Hartford Alliance) president, Oz Griebel, and his Newtown-attorney running mate present as a plausible, petitioning-candidate, gubernatorial-hopeful team, they are sorely lacking in statewide political presence, as well as essential resources, for a gubernatorial-level contest in 2018 Connecticut.
Thus, the on-going, out-of-the-gate, Republican gubernatorial-race melt-down, in the context of the contraindicated, independent political gambit of a failed, former Republican gubernatorial candidate (Griebel), would strongly suggest the need to look to the emerging form of the Democratic side of the contest for a glimpse at the probable, next governor of Connecticut.
Looking at the Democratic side of the gubernatorial contest heading toward the May convention and August 14 primary, there are currently eight candidates proceeding toward these decision points. Those candidates are: Bridgeport native and current (multi-term) mayor, Joseph Ganim; former Connecticut Secretary of State and multi-office candidate, Susan Bysiewicz; Malloy appointee and corporate lawyer, Sean Connolly; West Hartford resident, former State Senator, former Connecticut Commissioner of Consumer Protection, former State Deputy Treasurer, and former Executive Director of the State Democratic Party, Jonathan Harris; Greenwich resident, former Connecticut Democratic Party Vice-Chair, and former Wall Street trader, Dita Bhargava; Greenwich heir, businessman, and previous US Senate and Connecticut gubernatorial candidate, Ned Lamont; tobacco- and liquor-industry pitchman (and Bill Clinton publicist) Guy L. Smith IV of Greenwich; lifelong Greenwich resident, current Hartford mayor, and former, multi-position, state- and federal-level political appointee, Luke Bronin.
Quickly running through the list, we can see that six candidates can be eliminated, pre-primary. These candidates are: 1)Multi-office candidate Ned Lamont, who, having only held minor elective office–a Greenwich town council seat–for only one, two-year term, having failed in runs for federal office and statewide office (US Senate and Connecticut governor), and having been essentially absent from the state political scene for over seven years, Lamont, while financially viable and able to easily self-finance any statewide race, has slipped into the realm of political irrelevance and disregard by having failed to assert political and fiscal solutions during the Malloy meltdown years in our state. He will find himself staring at a lot of backs as he seeks 15% delegate support at the party convention in May. 2) Wall Street trader and local/state political dabbler Dita Bhargava, who, while known by Connecticut State Central Committee Dems and Gold Coast political enthusiasts, has no statewide name recognition or political record on which to assert her candidacy–and no time to establish either in time for the August primary. She will find very little support at the May convention and will be unlikely to receive anything near the necessary 15% delegate support to wage an August primary. 3) Jonathan Harris: Besides having very little name recognition outside of the Hartford area, when his lackluster service as State Consumer Protection Commissioner and Deputy State Treasurer are considered in the context of the rest of his lackluster political career, he’ll find himself looking at the same backs at the convention as Ned Lamont. 4) Susan Bysiewicz: Her mediocre record/tenure as Connecticut Secretary of State will not be able to redeem her reputation for career indecisiveness, per her zig-zag path from gubernatorial favorite to ineligible Connecticut Attorney General candidate in the 2010 Connecticut state election cycle (after an aborted candidacy for a slot in the 2006 governor’s race), proceeding from there to an electoral thrashing in the US Senate, Democratic primary against Chris Murphy in 2012. 5) Sean Connolly, a Malloy appointee who has very little statewide name recognition, as well as the drag of his close ties to a failed, unpopular administration. 6) Guy L. Smith IV, who has a damning resume, per his background as a tobacco- and liquor-industry pitchman and Bill Clinton publicist/image cleaner. The professional baggage, carried in the dim light of his lacking political credentials and name recognition, will assure the sidelining of his candidacy pre-convention.
So on the Democratic side, things reduce to a probable Ganim-Bronin contest heading toward the primary. If the winner is Bronin; it is likely that there will be a Ganim, independent run and a three-candidate general election (Ganim, Bronin and David Walker, the latter of whom is the only truly qualified and capable Republican candidate). But when voters examine the political DNA of Bronin and trace his political lineage to the Clinton and Malloy, Democratic bloodlines (in the context of his non-meritorious federal- and state- appointment ascendancy (he served in the Obama Administration as a Treasury Department appointee, and afterward as Malloy’s General Counsel), voters will realize that Bronin will simply continue with the destructive, Malloy, “Stamford-Greenwich primacy,” state agenda. And, when voters are apprised of his intimate ties and support from Big Insurance, they’ll realize that a Bronin governorship is not what the Doctor ordered for Connecticut.
While some people might deride the prospects of a Ganim governorship, the voters of Connecticut will be forced to consider his platform and appreciate his story as they examine his candidacy and the candidacies of the other contestants seeking the chance to guide Connecticut back to fiscal stability and prosperity. Will Luke Bronin have the wherewithal to wage a political dogfight for elective office and commit to weathering a fiscal storm describable in Connecticut terms, as Governor, without a “godfather” to get him elected and hand him a bailout, per his pre-gubernatorial gifts from Godfather Dan? We’ll soon see, as he takes a few more steps out in the cold toward the May convention and August primary.
But to prognosticate just a little more: One must wonder what tactics might be used by Luke’s handlers in assuring the timely exit of his strongest, Democratic competition: Maybe there’s a way to get Ned and Susan another shot (each) at the US Senate–before retirement time. Maybe. If they’re willing to throw their support behind Luke at the May Convention. And maybe there’s a way to get Jonathan and Dita a shot at higher office in the fairly near future (say, the Governor’s Office–after Luke makes a bid for the White House. Or possibly the US Congress.) for a similar consideration. (And one must wonder if a couple or three, or four of the “D” candidates were encouraged to enter the race in order to siphon delegates away from the “real” competition.
In any event this will be an interesting political season in Connecticut, no doubt. But the Governor’s race will be pretty straightforward heading into the fall–Ganim vs. fellow Bridgeporter David Walker, or Bronin vs. Ganim vs. David Walker. (PT would have put it all under a tent and sold tickets.)