Susan Bysiewicz, disqualified as a candidate for attorney general in 2010 and defeated in a primary for U.S. Senate in 2012, is making calls to gauge support for an unlikely political comeback as a candidate for state Senate in a district where she is not a resident.
According to multiple political sources, Bysiewicz is exploring whether there is an opportunity for her in the announcement Monday by David A. Roche of Bristol, the Democratic nominee in the 31st Senate District, that he is ending his campaign for personal reasons.
“She is making heavy calls,” said one Democrat who has been monitoring the search for a candidate to replace Roche as the nominee for the open seat in the 31st Senate District.
One immediate challenge is that Bysiewicz resides in Middletown, not one of the communities in the district: Bristol, Harwinton, Plymouth, Plainville and Thomaston.
Her exploration comes as Bysiewicz looks to remain politically viable after a dizzying series of missteps that took her from a Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner to a political onlooker in 2010 and then a defeated candidate in 2012.
Bysiewicz, 52, was one of Connecticut’s best-known elected officials in 2010, a three-term secretary of the state eager to move onto a bigger stage. She had backed out of a run for governor in 2005, but the path seemed easier in 2010 with Gov. M. Jodi Rell intending to retire.
Bysiewicz formed an exploratory committee and led in early polls, but she made an ill-fated race instead for attorney general, seemingly an easier race.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal quickly declared for U.S. Senate when Sen. Chris Dodd announced his retirement on Jan. 6, 2010. Bysiewicz then jumped into the race for attorney general, a stepping stone to the U.S. Senate for Joseph Lieberman in 1988 and, eventually, Blumenthal in 2010.
But Republicans challenged whether she met a statutory requirement of 10 years active law practice. Bysiewicz responded by seeking a declaratory ruling that she was qualified, and she also challenged the constitutionality of the statutory requirement that a candidate for attorney general must have 10 years of active practice in Connecticut.
A Superior Court judged ruled that she met the requirement, but the Connecticut Supreme Court found that she did not, applying a narrower standard of trial experience.
In 2012, Lieberman’s retirement prompted her to run for his U.S. Senate seat, but she lost a bruising Democratic primary to U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, who went on to win the general election.
The prospect of her candidacy in the 31st District is expected to bring equal measures of concern and relief: While still possessing significant name recognition, Bysiewicz never has been popular among the Capitol insiders. But the Democrats need a candidate, and the 31st is a Republican seat they hope to capture.
“That’s a very important seat for us,” one Democrat said. Once a safe Democratic district, the seat has been held for two terms by Republican Jason Welch, who is not seeking re-election.
If Bysiewicz were to run and win, her election could give the Democrats a freshman class of big names and, presumably big ambitions. Ted Kennedy Jr. is the Democratic nominee for the open 12th District seat, now held by the retiring Ed Meyer of Guilford.
Roche, a union leader in the building trades, announced his departure from the race on the stage of the Connecticut AFL-CIO convention Monday, saying he needed time to work on saving his marriage.
Once a vacancy of nomination is formally declared, it will be up to the same delegates who endorsed Roche to select a successor.
Bysiewicz: A career at a glance
1988: Elected to the first of five two-year terms to the state House of Representatives.
1998: Wins a Democratic primary for secretary of the state, defeating the convention-endorsed candidate, Ellen Scalettar.
1998: Wins the general election for secretary of the state.
2002: Wins re-election to second term as secretary of the state.
2003: In January, creates an exploratory committee for governor.
2004: On Oct. 1, becomes a candidate for governor in 2006.
2005: On Sept. 9, ends campaign for governor.
2006: Wins a third term as secretary of the state.
2009: On Feb. 3, creates an exploratory committee for governor.
2010: On Jan. 13, announces for attorney general.
2010: On May 19, Connecticut Supreme Court rules Bysiewicz ineligible to run for attorney general.
2011: On Jan. 5, leaves office upon expiration of her term as secretary of the state.
2011: On Jan. 18, declares for U.S. Senate.
2012: Loses Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.
2014: On June 17, explores run for state Senate.