In a season when the “outsider” label is in vogue, Dannel P. Malloy touted his love of government and experience as mayor of Stamford on Wednesday in announcing his candidacy for governor.
Malloy filed campaign papers in a state office across from the State Capitol, then told a waiting crowd of more than 100 supporters that his success in Stamford is a template for the state.
“It’s time we have that kind of leadership in that building over there,” Malloy said, gesturing toward the Capitol.
Malloy, who did not seek re-election as mayor last year after 14 years in office, joins Ned Lamont as one of two Democrats who are leading all Republican candidates in early head-to-head matchups.
He unexpectedly won the Democratic convention endorsement four years ago, then lost a close primary to New Haven Mayor John DeStefano. Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who is not running this year, easily defeated DeStefano.
“Each race stands on its own merits. We have a different time. People are quite desperate,” Malloy said. “We have a 9-percent unemployment race.”
The next governor will take office in January and immediately be confronted with a deficit projected by the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis at $3.8 billion, which is equal to about 20 percent of the budget.
“The reality is I’m prepared to make the kinds changes that have to made in the state of Connecticut so that we can live within our means, so we can start to build jobs, so that we can start to move the state forward again,” Malloy said.
Like other candidates in the race, Malloy declined to identify specific spending cuts or revenue increases that he would recommend to balance his first budget as governor.
He spoke generally about “the modernization of government” and referred reporters to a campaign web site.
“We’ll put a lot of skin on those bones in the coming weeks,” he said.
He declined to say if state employees, who are an important constituency in Democratic primaries, should expect him to seek concessions next year.
“I think what you should expect as a state employee is that you’ll have a governor who will treat you with respect, who will invite you to the table, who will exchange ideas,” Malloy said.
Malloy called state employees an asset to be used in reframing government.
“There are people in the state-employee arena representing those great employees, who I embrace and love so much, that represent them and have been walking around with lists of cuts and changes in state government,” he said.
After 13 months as a “potential candidate” with an exploratory committee, Malloy seemed relieved to finally be able to say the words, “I am running for governor.”
A quirk in campaign finance laws gives candidates a strong incentive to raise money with an exploratory committee.
As an explorer, Malloy could legally accept donations of $375, raising money that will keep his campaign going until he qualifies for a Democratic primary and public financing. The earliest that can happen is May 22, the day of the nominating convention.
As a declared candidate who intends to seek public financing, Malloy now will be limited to $100 donations as he works to raise $250,000, a threshold amount candidates need to qualify for public funds.
The public financing law provides $1.25 million for a primary and $3 million for a general election.
A provision that would have doubled those amounts for candidates facing high-spending, privately financed opponents is unlikely to survive a pending court challenge. Legislators are considering allowing participating candidates to raise additional funds if faced with an opponent who exceeds voluntary limits.
Lamont, who spent $17 million of his own money in a race for U.S. Senate in 2006, has opted out of the voluntary public-financing system.
A federal judge has declared the system unconstitutional for its treatment of minor-party candidates, but pending legislation backed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell and reform groups would cure the legal defects, lawyers say.
Len Miller, the treasurer for Malloy, said the campaign was closely monitoring the legislative efforts.
“The clock is ticking,” he said.
Malloy has raised about $100,000 in small-dollar donations toward the $250,000 needed to qualify for public financing, Miller said.
“I welcome Dan to the race,” Lamont said. “Connecticut is facing significant challenges, and I look forward to a serious discussion of the best way to bring jobs back our towns and cities and get our state back on track.”
WVIT, Channel 30 will host two live, televised gubernatorial debates next week. Seven Republican candidates for governor will debate at 7 p.m. on March 18. A half-dozen Democratic candidates will meet at 7 p.m. on March 19.