Friday, October 21, 2005

Running for Mayor/Running for Governor

Paul Bass over at the New Haven Independent has written an interesting article about John DeStefano catching a little bit of flak during his mayoral campaign for his upcoming gubernatorial candidacy. At the heart of the matter is the charge that DeStefano will be necessarily distracted by his campaign for governor, and therefore won't have time to run the city. Why, therefore, should voters re-elect him?

The question was posed at the outset of the debate by moderator Clifton Graves, Jr., of the NAACP. "Why should the citizens of New Haven vote for you," Graves asked, "when at best you might be a part-time mayor for the next year, and at worst" step down as mayor in the second year?
"There is a job that needs to be done," DeStefano "replied." "There is a job that needs to be done creating more jobs in Connecticut."

He continued that litany of jobs that need to be done, like reducing property taxes and improving school readiness among pre-kindergarten children.

"It's important to bring voice" to those issues, he concluded. And who better than the mayor a city to bring that voice?

"It's an opportunity to have our voice be heard" statewide, DeStefano said. "It's not just me who's running for governor. It's all that we've done together."

So New Haven's running for governor. (Bass)

Now, there's no love lost between Bass and DeStefano, but the issue raised is a good one. Is it ethical for a candidate to run for one office while actively seeking another, higher one?

This issue has been raised in Stamford, as well. Republican Christopher Munger's slogan is "Stamford First," and the latest entry on the Stamford Republicans' blog calls attention to the fact that Malloy is often out of the city.

Voters in both cities are expected to re-elect their mayors. But if either DeStefano or Dan Malloy win the election next year, the victor would obviously step down as mayor. Depending on how the city works, a deputy mayor would then step in and/or a special election would be held. In either case, citizens get someone they didn't vote for in the top office.

This was an issue (albeit a small one) in 2000, when Joe Lieberman was simultaneously running or both Senator and Vice President. It turned out not to matter, as we recall, but had Lieberman become Vice President his replacement would have been appointed by then-Gov. John Rowland, and would certainly have been a Republican.

In 1924, Hiram Bingham (a very cool guy who was the archaeologist who discovered Maccu Piccu) was running for governor of Connecticut as a Republican. In October of that year, Sen. Frank Brandegee committed suicide. Voters in November probably knew that Bingham was leaning towards running to fill the Senate seat (the special election was in December of that year), but elected him anyway. Bingham did run for Senate, and won. He served exactly one day as governor before resigning and going to Washington, the shortest term on record.

So should candidates devote themselves fully to a single campaign, and not run for two offices simultaneously? In the above cases, voters haven't seemed to mind one bit. It's likely that the voters of New Haven and Stamford won't mind, either.

So is there an issue? As long as voters keep approving candidates who do this, perhaps not. It's up to each candidate to decide whether or not it's ethical for him/her.

Bass, Paul. "DeStefano Ducks." New Haven Independent 21 October, 2005.


DeanFan84 said...

The people of New Haven will have a choice in two weeks. As a long-term resident, my belief is that we are much better off with a part-time DeStefano than a full-time anybody else.

The only part that I don't like is if DeStefano gets elected Governor. He is the best of all possible mayors, and I worry what might happen to New Haven without him. (nothing against Carl Goldfield, the heir apparent, btw.)

P.S. Joe Lieberman's selfishness in 2000 was a big thing. It could have cost the Dems control of the Senate...

Aldon Hynes said...

When I worked in industry, I wouldn't quit my current job until I had signed a contract on my new job. It makes perfect sense to me for any elected official to fight to keep their current job until they get a new job.

Dave Mooney said...

Aldon, the same thing occured to me. Although taking time off to seek a new job is much better situation. It's also better to be able to interview for several jobs at once. None of this translates to our democratic process very well.

Continuing the metaphor, it would make sense that if somebody was doing a good job as VP of a division of a business, you might promote him so that he manages a couple of divisions. DM and JD have proven they can manage a medium-size city very effectively. I wish we could have them each managing a few cities... try to get some of the other cities in CT turned around like Stamford and New Haven.

Anonymous said...

I'm always shocked when someone has a problem with this. It's not like they're in line for a job in the private sector, and if they get that they'll walk away.

The way I see it, a mayor who leaves to become governor is still working directly for the people living in his or her city, but from a higher office. Who wouldn't want that?

ctdem01 said...


I don't get it. Aren't you all democrats, that is with a small "d"? The voters elect whomever they choose - even felons. Your points are yours alone and you can vote accordingly. The rest of the votes will do the same.