Will Herbst Campaign Strategy Be On The Mark Against Boughton?

Boughton and Herbst
Tim Herbst and Mark Boughton at state convention. Image courtesy CT Mirror.

With deep roots in Bridgeport and eight years as first selectman of Trumbull, Tim Herbst carved out a futuristic profile as a fresh-faced outsider who could emerge as a statewide player in Republican politics. He was 29 years old in 2009 when elected chief executive of Trumbull knocking off incumbent Democrat Ray Baldwin. In 2014, he was the GOP candidate for state treasurer, running strongest among the Republican candidates for statewide office. Now he hopes to take out party-endorsed Mark Boughton, the mayor of Danbury, in an August primary for governor. Herbst is a guy who relishes in mixing it up, calling for multiple debates. And, for the most part, the restrained Boughton is not taking the bait, except for a well-placed rejoinder focused on Herbst’s temperament.

(Full disclosure: I served as a Herbst campaign strategist his first three runs for first selectman.)

Herbst and Navy veteran Steve Obsitnik qualified for the ballot at the party convention last month. Other Republicans including Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti are trying to petition their way into the primary, a daunting task for GOP candidates who must spend most of their time tracking Republican signatures along the large-acre zoning of Connecticut’s Fairfield County Gold Coast.

Herbst and Boughton as chief executives both have strong stories to share about governing, skilled at framing real-life experiences in the quest to become governor. They have in common party affiliation and educational influence. Herbst’s parents were educators and Boughton a former school teacher. They have conservative credentials to rally the party faithful loathe to Connecticut’s spending and deficits. Herbst in Trumbull attacking generous public employee pension funds; Boughton as mayor highlighting immigration as an issue in his city long before Donald Trump’s national border cry.

But as personalities they’re antithetical: Herbst roar and soar; Boughton reserved and reflective. It makes for a sporty match-up and right now Herbst is mostly making it about Boughton in the primary and presumably Democrat Ned Lamont in the general election. In the primary Herbst’s running to the right. If successful in the primary does he pivot deftly to the middle to reach the large bloc of unaffiliated voters who settle statewide races in Connecticut?

What’s the best personality for a cranky Connecticut electorate? Depends on what they say and how they say it. Most electors vote on the future. Contrasts matter, something CT Mirror reporter Mark Pazniokas draws upon in this story:

“Which of the three of us presents the most clear, the most distinct contrast to Ned Lamont?” Herbst asked. “I think of the three of us, I’ll be the most clear and distinct contrast in this sense: You’re not going to beat a retread candidate with a retread candidate. Ned Lamont has run twice for governor. Mark Boughton has run three times for governor.”

… Herbst casually, almost sympathetically insults Boughton, the convention-endorsed candidate, saying he would happily have deferred to the long-time Danbury mayor–if only he thought Boughton had the stuff to win on his third time out.

“Look, I wouldn’t be in this race if I thought Mark had the assertiveness, the strength, the fortitude, the grit to make the tough decisions to do what needs to be done,” Herbst said. “I just don’t think he has it in him. And I wouldn’t be in this race if I thought he did.”

Boughton and Obsitnik largely ignore the gibes, though Boughton responded to the debate challenge by telling The Courant, “We don’t let our campaign cave to a Timmy temper tantrum.”

Full story here.

The GOP primary will be testy and heavily nuanced, with some well-placed verbal grenades tossed back and forth.

A larger field, splitting up the GOP moderate vote, figures to help Herbst reaching a conservative flank. But what if someone like Lauretti, it’s a big if, makes the primary ballot? His core support comes from towns in the lower Naugatuck Valley that went for Donald Trump in 2016. Would Lauretti poach those votes from Herbst? Will Boughton prevail as the endorsed candidate? And will Obsitnik emerge as a sleeper in the primary?



  1. Neither one will answer a simple question. Are you for or against a Bridgeport Casino. Until they are man enough to answer, please do not help or contribute to either one. The political two step doesn’t qualify either. A simple yes or no. I have spoken to both campaigns and get a run around.

  2. The only hope either Republican Tim Herbst and Mark Boughton have for being elected governor is that black and Hispanic voters stay home and don’t vote because there are NO shinning star in any of the candidates running in both parties which means what candidate can get his base to the polls to vote and that’s something the Republicans don’t have with 45 as their leader. The Republicans can’t have 45 come to Connecticut to help.

