That big sucking noise heard across Connecticut last week was the sound of a political vacuum being filled.

Almost immediately after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced his decision not to seek re-election, speculation began over how he would be able (or willing) to effectively complete his last term.

Then Democratic candidates for the office began popping up like daffodils, including Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris – correction, former commissioner – who was quick to declare, and Christopher Mattei, a former federal prosecutor who helped convict former Republican Gov. John G. Rowland. Dan Drew, Middletown’s mayor, also is exploring a run.

Visconti, Harris, Mattei.

State Comptroller Kevin Lembo is already widely seen as a likely gubernatorial candidate for the Democrats, so it was little surprise when Mark Greenberg, a Republican who ran for Congress three years ago, announced his candidacy for Lembo’s current job.

Perennial candidate Joe Visconti of West Hartford also launched a new and unconventional campaign for the governor’s seat, saying he will launch a petition campaign to get on the Republican primary ballot.

There was another loud sucking sound across the Connecticut landscape, too — more of a collective gasp when the impact of the state’s financial crisis was manifested in two new ways.

First came news that the legislature’s tax-writing panel is considering a measure that would repeal the sales tax exemption on goods and services sold to nonprofits — a provision that saves these entities more than $200 million per year.

Then Malloy warned state employees that 1,100 of them could be laid off in May if salary concession talks don’t appear to be resulting in the desired cost reductions.

This is a picture of Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff is taking on school funding.

Then there is the matter of school funding — a monumental undertaking that would  dramatically change how public schools are funded and perhaps reroute more funding from neighborhood schools when students leave for public charter schools.

It is another moving part as officials try to find the economic balance between state government and its municipalities. This week the municipalities pushed back hard against Malloy’s plan to have them pay one third of their teacher pension costs. Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, meanwhile, made it clear that his city needs substantial financial help from the state if it is to avoid insolvency.

No doubt there will be a lot of difficult and probably unpopular choices to be made by legislators — for whom UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma had some advice: “… if you are afraid of criticism, then you shouldn’t be in here.”

In Washington, where criticism has been elevated to an art form, the Trump administration’s tough talk to North Korea siphoned off some attention from domestic issues, but the president did articulate one bit of policy that resonated with Connecticut’s Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy: “Buy American.”

It is perhaps the only thing Murphy agrees with the president on. Rather than campaigning for re-election right away, he says he plans to spend copious amounts of money on “grass-roots” efforts to fight back against Trump policies. The new GOP push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, for example, he calls “a piece of garbage.”

Democrats and Republicans are of course likely to be at loggerheads when it comes to passing whatever legislation it takes to avoid another government shutdown like the one in 2013.

Connecticut’s position on the environment, as well, is diametrically opposed to Trump’s rollback of regulations — so much so that State Attorney General George Jepsen’s office is in the forefront of state governments launching a counteroffensive in court.

Paul has more than 40 years of reporting and editing experience at newspapers in New Jersey, Florida and Connecticut. He worked 22 years at the Hartford Courant in various editing roles including as deputy state editor, assistant editor of Northeast Magazine, and as an associate editor at He earned his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University. A trained chef, he and his wife own and operate a bed and breakfast in an historic home in Mansfield.

Leave a comment