In a WNPR radio debate of the two Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor today, the first question posed by a listener: Does Connecticut really need a governor in waiting?

For the record, Nancy Wyman and Mary Glassman believe the job they are seeking is necessary, though each conceded that lieutenant governors often have had little to do, other than wait for the boss to move on.

“The question is absolutely correct,” Wyman said. “We haven’t seen a whole lot about lieutenant governor previously, but I believe this year we are going to see something different.”

“We’ve seen in Connecticut that lieutenant governors often become governors, so the office of lieutenant governor – and who is lieutenant governor – matters to the people of Connecticut.,” Glassman said.

Lieutenants have assumed the top office twice in the past 30 years and three times in the past half century.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell was John G. Rowland’s number two for 9 ½ years, becoming governor upon his resignation in July 2004. William A. O’Neill succeeded the dying Ella Grasso in December 1980.

The race for the Democratic gubernatorial turned heated over the weekend, but Wyman and Glassman never strayed beyond modest policy differences in their 60-minute encounter.

Wyman is running with Dan Malloy, Glassman with Ned Lamont.

But Democrats are free to mix and match in the primary on Aug. 10. In the general election, voters choose a ticket; not so in primaries, when they can choose one candidate for governor, but back the other guy’s running mate.

Glassman is well aware of the phenomenon. In 2006, she was selected by Malloy to be his running mate.

At the primary, Malloy narrowly lost the nomination to John DeStefano, while Glassman defeated DeStefano’s running mate, Scott Slifka of West Hartford.

Wyman is the state comptroller, whose duties include being a fiscal monitor.

“I have been telling people the truth about the budget for a very, very long time,” Wyman said.

Wyman said Malloy has asked her to oversee a restructuring of state government, if elected.

Glass is the first selectwoman of Simsbury. She also was a lawyer at the legislature and a chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Kevin Sullivan.

“I’ve been on the front line, as most mayors and first selectmen have,” Glassman said.

Each candidate frequently wove into their answers a sales pitch for their running mates, whose race has taken on an edge. Malloy aired an ad Friday that is critical of Lamont’s business record and his refusal to debate in the closing weeks of the campaign.

A podcast of the debate can be downloaded here.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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