Ned Lamont will officially enter the race for Governor of Connecticut on Tuesday, February 16th with an 11 AM announcement at Hartford's Old State House.
So you're saying "Waaaaaait a minute! I've already seen polls showing Ned as the (narrow) front runner. Isn't he already a candidate?" Well, yes and no. Connecticut's rather bizarre election law makes it advantageous for candidates to form "exploratory committees" for offices, and continue "exploring" the decision they've really already made. So on Tuesday, Ned will drop the pretense of the exploratory committee and be in the race for real.
At the moment, there are five Democrats "exploring" a run for governor. Since that's tiresome to keep writing, I will just call them candidates for the rest of this diary.
Overview of the Candidates
In addition to Ned Lamont, the Democratic candidates are: Dan Malloy, who just finished 14 years as Mayor of Stamford and narrowly lost the Governor nomination four years ago; Mary Glassman, First Selectman of Simsbury, who was the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor four years ago; Rudy Marconi, First Selectman of Ridgefield, a Democrat who has been re-elected numerous times in a town with a nearly 2-to-1 voter registration advantage for Republicans; and Juan Figueroa, a former state legislator who also led a non-profit dedicated to passing Connecticut's SustiNet health care plan. To clear up any confusion: a First Selectman is essentially the same thing as a mayor -- top executive position in a town.
There are, I think, seven Republicans running as well, and that might soon grow to eight if former Congressman Chris Shays, who lost to Jim Himes in 2008 after 21 years as the representative in CT-04, enters the race. Shays moved to Maryland within months of his loss. His dedication to our state is stunning, isn't it? But I digress...
Back to Ned
Ned Lamont will become the first declared Democratic candidate for governor. If you live near Hartford and would like to attend, it is an open event. There's a Facebook event set up (naturally) if you care to RSVP or send Ned a note.
The Race for the Nomination
In May, Connecticut Democrats will hold a convention. As I understand it, if no candidate gets more than half the delegates, there can be a primary among any who receive at least 15% of the delegates. Among Lamont, Malloy, Glassman and Marconi, it's unclear whether any would force a primary against whomever emerges with the most delegates. They might all go for the party unity shtick and back the leader at that point. Figueroa, however, plans to bypass the convention and force a primary by petition, so there will probably be a primary no matter what.
It's fair to say that Lamont and Malloy lead the field by a significant margin. In polls that have been conducted recently, Lamont does slightly better than Malloy against the presumptive GOP nominees. But both are well-regarded and have been working the local Democratic scenes to secure delegate support for some time now. Glassman and Marconi have also been very active trying to garner support. Geography might play to Glassman's advantage somewhat -- all the others competing at the convention are from Fairfield County, while Glassman's hometown is in the Hartford suburbs. Fairfield County is the wealthy New York City suburbs, and is home to an awful lot of politicians (in this race: Lamont, Malloy, Marconi, and Republicans Foley and probably Shays -- in the Senate race: Blumenthal and Republicans Linda McMahon and Peter Schiff).
Campaign Financing in CT
A lot of the soap opera of "who will announce when" can only be understood in light of Connecticut's public campaign financing law. On the Democratic side, only Lamont has not committed to using it. In fact, it's very very unlikely that Ned will go for public financing, and will instead self-finance for the most part. One problem is that the leading GOP candidate, Tom Foley, will be self-financing and has indicated he's willing to spend something like $12 million. He's already running TV ads. Public financing would only provide something like $3 million, then force the candidate to go ask for more to match the Republican spending, which looks awful when the state is battling enormous deficits. On the other hand, the passage of the public financing law was a real achievement for Democratic activists in the state, and a lot of them are delegates. Complicating the whole mess, a judge threw out the law as unconstitutional and the legislature may or may not succeed in rewriting it in time to assuage the judge's objections. It's a slow-motion train wreck and Lamont is willing to bypass it and spend his own money to compete.