Democrats immediately clash in primary for comptroller

The two Democrats vying to become the state’s next comptroller clashed today following Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura’s announcement that he will force a Democratic party primary against Kevin Lembo, the state health advocate.

Jacqueline Kozin, Lembo’s campaign manager, criticized Jarjura for hiring former Gov. John Rowland, a Republican forced to resign by a corruption scandal, and for his membership on the board of the Family Institute of Connecticut. Neither association is likely to be an asset in a Democratic primary.

The Family Institute, which is best-known for its long fight against the legalization of gay marriage in Connecticut, also is involved in a continuing controversy over a court order banning Enfield from staging its public-school graduation in a Bloomfield church. It is backing Enfield.

“We welcome the opportunity to debate the issues facing Connecticut and Kevin’s ability to help craft solutions, as well as Mr. Jarjura’s lengthy public record as a member of the legislative advisory committee of ultra-conservative Family Institute of Connecticut, as a legislator opposing issues like a woman’s right to choose, and his decision as a four-term mayor to hire disgraced former Governor John Rowland,” Kozin said.

Rowland is Waterbury’s director of economic development.

Jarjura’s connections with the Family Institute could make the candidate’s views on gay marriage an issue in a race for an office that acts as a fiscal monitor. Lembo is the first openly gay candidate on a statewide ballot in Connecticut.

“Mike Jarjura’s positions on social issues are irrelevant to the state’s $4 billion operating deficit, its $60 billion in unfunded liabilities and its recently downgraded bond rating,” said Jarjura’s Campaign Manager Bob Brown.

In his announcement that he will pursue a primary, Jarjura’s campaign characterized Lembo as part of the current administration that has created the looming multi-billion deficit.

“The mountain of debts, obligations and rapidly declining state credit rating are a direct result Mr. Lembo’s tenure as assistant comptroller and are just the kind of insane fiscal policies the State of Connecticut can no longer afford,” Brown said.

Lembo was endorsed by the Democratic State Convention last month with 55 percent of delegate votes, but Jarjura did receive more than the 15 percent of votes needed to guarantee himself a spot on the ballot.

He is a former policy director in the comptroller’s office who was endorsed by his former boss, Comptroller Nancy S. Wyman. He left that position to take over the Office of the State Healthcare Advocate.

On the Republican ticket for comptroller, Darien businessman Jack Orchulli is unopposed for a party primary.