Facing the prospect of a nomination fight, former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz abruptly ended a public exploration of an unusual political comeback Thursday, announcing she will not pursue the Democratic nomination for state Senate in a district where she doesn’t live.
Just three days after the possibility became public, Bysiewicz issued a statement saying she remains interested in public service, but that her return to the political stage will not come in the 31st Senate District of Bristol and four nearby communities.
Bysiewicz could not be reached for comment, but the Democratic town chairman of Bristol said that Bysiewicz told him she was discouraged by the prospect of opposition by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and competition from a former aide to U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy.
“She said she heard from sources close to the governor that the governor and senators, the U.S. senators, were looking for a labor candidate. That was part of the decision,” said Dean Kilbourne, the Bristol Democratic chairman.
Bysiewicz spoke earlier Thursday to Mark Ojakian, the chief of staff to Malloy.
“I indicated to her that the governor was not interested in getting involved in this discussion,” Ojakian said. “She heard rumors. I heard rumors about labor and senators, etc. All I could specifically tell her was that the governor was not getting involved in the fray.”
The Mirror briefly reached Bysiewicz, but she said she could not hear who was calling. Subsequent calls went straight to voicemail.
Meanwhile, a former congressional aide to Murphy, who defeated Bysiewicz in a primary for the U.S. Senate nomination in 2012, was expected to get into the race. Rob Michalik Jr., who worked for Murphy when he was in the U.S. House, was calling delegates, sources said.
Bysiewicz was aware of Michalik’s interest in the seat, Kilbourne said.
Michalik could not be reached for comment, but a friend of Murphy’s said that Michalik had sought and received the support of his former boss. The friend asked not to be identified, because he was not authorized to speak for the senator.
Update: Michalik confirms he is a candidate.
Bysiewicz made her announcement by email.
Her statement in full:
“I am so grateful to my friends in the 31st State Senate district who suggested that I consider running for this seat, and for the outpouring of support that I have received from Democratic leaders and elected officials in Bristol, Plymouth, Harwinton, Thomaston, and Plainville. I have concluded that this is not the right time for me to enter this race, and I do look forward to the opportunity to serve the residents of Connecticut in the future.”
Bysiewicz, a long-time resident of Middletown, had confirmed her serious interest Wednesday in seeking a Democratic nomination that became vacant Monday with the surprise announcement by David A. Roche of Bristol that he was quitting the 31st Senate District race for personal reasons.
Bysiewicz had said she was approached by Bristol Democrats, who were aware that she and her husband had looked at antique houses on Bristol’s Federal Hill.
“Months ago, we checked out streets and neighborhoods in Bristol with friends,” Bysiewicz said. “Fast forward to Monday morning, when Dave Roche put out something about not running. My friends in Bristol politics asked, ‘If you are still interested in coming to Bristol, is this something you would be interested in?’ ”
The Mirror reported Tuesday that Bysiewicz was making calls to measure support for a run that would have required her to quickly moved into the district.
Kilbourne said Thursday he was surprised by her decision not to go forward, saying she had the support of the Bristol delegates who would have chosen a new nominee. Bristol controls more than half the delegates.
But he said he understood her reluctance if there was any direct or indirect opposition from the governor or two U.S. senators, Murphy or Richard Blumenthal.
“Before she relocates with her and her entire family, I don’t think she wants to get into a primary or a battle with the governor or U.S. senators, if they were going to get involved,” Kilbourne said.
Bysiewicz is a former five-term member of the House and three-term secretary of the state whose political career slid off the rails in 2010 when she explored a run for governor, only to settle on a campaign for attorney general. After litigation that reached the state Supreme Court, she was disqualified as not meeting a statutory requirement for 10 years of active legal practice.
Bysiewicz was taking a conservative view of what are the legal requirements to seek the nomination in a district where she does not currently reside. The state Constitution does not require residency to run, only to serve once elected.
But the General Assembly has broadened the residency requirements, most recently in 2013 when it passed a law that says a political party can only endorse a candidate who is a registered voter in the district:
“In the case of an endorsement of a candidate for a municipal office of state senator or state representative, such endorsement may be made of a candidate whose name appears upon the last-completed enrollment list of such party within the municipality or political subdivision within which such candidate is to run for nomination.”
Bysiewicz had said she interpreted that to mean she must live in the 31st District to accept the Democratic endorsement. The Secretary of the State’s office, however, said there may be more leeway in the case of a nomination that becomes vacant.