With less than three months until Republicans endorse a candidate for U.S. Senate, GOP activists are seeking an alternative to their only candidate, August Wolf, whose campaign is beset by financial and staffing issues.
The interest in an alternative began with the decision by CNBC commentator Larry Kudlow not to seek the GOP nomination and has accelerated with the problems plaguing Wolf ‘s campaign.
Richard Foley, a former state chairman, said an ad hoc group is discussing potential candidates willing to challenge Richard Blumenthal, the freshman Democratic senator who ended 2015 with $3.9 million in his campaign account.
Another activist, Chuck Catania, has created a “Draft Jack for US Senate” page on facebook to test support for a run by Jack Orchulli, the Republican defeated in former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s final race in 2004.
“Jack is interested and is weighing it,” Catania said.
Orchulli could not be reached for comment.
Chris Healy, another former GOP state chairman, said no one should be surprised by the effort to find a strong candidate to oppose Blumenthal in such an unpredictable, anti-establishment political environment.
“Those are the steps you’re likely to see Republicans take to make sure we have a viable, strong, aggressive ticket up and down the line,” said Healy, now an adviser to the state Senate Republican minority. “I think that’s what you are seeing here.”
J.R. Romano, the current state chairman, said he is not involved in the effort to find another candidate, but would encourage anyone willing to seek the Republican nomination for public office.
“I believe in the process,” Romano said. “I think the reality is that running for office is no easy task.”
The Wolf campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
The campaign is facing sanctions from the Federal Election Commission for its failure to file an end-of-year campaign finance report, and Wolf recently lost his campaign leadership for the second time since becoming a candidate in May.
Matthew R. MacFarlane, an intern who eventually took over the dual positions of the campaign’s manager and treasurer before leaving the campaign on Jan. 24, says Wolf, a former Olympic shot putter and Stamford businessman, will be shown to have had only $10,000 cash on hand at end of 2015 once he files the overdue report.
“I would not wish what he’s going through on anybody,” said Joe Visconti, a former West Hartford councilman who ran for governor in 2014 as a Republican and then as an independent.
Visconti announced the creation of an exploratory committee for U.S. Senate in January. He has not filed papers creating a committee or an exploratory committee, but federal law does not require a formal exploratory committee until a candidate raises more than $5,000.
Visconti says he has not tried to raise money. He said he called Romano this week to urge the chairman to publicly clarify the status of Wolf’s campaign.
“I need the party leadership to step up, and I need Wolf to step up,” Visconti said.
Betsy McCaughey, the former lieutenant governor of New York, explored a run in talks with Foley and others, but she deferred to Kudlow, who is a friend. Kudlow’s decision not to run will not entice her to run.
“She’s not going to pursue it,” Foley said.