Groton – Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton stirred up the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination Tuesday, naming an early running mate, Heather Bond Somers, in a bold bid to boost his appeal to donors and delegates.
Somers, 47, is an entrepreneur, business executive and the former part-time mayor of Groton, home to the submarine base and one of the population centers of the sprawling 2nd Congressional District, the richest source of delegates to the Republican nominating convention in May.
Boughton’s choice is a woman with no statewide name recognition, but she was on the radar of GOP insiders as a potential candidate for secretary of the state, one of the five spots on the statewide under ticket.
The announcement is calculated to seize attention of potential delegates now considering a field that includes two candidates with an advantage in money and name recognition: Tom Foley, the 2010 nominee, and Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney, R-Fairfield. Foley is expected to formally announce his candidacy Wednesday.
“Right now, this is a Republican battle being fought before town committee members, potential delegates and insiders,” Boughton said.
By naming a running mate, Boughton effectively has doubled his fundraising capacity under the state’s system of publicly financing campaigns. With his own Danbury base on the western edge of the state, he now also has a full-time presence in eastern Connecticut.
Boughton did not rule out naming a full slate.
“Certainly there is very much a potential possibility that you’ll see Team Boughton expand over the next months,” Boughton said.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the first-term Democratic incumbent, is expected to run this fall atop a ticket unchanged since 2010.
Boughton’s selection of Somers was well-received.
“Heather is a great choice. She’d be great for anybody. I think she speaks to an important part of the electorate, working women. She’s been elected locally, always important,” said Chris Healy, a former GOP state chairman. “Very natural politician. She certainly understands what’s going on in the state in terms of the economy.”
Catherine Marx, a Republican state central committee member who lives in the 2nd District, said Somers can help Boughton in the insider fight that will dominate the campaign over the next few months.
“In the fight for delegates, having someone that can maneuver through the 2nd District is a vital to a ticket before the convention,” Marx said.
Her Connecticut roots are deep. She is a descendant of Roger Sherman, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and claims a more distant relationship to William Tecumseh Sherman, the Civil War general.
Somers is a former medical supply sales representative who formed a company with a former boss about 15 years ago. She said Tuesday she worked as a part-time waitress before the company generated income for them.
“We started in the basement of an abandoned church with three employees and over the past 15 years have been able to grow to employ over 40 people working here shifts and now have a product that is sold across the globe,” she said.
She is now vice president of international sales and marketing for Hollister Inc., a medical device company headquartered in Libertyville, Illinois.
Somers is married to Dr. Mark Somers, a cardiologist at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, and is the mother of three children, two in college and a 3-year-old she called “a surprise.”
Somers narrowly lost a race for state representative in 2006, but has been elected to five terms on the Groton Town Council. As top vote getter, she presided over council meetings with the title of mayor until Democrats won a majority last fall.
Boughton, who was briefly a candidate for governor before winning the GOP primary for lieutenant governor in 2010, considers himself a student of Connecticut’s evolving system of nominating candidates and financing campaigns.
To qualify for public financing, a candidate for governor must raise $250,000 in qualifying donations, none more than $100. A candidate for the under ticket needs to raise $75,000, also in increments of no more than $100.
Boughton and Somers plan to raise money simultaneously for each other, asking donors to write checks for each campaign.
“There are economies of scale here,” Boughton said. He added, “It’s definitely a different approach, but we think it’s a winning approach.”
In 2010, he ended his race for governor to become the running mate for Michael C. Fedele, then the lieutenant governor. They were allowed to pool their qualifying contributions to obtain public financing.
There is no guarantee that Boughton and Somers will win or lose as a team, since the parties nominate candidates for governor and lieutenant governor separately. It is a quirk of state election law with which Boughton is very familiar.
Fedele lost the gubernatorial primary to Foley in 2010, while Boughton won his primary for lieutenant governor, a mixed result that produced a GOP ticket for the general election of Foley and Boughton.
Correction: As originally posted, Somers was referred to as part-time mayor, a title she recently relinquished.