Governor Rell is missing yet another national function. Apparently, she actually is attending the National Governor's Association meeting this year (I watched some of this on C-SPAN. Vernon's own Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) was the chair--I have to say that I was less than impressed by him, despite the fact that Democrats are touting him for President in 2008), but once again she's skipping most of the social aspects of the meeting, this time for a vacation with her husband. This isn't the first time she's ducked out on all or part of meetings with other governors and national politicians:
Rell also skipped the National Governors Association winter meeting in Washington, passing on a chance to meet President Bush. She barely showed her face at the Republican National Convention last summer or at the Republican governors' meeting in Boston last month. All the events are heavily subsidized by special interests. (Pazniokas)
There are a couple of possibilities here:
1) Rell genuinely doesn't like special interests and lobbyists, and stays away from parties where lots of them will be mingling. There is probably at least a little truth to this, but it can't be the whole truth. Rell apparently had no problem dealing with lobbyists during her campaigns with Rowland, and, as Pazniokas notes, her birthday party was attended by an old friend, a lobbyist who represents a soda company.
2) She's polishing her image up for the campaign. Rell is very image-conscious, and wants to distance herself from Rowland (who loved socializing with other pols, potential donors and lobbyists) as much as she can. She wants to portray herself as a different kind of politician (which she is, to some degree), and someone who is not beholden to lobbies and monied special interests at all. There is a bit of daylight between the image and the reality, of course, but that doesn't matter as long as the image holds up.
3) She's uncomfortable with the national scene. Maybe it's just not her thing. After all, she's a big fish in a small pond when she's in Hartford. When she leaves, she's just the governor of a small northeastern state. She's also broken with the national Republican party on several issues, like the minimum wage, public financing of campaigns and, most importantly, civil unions. If she were to meet President Bush... what would they say to one another?
4) She isn't running, and therefore doesn't feel like she has to butter these people up. ...Nah, she's running.
Skipping these national get-togethers may help her image (especially if she claims she's saving us money by not going--remember Ella Grasso paying her own tolls?), but it may hurt her in the long run, for two reasons, both of which are neatly summed up here:
"Who do you go to for money" if you are loathe to network those with power and money? asked John F. Droney Jr., a former Democratic state chairman. "And who do you call when they are going to close your sub base?" (Pazniokas)
Good points. Fundraising aside, when Connecticut needs help on the national scene, wouldn't it be important to know and work with those who might be in positions to assist?
John DeStefano, who has been the most vocal of the three declared candidates in his criticism of the governor, contrasted her reluctance to meet with other governors with his own experiences:
In his campaign for governor, DeStefano has touted his own experience at networking: the contacts he made climbing the leadership ladder within the National League of Cities. Rell should be doing the same with the National Governors Association, he said.
"If you are Arnold Schwarzenegger, you don't so much have to play in the sand box with the other kids - because you are Arnold Schwarzenegger," DeStefano said last week. "But if you are the governor of Connecticut, no matter how good you are, you want to add muscle by establishing these relationships." (Pazniokas)
Interesting. Is it just me, or has the Courant's coverage of DeStefano shifted slightly in the past couple of weeks? Instead of being just one of the pack, he's being covered more like the front-runner-presumptive now. That could be both good and bad for him (ask Howard Dean).
Soon we'll have a better idea of where Rell stands and what she intends to do about fundraising. She has indicated she'll announce her intentions to run (or not) after this stretch of vacation. I have a feeling she'll do okay raising money. The larger questions about building relationships and possible hypocrisy, however, remain.
Pazniokas, Mark. "Absences Make Rell Watchers Wonder." Hartford Courant 17 July, 2005.