Just another day of politics in the Land of Steady Habits
It will be remembered as the day when the national political spotlight swung away from states with pivotal primaries to the circus that took over staid Connecticut politics.
Where to begin? With Richard Blumenthal, accused of lying about his military record, holding a nationally televised press conference aimed at righting his can’t-miss candidacy for the U.S. Senate?
Or Susan Bysiewicz, whose sure-thing campaign to succeed Blumenthal as attorney general was undone hours later by the state Supreme Court, which ruled she lacked the experience to be A.G.?
No? How about this plot twist: Bysiewicz’s brother-in-law, Republican Ross Garber, now is free to pursue his own dream of running for attorney general without fear of eating Thanksgiving dinner in the garage.
It was a day when grown politicians giggled, from delight, discomfort or amazement. BlackBerries endlessly chirped with the latest tidbit. The Land of Steady Habits is unhinged.
“I was afraid to leave my BlackBerry alone for a minute. Seriously. This was lighting up like a Christmas tree,” said Roy Occhiogrosso, a Democratic political consultant.
“It all happens at once,” said a laughing Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. of Norwalk, the leader of the Republican minority in the House. “I can’t believe this.”
To be sure, it was a funnier day for Republicans. Blumenthal is the Democrats’ best-known and most popular candidate. Bysiewicz ranks second in name recognition behind him.
“It’s like V-E Day,” said Chris Healy, the jubilant Republican state chairman.
“It certainly was a whirlwind of a day,” said a more subdued Nancy DiNardo, the Democratic state chairwoman. “I think even the press didn’t seem to know what questions to ask me.”
With the Democratic and Republican nominating conventions each beginning Friday evening, the Blumenthal-Bysiewicz double-feature meant no audience for other races.
In the contest for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, Oz Griebel tried to get noticed for grabbing two delegates from Ellington that had been committed to Mark Boughton, who dropped out Monday to become Michael C. Fedele’s running mate.
For the record, their names are Michael and Kathleen Stupinski.
Republican Tom Foley’s gubernatorial campaign thought it was a good day to share the news that he was endorsed by George Pataki.
Democrat Ned Lamont had this: He was endorsed by the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 11.
His spokeswoman, Justine Sessions, actually fielded a bunch of press calls. Most were from national reporters asking if Lamont would drop out of the race for governor, elbow Blumenthal aside and declare his candidacy for the U.S. Senate.
“Ned is extremely supportive” of Blumenthal, she said.
Knocking down a story about Lamont looking at another race was not how she expected to spend the day. For that matter, she wasn’t prepared for endless text messages from colleagues in Washington, where she worked for Sen. Chris Dodd, asking what the hell is going on in Connecticut.
Dan Malloy, Lamont’s rival for the Democratic nomination, didn’t try to get press attention.
In Malloy’s camp, Occhiogrosso tried to fight off flashbacks to 2006, when Lamont actually was a candidate for U.S. Senate. Lamont fought Joseph I. Lieberman in a contest so compelling that most reporters forgot there was a race for governor.
Occhigrosso had high hopes for the run-up to the convention. Malloy recently qualified for public financing, then scored a coup by signing Comptroller Nancy S. Wyman to be his running mate. Lamont had picked Mary Glassman.
“He made his pick. We made our pick. It certainly seemed like it was going to grab a lot of attention this week,” Occhiogrosso said. “There is a piece of me that remembers, not too fondly, that we couldn’t get attention for the primary in 2006.”
One of the few Democratic winners Tuesday was George Jepsen, the last Democrat standing in the race for attorney general. Rep. Cameron C. Staples, D-New Haven, dropped out last week.
“If I was Cam, I’d be on a ledge right now,” DiNardo said.
Not so. Staples said Tuesday night he quit the race for a variety of reasons, political and personal. He said he sees no reason to jump back in.
“George is well-qualified and will do a great job as attorney general,” Staples said.
Garber, a Republican who considered declaring for attorney general before Bysiewicz switched from the race for governor to A.G., acknowledged Tuesday night he once again is thinking about becoming a candidate.
He cannot think too long.
On the Democratic side, DiNardo was unsure if anyone else could jump into the contest.
“I would never say never at this point,” she said. After a pause, she added, “Anything is a possibility.”
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