O’Neill to run for AG. Impeachment panel chair would match up against Rowland’s former lawyer.

Veteran state Rep. Arthur J. O’Neill of Southbury announced this afternoon he would seek the Republican nomination for state attorney general, jumping into the race one day before the opening of this weekend’s Republican State Convention.

O’Neill, 58, who co-chaired the bipartisan House Committee appointed in 2004 to consider impeachment charges against then-Gov. John G. Rowland, now finds himself competing against Glastonbury lawyer Ross Garber, who served at the time as chief counsel to the governor’s office. Rowland announced in late June 2004 that he would resign – just days before the panel was expected to vote to recommend impeachment.

“There will be an eerie quality to it,” O’Neill said. “Ross and I went toe-to-toe.”

Avon lawyer Martha Dean also is seeking the GOP nomination for attorney general, a race that has drawn increasing interest since the overwhelming front-runner in the polls, Middletown Democrat Susan Bysiewicz, was bounced from the race on Monday. Bysiewicz, a lawyer who has served as secretary of the state since 1999, had her hopes to become attorney general dashed when the state Supreme Court ruled she lacks the required years of experience in active legal practice to serve.


Rep. Arthur O’Neill of Southbury announces his candidacy for state attorney general. (Keith M. Phaneuf)

The incumbent attorney general, Greenwich Democrat Richard Blumenthal, announced in January he would not seek a sixth term but instead would run for U.S. Senate.

“Basically the world changed as far as attorney general goes,” O’Neill said, conceding Bysiewicz had been the favorite since Blumenthal’s announcement. “She had enormous name recognition, which is the coin of the realm in politics.”

O’Neill, who has practiced law in the private sector for the past 32 years, was re-nominated last week to run in the 69th Assembly District, which he has represented for the past 22 years.

O’Neill said he expects to win at least 15 percent of the delegate vote at this weekend’s convention, giving him the bare minimum needed to qualify for a likely August primary to settle the GOP nomination. Whether or not he participates, he added, would hinge on whether he surpasses that threshold by a comfortable margin.

“I’m not interested in doing a vanity campaign” to build name recognition, O’Neill said, adding that if he doesn’t believe he could wage a competitive campaign for attorney general, he would consider remaining in the race for the 69th District seat.