Linares joins ranks of Republicans exploring statewide office

CTMirror.org

Sen. Art Linares

Sen. Art Linares, R-Westbrook, announced an exploratory campaign for statewide office Thursday and became the fourth Republican in the evenly divided state Senate to begin raising money for higher office, a potential complication for a GOP hoping to win a majority next year.

Linares, now 29, immediately drew attention with his election five years ago as the first Republican in 20 years to win the 33rd District seat in eastern Connecticut. The papers he filed Wednesday allow him to raise money for any statewide office or a return to the state Senate.

“I’m going to take the next three or four months to go around the state and talk about my ideas on how to improve Connecticut and make Connecticut a better place for business, to grow jobs and to invest,” Linares said in an interview. He promised to knock on doors in each of the state’s 169 cities and towns in the next three months.

He declined to identify a particular statewide office that interests him, but he is widely seen as positioning himself for a position on the under ticket.

Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, is a declared candidate for lieutenant governor, while Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Weston, is exploring a run for governor. Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, has an exploratory committee allowing him to raise money for statewide office or a return to the Senate.

Linares’ youth, ethnicity and, more recently, his status as a conservative Republican senator married to a liberal Democratic member of the House, has drawn as much attention in Hartford as his voting record as a pro-business entrepreneur who recently sold his interest in Greenskies Renewable Energy, a commercial solar company.

He is the grandson of Cubans who fled Castro and was one of the first two Hispanics elected to the Senate. He and Andres Ayala, a Democrat from Bridgeport, were both elected in 2012.

Last month, he married Rep. Caroline Simmons, D-Stamford. A honeymoon trip to a Pacific island was scrubbed to allow them to vote Oct. 26 for the passage of a bipartisan budget that ended the state’s long budget impasse. They are planning to honeymoon next month.

MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG

Sen. Art Linares, left, and GOP chair J.R. Romano at the Republican National Convention.

Linares has been an ally of gun owners, voting in his first year in the Senate against a gun control bill passed in response to the Sandy Hook School massacre in Newtown. In 2015, he was one of four senators, all Republicans, to vote against the confirmation of Superior Court Judge Auden Grogins, whose nomination was opposed by the NRA over her support of the post-Newtown gun law while a member of the House of Representatives.

Linares was an alternate delegate pledged to Donald J. Trump at the Republican National Convention last year, one of just seven state legislators in the delegation.

With the rest of his caucus, Linares twice voted against raising the minimum wage, most recently in 2014, when the General Assembly passed a law raising it to $10.10.

“I think we certainly can do a better job of making Connecticut more business-friendly,” he said Thursday.

Linares said he believes his Senate district is now safer for a Republican than in his first election. “I’m actually very confident the Republicans are going to hold onto the 33rd District, with or without me,” he said.

Exploratory committees can accept maximum contributions of $375, but he intends to accept donations of no more than $100, the maximum allowed to be applied toward qualifying for public financing.

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