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Rejecting Lobbyist Loot, Mattei Raises Dough With A Reformer’s Touch

July 3rd, 2017 · 22 Comments · Analysis and Comment, State Politics

Mattei webpage

Chris Mattei. From his web page.

So far this is a wide-open gubernatorial election cycle for 2018. An open seat, Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman not clearly signaling her intentions, a slew of candidates, committed or through exploratory, raising money to leverage millions in public dollars. It provides room for a sleeper. On the Democratic side it may be Chris Mattei, a Bridgeport lawyer, who served for years as chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office financial fraud and public corruption unit, including prosecuting former Governor John Rowland on federal election law violations.

Eschewing money from lobbyists, the only Democratic candidate running statewide to make that declaration so far, Mattei reports his campaign raised $118,344 from more than 1,000 individual donations in 10 weeks since he formed an exploratory committee for governor. With the latest fundraising quarter ending June 30, most committees must now make a mandatory electronic filing by July 10 to the State Elections Enforcement Commission. Some candidates will release the numbers before then in a show of positioning and gamesmanship. This stuff is a scorekeeper’s dream.

Fundraising, even on a public dollars level, is a show of strength. In Connecticut, gubernatorial candidates must raise $250,000 in contributions of $100 and less to achieve a public grant worth millions, be it in the primary or general election.

Mattei doesn’t enjoy the political connections of the established candidates so he must make up time through fundraising might while moving around the state introducing himself to party insiders who will serve as delegates at the respective party conventions next May prior to expected party primaries in August. It’s a long, hard slog.

“I am not a man of extraordinary personal wealth or deep political connections,” writes Mattei in a recent eblast to followers. “There are no powerful special interests waiting in the wings to support my potential candidacy–not when I’ve spent a career taking a few of them on myself.”

Rejecting lobbyist money, Mattei has challenged other candidates to do the same, is a nice talking point on the campaign trail. Lobbyists tend to spread it around, so not taking it certainly leaves money on the table. But if Mattei can achieve his fundraising goals while touting a reformer’s touch, it’s twice the pleasure.

“A politics that reject the backroom deals and influence peddling, which have held us back,” he declares. “A politics that give citizens a reason to check back in to the democratic process. This change won’t come from Hartford. It will only come when friends and neighbors join together to demand it.”

Comparing apples to apples with other more established candidates, Mattei’s first fundraising quarter is impressive. The early dough is always the easiest money. If he backs it up with another performance he creates more chatter. The key is the number of donations of $100 and less. Under an exploratory committee, some campaigns lard up the pot with a number of maximum allowable $375 personal contributions. It’s necessary money to spend in the exploratory stage to build a campaign infrastructure but the low dollar amounts are the ones that count to trigger the public grant when rolled into a full-blown candidate committee. For instance, for governor, 2,500 contributions of $100 gets you there. And it’s a beast to get there, super labor intensive. It’s why many established candidates who failed to reach the threshold in 2014 have started earlier than last cycle.

Mattei also brings gifted gab to the table, quick on his feet, an aggressive courtroom demeanor. Can he temper that on the campaign trail with arguments that connect with voters? Some may argue that as a prosecutor he broke too many political bones to pad his resume. Check the record and you’ll see the eager Mattei was egalitarian in his prosecutorial swath. He locked up officials in both major parties.

Mattei, in the early field, is the one true Democratic outsider in a campaign game that relies on insider contacts. It’s a tricky balance.

On paper, the Republican field looks stronger based on the credentials of the candidates coupled with a nonplussed electorate over the state of the economy. Whether Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, also rejecting lobbyist money, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker, or others in or who may get in, the Republican candidates have stronger stories to tell.

It creates an opportunity for an outsider. What we’re doing now isn’t working. What type of candidate can win November 2018? Insider baggage or outside reformer?

Mattei has a long way to go, but a start worth talking about.

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22 Comments so far ↓

  • Maria Pereira

    I had a retired state trooper in my neighborhood return a message I had left him. I reminded him when I knocked on his door in 2015 that he told me that I should not support Ganim because he was a crook, thief, etc. I made sure he knew he was right and I was wrong.

    He told me he was so disgusted with the corruption in Bridgeport and Tests running it that he was ready to give up hope. I told him don’t ever give up hope because that is what they are relying on.

    He went onto say that he reads about me in the paper and it’s obvious I put in a lot of time and effort to fight the corruption and expose it and that I must continue that work.

