Hartford – Martha Dean envisioned her first gubernatorial campaign event in a hall packed with thousands, generating the quivering rush of a Saturn rocket lifting off. On Tuesday night, she settled for two dozen people sitting on folding chairs. The only rumble came from a bus.
“It says nothing,” Dean said of the turnout.
If the multitudes had found their way to the Old State House, they would have heard and seen an unlikely campaign launch, a candidate professing more interest in souls than votes. She shared a dream in which Ronald Reagan came to her, carrying a canary in a cage. She described herself as God’s blessing on a broken state.
With a smile, the 54-year-old attorney from Avon, a tall woman with piercing blue eyes, twice the Republican nominee for attorney general, losing in 2002 to Richard Blumenthal and in 2012 to George Jepsen, acknowledged that it all might sound a little nutty, at least the part about her being God’s blessing.
“As much as I’ve questioned it for many, many years, I’ve come to believe I’ve been put here at this time in this place to be a blessing, a true blessing on Connecticut,” she said.
There was silence, then applause.
Dean may be the first candidate to begin a campaign by recalling her 12-year custody battle, one that has made her passionate about reforming family court. (She says she and her ex are now at peace, their 16-year-old son is fine.) But her qualifications, she said, stemmed from her struggles, her losses and redemption.
“Every time I’m knocked down, I get up,” she said, her voice rising. “And that’s what we’re asked to do. We’re called to run the race. We’re called to get up.” Then, she yelled, “I am not fishing for votes, I am fishing for souls.”
Dean, one of six candidates seeking the GOP nomination, even talked a bit about policy.
She opposes government being in the business of killing, whether it’s by permitting abortion, imposing the death penalty or helping the terminally ill end their lives. Instead of bribing companies to come here, she would pay the unemployed to leave. That might be controversial, she said.
She invited the faithful to come forward and try to lift two backpacks at her feet. One approximated the load that society places on residents of other states in the form of taxes and regulation. The other represented the load weighing down the residents of Connecticut. No one took the challenge.
Dean, long a favorite of gun owners, would seek repeal of the post-Newtown gun controls. With some emotion, she called for an end to the tax on wages adopted in 1991.
“We need to be focused on – please, please clap. If you don’t clap I’ll cry on this one – we need to be focused on ending the income tax,” she said.
Tears were unnecessary. The audience clapped.
And, yes, she talked about the scourge of those who write for newspapers, the ones who misinterpret and abuse candidates like Martha Dean. They write about things like her epic custody battle. Some call her “Crazy Martha.”
Dean says she is not unique. Others were raised by the same strict standards imposed by her parents: They forbade television. They made her ride a bike as a teen, not drive a car. And her first horse, well, that was no gift. She bought it with $550 of her own savings.
“There were other people who were raised that way. They aren’t stepping forward because they know they would be crucified in the press, crucified for anything they might have done wrong in life, just as you will see I will be treated the same way,” Dean said. “That’s why they don’t step forward.”
Dean is not afraid of crucifixion. Not by the bloggers, not by reporters. She asked her audience to call them out on their lies.
“Sunshine has a way of making snakes and vermin run for cover,” she said.
That was an applause line.
“So, yes, there will be a macabre interest in this race, in this governor’s race in Connecticut, because I am in it. As I said, it will sell papers. The dishonest reporters, the bloggers, they’ll make their names,” Dean said. “But I’m telling you, their time is coming to an end. It will come to an end when they are subject to public opinion and sunshine.”
And then she smiled at three reporters seated in the front row.
“With that,” she said, “I’ll take questions from the media.”
There were only a few queries from the press. A spectator in the second row wanted to know more about her dream about Ronald Reagan and the canary. Dean had said it changed her life, only because it prompted her to read Reagan’s books.
The woman was curious about the meaning of the canary.
“The canary in the cage is often given to a person who walked into the most dangerous part of a mine. And the canary picks up the danger before anybody else,” the woman said. “And then that person is the bellwether who helps all the other people be saved. So when you said that dream to me, I thought of him almost handing a legacy to you, that you would be that person possibly carrying a warning for what could happen if we didn’t change.”
Dean declined to go deeper.
“I don’t know what it means.”