If Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta needed an icebreaker Thursday as they toured Electric Boat in Groton, they could have chatted about how Panetta indirectly scuttled Wyman’s trip this week to Taiwan.
Wyman was supposed to leave last Saturday for a one-week trip to Taiwan, returning this weekend. But Panetta’s sudden invitation to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to tour U.S. bases in Kuwait and Afghanistan created a conflict.
The governor and lieutenant governor can’t both be out of state — never mind on different continents — for an extended period at the same time.
“The governor came to the office and said he got this phone call from Washington giving him the opportunity to go Afghanistan and Kuwait to meet with the troops and find what it was really like,” Wyman said.
Wyman, one of the creators of a memorial in the Legislative Office Building to Connecticut servicemen and women who died serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, said she told Malloy to go.
“We should have somebody over there, especially the governor,” Wyman said, reached as she drove to Electric Boat. “Holidays are coming up. These people will not be home.”
Wyman was to lead a delegation to Taiwan that included Catherine Smith, the economic development commissioner, and several legislators, including House Majority Leader J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, and Rep. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, was on the list, but a spokesman said he had decided against going before the trip was canceled. McKinney is a member of commission racing a deadline to draw new legislative district maps.
The trip was to be paid for by the Taiwanese government.
“Basically, it was a trade mission,” Wyman said.
Instead, Wyman joined U.S. Rep. Joseph Courtney, D-2nd District, in Groton to greet Panetta, who toured the shipyard and inspected the USS Mississippi, a Virginia-class sub expected to be finished a year early and $15 million under budget.
The governor’s senior adviser, Roy Occhiogrosso, said there was no drama within the administration about the travel conflict.
“You would be hard-pressed to find someone who is more of a team player or more loyal than Lt. Gov. Wyman,” he said.
Malloy is expected back in Connecticut on Friday.