Boughton at center of delegate scramble

Danbury Mayor Mark D. Boughton enters this weekend’s Republican State Convention as the running mate of one gubernatorial candidate and the likely default choice of at least two others.

Lt. Gov. Michael C. Fedele introduced Boughton as his running mate Monday morning, predicting the new alliance would give him a shot at a first-ballot victory in the five-way race for the GOP nomination.

The campaigns of Tom Foley and Oz Griebel, two other gubernatorial candidates who had courted Boughton and his delegates, said hours later they would not choose a running mate to compete with the Danbury mayor.

Boughton said he had commitments from about 22 percent of the delegates, easily surpassing the 15 percent necessary to qualify for a primary. He now is trying to convert them to the Fedele-Boughton ticket.

A new round of endorsements announced late Monday by Fedele included Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, who had introduced Boughton the night in February he announced his candidacy. Gov. M. Jodi Rell said last week she would endorse no one, but Fedele still expressed hope of an endorsement.

The Fedele-Boughton partnership is the first winnowing of a surprisingly durable Republican field that still includes Foley, Griebel, Larry DeNardis and Christopher Duffy Acevedo.

The Democratic field last week narrowed to two: Ned Lamont, who was the 2006 U.S. Senate nominee, and Dan Malloy, the former mayor of Stamford. Juan Figueroa and Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi dropped out, while Mary Glassman ended her campaign to become Lamont’s running mate.

Malloy, who persuaded Comptroller Nancy S. Wyman to be his running mate, now hopes to win the Democratic convention with at least 55 percent of the vote, according to his campaign manager, Dan Kelly.

The Republican convention promises to be a messier, more interesting affair. Despite his early television advertising that made him the front-runner in the polls, Foley apparently has been unable to translate that advantage into a solid lead among delegates.

Fedele and his wife, Carol, appeared Monday with Boughton and his wife, Phyllis. Their audience included two legislators who had been approached by Foley as potential running mates: Pamela Sawyer of Bolton and Penny Bacchiochi of Somers.

“The Fedele-Boughton team will enter the convention this weekned united in the beliefs that have brought Mike and I together: We want a smaller, more efficient government. We want to revitalize economic development strategy,” Boughton said. “And we want to rethink the future of government at every level.”

Boughton, 46, had been a state representative for three years when he was elected mayor of Danbury in 2001 and re-elected four times. He is best known outside Western Connecticut for his efforts to crack down on illegal immigrants in Danbury, an effort unmentioned Monday and seldom raised during his three-month gubernatorial campaign.

He now is paired with an immigrant who moved to the U.S. from Italy as a young child, grew up in Stamford and left college to start a successful information-technology business.

“Mike is a man who arrived as an immigrant form Italy and has actually lived the American dream,” Boughton said.

Boughton, a former public school teacher who graduated from Central Connecticut State University, entered the race in early February and positioned himself as a populist, happy to skewer his wealthier opponents in both parties: Foley and Lamont, who each are Ivy-League educated residents of Greenwich.

On Monday, Foley was complimentary of Boughton, issuing a statement that he would gladly run with him.

“This year, the Republican Party has great opportunities and many good candidates for office, including for Lieutenant Governor. Mark Boughton, who Mike Fedele has said he wants as his running mate, is one of them. If elected Governor, I will be happy to have Mark serve alongside me and assist with the challenging job of turning Connecticut around,” Foley said in his statement.

Foley is under no obligation to choose a running mate. In fact, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately in primaries, not as tickets.

The upside for Foley is that he is free to urge Boughton delegates to remain neutral in the fight the gubernatorial nomination, saying Boughton will be the nominee for lieutenant governor even if Foley tops the ticket. The downside is the inevitable spin he was unable to attract a running mate.

His campaign manager, Justin Clark, said Foley formally asked no one to be his running mate, though he did have discussions with them.

In his statement Monday, Foley did not make an overt appeal to Boughton delegates. Instead, he made clear he also could live with Lisa Wilson-Foley, who is running for lieutenant governor:

“Lisa is an accomplished businesswoman from the Hartford area. I am also going to encourage other qualified individuals to enter the race to promote a dialogue that will give Republican delegates and primary voters the best choice for the office.”

He also is unlikely to win friends among Boughton delegates with this language: “I hope the convention delegates choose to put Lisa on the primary ballot for Lieutenant Governor in addition to Mark Boughton, and possibly others. I will be encouraging delegates at the convention to provide primary voters these choices.”