House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, said Thursday he will not run for governor in 2014, leaving until another day the question of whether he will continue his 21-year career as a legislator.
“People have the right to know who’s in and who’s not. I hope that anybody who’s contemplating running for governor takes that very, very seriously,” said Cafero, standing outside the Hall of the House.
The main beneficiary of Cafero’s decision is likely to be Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney, R-Fairfield, who promises to make his own announcement this summer about whether he will seek the nomination to oppose Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat.
Cafero and McKinney, who each have tried to act as the voice of the GOP, a party with no statewide or congressional officeholders, share similar political and geographic bases as fiscal conservatives who supported gun control measures after Sandy Hook.
Tom Foley of Greenwich, the 2010 nominee who lost to Malloy by 6,404 votes, also is expected to seek the nomination. He will do so having kept his distance from a gun-control issue that divides GOP voters, while positioning himself as a Hartford outsider.
Cafero’s decision removes from the race a polished legislative debater who enjoys the limelight and has shown a knack for provoking Malloy, while highlighting the difficulty of a legislator making the jump to becoming a credible statewide candidate.
A June 19 Quinnipiac University poll showed Foley leading Malloy by 3 points, with McKinney, Cafero and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton trailing by 7 points. Only Foley was known well enough for more 25 percent of voters to express an opinion.
Connecticut’s last six governors were elected either on their second try for the office or after holding other statewide office. Two of them, William A. O’Neill and M. Jodi Rell, were lieutenant governors who took office after the resignations of a governor.
Ella T. Grasso held the statewide office of secretary of the state before her election to Congress. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. was elected governor just two years after losing re-election to U.S. Senate.
Malloy, who was mayor of Stamford until late 2009, lost a close Democratic primary in 2006, then rebounded to win the primary and general election in 2010.
Cafero said it would take any GOP candidate a $1 million media buy to establish wide name recognition, an assertion likely to provoke dissent among most campaign consultants.
Foley spent $12.8 million, mostly his own money, on the GOP primary and general election.
Malloy, who accepted spending limits that come with the state’s voluntary system of public financing, spent $8.7 million on the primary and general election.
Cafero called his decision personal, not political. Being briefly targeted by the FBI in an investigation of corrupt fundraising in 2012 played no role, he said.
The FBI recorded a union official involved in a scheme to kill tax legislation on behalf of the roll-your-own cigarette industry trying to give Cafero $5,000 after a meeting at the Legislative Office Building.
Cafero refused the money, directing him to meet off the Capitol grounds with an aide who oversaw a House GOP political action committee. The FBI told Cafero that he and his staff did nothing wrong, he said.
The same investigation led to the arrest and conviction of two senior campaign aides to former House Speaker Christopher Donovan, who was then running for Congress.