    Some people have encouraged me to run for the city council. I may very well do that in 2019. If Testa and Ganim want to keep coming for me on the school board, why not do the very same to them on the City Council. They would never defeat me in the 138th. It is an interesting proposition. Hmmm…

    • Steven Auerbach

      Maybe a Gage Frank / Maria Pereirra ticket. Hmmmmm. Nah!

      • Ron Mackey

        Steve, Maria has know feelings of the backlash throughout the city that Maria has created in fact even with teachers at Thomas Hooker School where she thinks she can do whatever she wants to do. Maria she no idea much people can stand her and who feel that she doesn’t belong on the BOE.

  • Marshall Marcus

    I had the pleasure of meeting and listening to Chris Mattei when he addressed the Trumbull Democratic Town Committee last month. He brings a breath of fresh air and a call to support and appeal to traditional Democrat Constituencies.

    I’ve not made up my mind which candidate for the nomination I’ll be supporting, but I’m not crossing Mattei off my list as of yet.

  • Robert Teixeira

    why wait until 2019? Do you think things will change for you in the next two years? Why don’t you run in this election for the 138th. If you can win and try to make positive advancement but choose to sit it out how sincere are your efforts to fight the corruption and expose it, as you claim?

    RUN Maria RUN :)

    • Maria Pereira

      I have over two years on my BOE term. I don’t think you understand. If I run for City Council in 2019, I will also run for the BOE.

      • Robert Teixeira

        Unless you can’t hold both positions BOE and CC. I don’t understand. If you could what is to stop you from running for CC now?

        • Maria Pereira

          You CANNOT hold two municipal positions consecutively. If they want to come for me on the BOE, and they will, then I end up on the City Council working very closely with the administration. Win or lose, I win.

          • Robert Teixeira

            Lets say you run for both CC and BOE in 2019 what one would give up? If win both and give up the BOE 2019 can’t you do the same in 2017. If your not willing to give up the BOE in 2017 why give it up in 2019. No matter what you will have to run in 2017.

            It sounds like a vague threat. If your not willing to give up the BOE

            PS when didn’t they ever not come after you?

          • Robert Teixeira

            which one
            you win
            in 2019
            you’re
            When why
            run in 2019

          • Maria Pereira

            If I won the BOE and City Council in 2019, I would take the oath for the BOE. If I was to lose the BOE in 2019, I would take the City Council seat and drive Testa, Ganim and his administration nuts. As I said, win or lose, I win.

          • Robert Teixeira

            Not if you lose both in 2019.

            Then it’s a vague threat on the CC Run. It’s just a back up if you lose the BOE.

            What Happens if you run against Stallworth again and win will you have to give up the BOE?

  • Bob Walsh

    Didn’t Andre Baker hold both?
    Isn’t the BOE considered a state official?
    They run when other state officials run.
    Seems like a very weak argument.

    • LennieGrimaldi

      Troll, Baker held school board and state rep seat together before he gave up school board. City Charter says (yeah I know it’s violated all the time) cannot hold city council and school board (“any of the boards of the city”) seat simultaneously. Passage below could be open to interpretation. Leticia Colon was the last, as I recall, who had to make a choice.

      “No person while holding office as a member of the city council shall be a member of any of the boards of the city, and no member of the city council shall be appointed to an office by any of such boards for which compensation is to be paid.”

    • Maria Pereira

      Rick Torres was on the ballot for mayor and city council in 2015.

  • Robert Teixeira

    Remember Maria everything is based on the contingency of you winning.

    I would run, if you win give up the BOE for two years let them know you mean “business” In two years you run for both CC and BOE If you win both you have options. Not to mention the state run against Stallworth. Not sure when that is and what other elected office you can hold but I think the BOE is one.

    You really have nothing to really lose if you win. if you win CC in 2017 you can probably can decline it but take the CC position.

    Just my opinion. :) RUN

  • Robert Teixeira

    PS Maria two years is a life time politics. I say you take advantage to the current politically climate. Use what politically capital you have acquired and RUN for CC

    They coming after you is what elevated you. The case against Gamin’s appointees seems like it going to be a mute point after the election. ( I would think) No more state takeoves and Packets, Fight the power. I guess its where you want to fight the power. RUN :)

  • Frank Gyure

    I’m going back to the Mattei issue.He’s Interesting…..but he has zero name recognition. Whatever you think,Democrats are waiting for Nancy Wyman. The Republican race remains sphinx-like. I don’t sense that any candidate has an advantage.

  • Ron Mackey

    Maria Pereira, without a doubt you are the number one candidate to be defeated no matter position you run for. The voters know that you don’t have the ability to work with others to get anything passed. Everything is just about Maria.

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