Jepsen begins campaign with rare, if brief, press conference

Attorney General George Jepsen and his wife, Diana Sousa.

CT Mirror

Attorney General George Jepsen and his wife, Diana Sousa, as Jepsen announced his candidacy for re-election.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal stood before the cameras Monday, holding one of the dozen press conferences he’s held in Connecticut over the past month. It’s the same frenetic pace he set over 20 years as the state’s attorney general.

His successor, George Jepsen, happened by on the way to his own press conference, just his second in a month. Standing before fewer reporters and just one TV camera, Jepsen declared his candidacy for re-election. His announcement took just 48 seconds.

Jepsen shrugged off the stylistic differences with Blumenthal, the man he’s followed by winning the same two offices: a state Senate seat representing Stamford in 1990, then attorney general in 2010. Both also previously served in the state House of Representatives.

“It’s not that one approach is better than the other. It’s just my personality to be low key,” Jepsen said Monday after making his announcement. “And I also come from a background where mediation and arbitration is preferable to litigation.”

His two immediate elected predecessors are Joseph I. Lieberman and Blumenthal. The former developed the office as a high-profile protector of consumers, and the latter perfected it. For both, it was a springboard to the U.S. Senate.

On Monday, Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, held a press conference at the Legislative Office Building with health advocates to promote federal legislation banning e-cigarette ads directed at children. It was Blumenthal’s second news conference in a month on the subject.

Jepsen and his wife, Diana Sousa, passed by the news conference on the way to his announcement. Later, Jepsen said he has been no less aggressive a defender of consumers, while pursuing fewer cases.

“I would say that the largest single accomplishment would be my very high level participation in the national mortgage foreclosure settlement,” Jepsen said. The settlement produced a record $26 billion nationally for homeowners and $650 million in Connecticut.

But Jepsen has been choosier in joining class-action suits, winning praise in some quarters and generating questions in others.

Jepsen is a former union lawyer, but he disappointed labor in 2011 by stopping passage of the so-called “captive audience” bill with an opinion that federal labor law pre-empted the state from restricting how employers interact with their employees during union organizing drives.

He was praised by consumer groups for playing a role in thwarting a proposal last year by the administration of his friend, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, to auction the rights to electric customers to third-party electric suppliers. This year, he is joining Malloy in developing consumer protections for electric customers.

The consumer groups are waiting to see final legislative language before applauding or criticizing the effort.

Jepsen, 59, is a former state Senate majority leader and Democratic state chairman whose election as attorney general was akin to winning a political lottery. He became the Democratic nominee when the favorite, Susan Bysiewicz, was declared to be ineligible by the Supreme Court.

Republicans went to court challenging whether Bysiewicz, the secretary of the state, had the 10 years of legal experience in Connecticut required by an ill-defined state law. The court concluded a decade of trial experience was required.

Jepsen is the last of the six constitutional statewide officers, all Democrats, to announce for re-election. He is seeking public financing.

One Republican, Kie Westby, has announced plans to run for attorney general.

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