Or, I'm Bored and It's Sunday
(A report from the lovely Parallel Connecticut, where John Rowland is still governor and you actually married your high-school crush. Not that it worked out.
What's been happening in the parallel governor's race? Let's take a look...)
Blumenthal on a Roll?
It all seems downhill from here for Richard Blumenthal, who looks set to become Connecticut's first Democratic governor since William A. O'Neill left office in 1991.
Blumenthal, who captured his party's nomination by a wide margin over New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, was leading both of his potential Republican challengers by twenty points or more in a recent Quinnipiac Poll. The wildly popular attorney general has so far run a cautious, mistake-free campaign, and his convention feat of holding DeStefano under 15% has assured him of a primary-free August. DeStefano, apparently seeing the writing on the wall, dropped out of the race shortly after the convention ended.
Blumenthal's campaign has so far been free of strife and mistakes, but it has also been curiously free of issues or ideas. Blumenthal has yet to say what he will actually do as governor, beyond vague promises to ensure health care for children, fix Connecticut's transportation problems and clean up some of the ethical issues surrounding the outgoing Rowland administration.
The addition of another cautious sort, Senate President Kevin Sullivan, to the ticket as Blumenthal's running mate, suggests that this won't be a season where we see much in the way of bold proposals or new ideas. This could be a weakness, if the Republicans can rally behind their eventual nominee in August. At this point, Blumenthal and Sullivan seem assured of victory in November, but they could be vulnerable to a smart, committed and clever Republican. Should one, you know, ever show up.
Actually, the more interesting race is over who will succeed Mr. Blumenthal as attorney general. George Jepsen and Susan Bysiewicz are headed for a brutal August primary. Audrey Blondin looks set to move into Ms. Bysiewicz's spot after Rep. Andy Fleischmann dropped out.
Republicans' Last Gasp
Following her loss at the Republican state convention to former State Senator Bill Aniskovich, Lt. Gov. Jodi Rell is vowing to soldier on. Rell gained 36% of the vote at the divided convention, more than enough to guarantee a primary in August, but her chances look grim.
Rell, who is still relatively unknown statewide despite twelve years as Lieutenant Governor, has had trouble raising money, and her platform of ethics reform and modest tax cuts hasn't caught fire with the party faithful. Worse, she's seen as too close to Gov. Rowland, whose third term has been plagued by ethics scandals which seemed to touch everyone in the administration except the governor himself. The myriad ethical problems of Rell's campaign manager, Lisa Moody, have just made things worse. Rell's protestations that she knew nothing of the scandals surrounding Moody and other members of the Rowland administration ring hollow. What has she been doing for twelve years? Knitting?
Not that Aniskovich is clean as a whistle. His wife was made director of state tourism by Rowland, which some Republicans find a little fishy. Still, Aniskovich is distant enough from Rowland for Republicans looking for a fresh start after twelve years. His campaign has raised a decent amount of money and, polls show, has the best chance of defeating Blumenthal in November. His choice of New Britain Mayor Timothy Stewart as his running mate is an interesting one, and his plan to reduce taxes on businesses and the wealthy to spark economic growth is sure to get him votes in August. Also, his close victory over Ed Meyer in 2004 helped to prove his electoral credibility, something which Lt. Gov. Rell lacks.
Rowland himself, who is spending the entire month of June at his cottage at Bantam Lake, had nothing to say on the matter. He has so far been publicly neutral on the governor's race, although he is rumored to be supporting Aniskovich. That could be the kiss of death from a man whose approval ratings hover around 30%.
Rowland's legacy seems secure enough, especially as the massive cross-Sound bridge linking Bridgeport with Long Island gets underway. Allegations of bid-rigging are still floating around the bridge project, but so far Rowland remains curiously untouched. It may be possible that Rowland will in fact be remembered for what he built, and not for the scandals surrounding how he built it.
But after twelve years of him, it seems that Connecticut is ready for something different.