In the race to land endorsements before next week’s nominating conventions, Gov. M. Jodi Rell isn’t playing hard to get. She’s not playing, period.
The popular governor said Thursday she will endorse none of her would-be successors as governor, nor will she cast a vote as a super-delegate to next week’s Republican nominating convention.
“I like everybody,” Rell said. “I know all these people.”
Others are not as reticent. From the ranks of the obscure and the influential, the has-beens and rising stars, candidates are waving testimonials as evidence of momentum and strength.
Some are bartered. Others reflect the giver’s cold-eyed view of who can win, who is best for the party – or for them. Some are expressions of old friendships or grudges, without strings or subtext.
Ned Lamont trumpeted endorsements from the Democratic mayors of Bridgeport and New Haven. Michael Fedele waved a bouquet from the House Republican leader, Oz Griebel from the Senate Republican leader.
Today, Fedele is expecting an endorsement from former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, R-4th District. Dan Malloy will accept a testimonial from U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District. On Thursday, it was Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura embracing Malloy and Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi endorsing Lamont as Marconi ended his own campaign.
On goes the quickening drumbeat of endorsements, all building to next week’s big dances in Hartford: the Democratic and Republican nominating conventions.
Some have more value than others.
For Griebel, a Hartford business leader seeking the GOP nomination, the endorsement of an insider like Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney, R-Fairfield, probably bestowed a bit of credibility to a candidate who never has sought office.
It certainly did not hurt him when the Republican town committee in Fairfield took a straw poll: Griebel won, beating two sons of Fairfield County, businessman Tom Foley of Greenwich and Fedele, the lieutenant governor, who lives in Stamford.
Others are not surprising.
The affection House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero, R-Norwalk, feels toward Fedele was well known before Cafero’s public endorsement this week.
“Mike Fedele has been a personal friend of mine for over 20 years,” Cafero said. “I have served with him in the state legislature, I have worked with him as lieutenant governor. Mike Fedele possesses both the legislative and executive experience we need today in order to get the job done tomorrow.”
Fedele said he was “especially proud” to receive Cafero’s support, which gave him an opportunity remind reporters he has the support of 23 “super-delegates,” elected officials who are convention delegates by dint of their office. But the super-delegate he’d probably most like to get — the one he thought he had — is Rell.
She is not seeking re-election after 26 years as a legislator, lieutenant governor and governor. Six Republicans are trying to succeed her, including Fedele, Griebel, Foley, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, former Congressman Larry DeNardis and Christopher Duffy Acevedo.
Rell said she’s come in recent years to know and like Griebel, the president of the MetroHartford Alliance. Boughton is practically a neighbor to Rell, who lives in the Danbury suburb of Brookfield.
“He’s a good a good candidate,” Rell said of Boughton. “Mike Fedele, I chose him to be my lieutenant governor. He’s a good candidate. He’d make a good governor. All of them would. I think we’ll let the delegates decide.”
Rell said too much often is made of endorsements.
“It really applies to each individual person who makes the endorsement,” said Chris Healy, the Republican state chairman. “It’s never bad to have an endorsement. What level of productivity you get from it is the next step.”
The endorsement of Democrat Lamont by Mayor John DeStefano of New Haven and Mayor Bill Finch of Bridgeport carries with it the promise of help with delegates.
New Haven, which will have the largest Democratic delegation, tries to vote as a bloc. Finch is loaning Lamont his chief of staff, Adam Wood, to manage the convention.
For Malloy, the former Stamford mayor and Lamont’s Democratic rival, the biggest endorsement may have come Monday from Comptroller Nancy S. Wyman. Technically, she accepted Malloy’s invitation to be his running mate.
But implicit in the acceptance was Wyman’s view that Malloy is a credible candidate, even though he will lack Lamont’s resources. By any measure, it was an endorsement.
“Certainly some of them are probably helping delegates who are undecided,” Democratic State Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said of the endorsements. “It helps at the convention, and I think for some people it may help with Democrats in the primary.”
One dividend of Wyman’s joining the ticket was the Larson endorsement. He has told staff he was swayed by the idea of a Malloy-Wyman ticket.
“There’s endorsements, and there’s endorsements,” said Richard Foley, the former Republican state chairman. “A congressman brings weight. A state chair brings weight. A governor brings weight.”