Hers is an awkward presence on the campaign trail, a reminder of what might have been. Once the frontrunner for governor, now a candidate for nothing, Susan Bysiewicz still shows up at campaign rallies.
Bysiewicz shared a stage in Waterbury last weekend with other Democrats, some her rivals this year before she was forced to the sidelines — and one she may oppose in 2012 for the U.S. Senate.
“It’s a small little world in Connecticut. And there it is on one little stage,” Bysiewicz said. “Yes, it’s an interesting chain of events.”
On stage with her was Dan Malloy, Richard Blumenthal, Nancy Wyman, George Jepsen, Denise Merrill and Chris Murphy. Most had roles in the drama that left Byswiecz without a place on the ballot.
“I wish them all well, and I am going to be working as hard as I can in my spare time to make sure they get elected,” Bysiewicz said.
Of course, their success would complicate a political comeback that many Democrats expect Bysiewicz to launch the day after the election.
“I haven’t made any decision about what I am doing,” said Bysiewicz, who had used her post as the secretary of the state, a position won in 1998, to make herself one of Connecticut’s best-known politicians.
Until January, Bysiewicz was the frontrunner in early polling for governor. At the time, she was an exploratory candidate, gearing up for a primary with Malloy for the Democratic nomination.
Then Christopher J. Dodd announced he would not seek a sixth term to the U.S. Senate, setting off a chain reaction.
Richard Blumenthal, who seemed to be attorney general for life, jumped into the Senate race hours later.
Bysiewicz soon declared her candidacy for attorney general, finding the office more hospitable than trying to cope with a $3.3 billion deficit as the next governor, a potential career killer.
But a legal blogger raised questions about whether Bysiewicz met the statutory requirements to be attorney general, which include the active practice of law in Connecticut for 10 years.
In a case she initiated to clarify her status, the Connecticut Supreme Court ultimately ruled that she fell short, just before the Democratic State Convention.
It was too late to make another move. Bysiewicz, who was a lock for another term as secretary of state and then the frontrunner for governor and attorney general, was off the ballot.
“At the state convention in May, I made the pledge I would spend every spare minute I have working for all the Democrats on the ticket,” she said. “This is nothing different from any state election season, except that I am not on the ballot.”
So, on Saturday, Bysiewicz stood between Merrill and Jepsen. Merrill is the nominee to succeed her as secretary of the state, Jepsen the nominee to succeed Blumenthal as attorney general.
Further down the stage stood Blumenthal, Murphy and Malloy. If Murphy is re-elected to the 5th Congressional District, he is considered a potential rival for Bysiewicz for the U.S. Senate in 2012, when Joseph I. Lieberman is up for re-election.
As she softly laughed, Bysiewicz conceded that their political stories all overlapped and intersected this year – and may yet again.
“I’ve learned something about Connecticut politics. You can never truly picture what will eventually happen,” Bysiewicz said. “I certainly learned that in politics there are a lot of surprises and twists and turns of fate.”