William Tong withdrew from the race for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate today and endorsed the frontrunner, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, at a press conference where Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman also formally backed Murphy.
Tong, a three-term state representative from the governor's hometown of Stamford, said he will seek re-election this fall.
"This was my first statewide campaign. I do not expect it will be my last," said Tong, accompanied by his wife and three children, including a son born since he became a candidate last year.
Susan Bysiewicz, who has $1 million cash on hand, intends stay in the race and force a primary in August, her campaign said.
"I think our take is the party establishment is going to support the party insider. Susan is going to be there to ensure they have choice," said Jonathan Ducote, her campaign manager.
Murphy already has been endorsed by his congressional colleagues and three statewide constitutional officers: Attorney General George Jepsen, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill and Comptroller Kevin Lembo.
He and Bysiewicz are vying for the Democratic nomination for the open seat held by the retiring U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman.
The endorsements were announced at a press conference at 12:30 p.m. at Goodwin College in East Hartford. Tong, a three-term state representative from Stamford, was introduced by one of his early backers, Rep. Tim Larson, D-East Hartford.
Democratic leaders have been urging Tong, whose $226,000 cash on hand was insufficient to wage a credible primary, to end his campaign on his terms, prior to the May 12 nominating convention. The argument was that Tong has won statewide exposure, but should leave now and bank his higher visibility for a future run.
Tong, the first Asian-American elected to the General Assembly, offered a unique biography: He is the son of immigrants, including a father who overstayed a visa and faced deportation at one point, who helped their children obtain educations at elite schools.
His exit leaves him in the good graces of the governor and, potentially, the next U.S. senator.
Coming before state legislative nominating conventions, his departure also allows him to be re-nominated for his seat in the House, where he is the co-chairman of the Banks Committee.
Bysiewicz, who was the secretary of the state from 1999 until 2011, is casting herself as the political outsider opposing a congressional insider in Murphy, who unseated Republican Nancy Johnson for his 5th District seat in 2006.
She has struggled to regain her political footing after a catastrophic 2010, when she began the year as the favored Democrat in polls for governor.
But Bysiewicz never converted her exploratory campaign into a gubernatorial candidacy. Instead, she sought what appeared to be the easier race for attorney general after U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd announced his retirement and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced for Senate.
But Bysiewicz was tripped up by statutory requirement that an attorney general have 10 years of active legal practice in Connecticut. In a case that reached the Connecticut Supreme Court, Bysiewicz was declared to be lacking the requisite experience.