  3. Personaly,Tim Herbst intrigues me,while not very popular while First selectman in Trumbull,he did straighten out the town’s pension problems,kept taxes down,and alot of development popped up while he was in office.I admit his child like temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way are a bit offsetting,but he is a no nonsense type of leader who has a proven track record of getting things in order.#ANYONEBUTJOE

    1. Herbst is a teeny/tiny version of the temperament of Donald Trump. The General Assembly won’t be cowed by his outbursts. Timmy looks like he has gained weight but,then again,he does like Mario’s sauce.

      1. Really….Owen. Whoever you are. Answer this question. Do you think The General Assembly will do whatever and everything that Governor Herbst demands.

  4. Thay bridgeport casino is dead in the water since May 31st when this came out.

    ” Plans by Connecticut’s two federally recognized tribes to jointly build a casino in East Windsor have received a boost from federal regulators.

    The U.S. Department of Interior says it will publish a notice of approval on Friday for amendments to a revenue-sharing agreement between the state of Connecticut and the Mohegan tribe.”


    1. I don’t know what happened to the BIA letter, but they open a casino in East Windsor, it is commercial gaming. IT IS NOT ON THEIR RESERVATION. This being said, MGM will sue the state for violation of the commerce clause. The only way a tribe can get a waiver is for economic hardship.

  5. Taking a hard look at the Party offerings for governor forces the 90% of Connecticut citizens living in and around Connecticut’s cities that aren’t Stamford to think in terms of an independnent Party alternative. We certainly don’t need the Trump and Hillary, Party bookends leading us down darker paths in either direction; nor the uninspired pack of Party candidates in between… 2018 should really be the gubernatorial election-year of the darkhorse, suprise, independent candidate with a real plan for the socioeconomic resuscutation of the whole state of Connecticut… (We’re still hemmorhaging jobs and people, folks… So far there haven’t been any hints from any of the candidates of a real clue of how to reverse this trend in any big-time, timely manner… If cutting taxes — the universal solution offered by the candidates — was the single-ingredient recipe for acomplishing this turnanround, NY and MA wouldn’t be in the midst of their economic surges…)

  6. This is off topic, but must be shared.

    Chris Taylor chaired his Facilities Committee at Cesar Batalla this evening at 5:30 pm.

    Taylor, Illingsworth and Weldon are on the committee but Weldon was absent. Joseph Sokolovic and I were present.

    The first agenda item was a donation of playground equipment at Cesar Batalla. Allen Wallach from facilities is asked by the transcriber to move closer to be picked up on the microphones. Taylor pats the seat next to him and states “you can sit next to me and I’ll play nice”. It was condescending and inappropriate.

    Allen Wallach indicated he had sent materials to Chris Taylor in advance that Taylor did not forward to board members. He asks Allen Wallach ” do you support it?” And Wallach states “yes”. I raise my hand to ask a question about the handout we were just given and Taylor asks ILLINGSWORTH to move approval. Illingsworth does and them Taylor calls for a vote. I stated that discussion is required before a vote. They both steamroll ahead without a single question or discussion.

    Now Taylor moves to an agenda item allocating $3,500 for freshman football at Harding that has absolutely nothing to do with the Facilities Committee. Taylor immediately asks for a motion to approve and ILLINGSWORTH notes that this agenda item should have gone to a different committee, preferablly finance.

    I am actively raising my hand and asking to be recognized. Illingworth calls Taylor’s attention to my raised hand, and Taylor states “I refuse to recognize her”. I immediately retorted I am a Board member and he must recognize me per board policy. The staff present looked appalled.
    Taylor persists on with absolutely no discussion, not one question and they both voted for it.

    Taylor asked for a motion to adjourn and Illingworth obliged.

    I called Taylor a,”thug”, called him on his outrageous behavior, and stated I guess you are the “former mobster” you claim to be.

    He walked out in his shorts and unlaced timberlands.

    I have spoken to two of those present in which both stated his behavior is deplorable. One stated he was the “new Kenneth Moales of the Board” and one stated he was “a bad version of Tony Soprano”.

    As someone that I completely trust stated, John Weldon is not a leader, therefore he lets Chris Taylor also conduct himself without leadership and this has emboldened Chris Taylor.


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