RGA plans to play in Connecticut — if GOP nominee is ‘electable’

Tom Foley and Dannel P. Malloy

CT MIRROR

The 2014 targets: Tom Foley and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

The Republican Governors Association announced Tuesday it is reserving $1.7 million in television time in the last six weeks of the Connecticut race for governor, but whether it ultimately spends the money will depend on how the RGA views the winner of the GOP primary in August.

Jon Thompson, the communication director for the RGA, said the reservation of television time is meant to signal it considers Connecticut a prime opportunity to pick up a seat now held by Democrats, assuming the party’s nominee is deemed “electable.”

“There is a possibility we don’t spend anything, but there is a high probability we will,” Thompson said an interview with CT Mirror. “If the GOP nominates an electable candidate, we can get right in there.”

Reserving television time costs nothing. The RGA and Democratic Governors Association each tend to delay spending until the nominees are chosen and the groups can assess their strengths, weaknesses and the need for outside spending. In 2014 the first of the Republican expenditures was made in mid-August, after Tom Foley defeated John P. McKinney in the GOP primary.

The RGA contributed nearly $6 million in 2014 to an independent-expenditure group, Grow Connecticut, that spent $8.85 million, primarily on ads attacking Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat who beat Foley in a rematch of their close race in 2010. Connecticut Forward, an independent group mainly funded by the Democratic Governors Association, spent $6 million, primarily on television ads attacking Foley.

Overall, outside spending on Connecticut’s race for governor reached a record $18.2 million in 2014, a five-fold increase from 2010 that dwarfed the $6.5 million in public financing allotted to each of the major-party candidates for the general election.

Thompson declined to say whether the RGA will be directly spending money on the Connecticut race or working through an independent group, such as Grow Connecticut.

Ten gubernatorial candidates now intend to seek the endorsement of the Republican State Convention next month. Anyone who wins 15 percent of the vote on any ballot qualifies for a primary in August.

All but former hedge fund manager David Stemerman are seeking public financing of $1.25 million for the primary, which requires raising $250,000 in contributions of no more than $100 each, mainly from in-state donors, and qualifying for the ballot.

Bob Stefanowski, another candidate who has opted out of the voluntary public financing program, is skipping the convention and plans to qualify for the primary by petitioning.

Four Republican candidates for governor already have filed papers with the State Elections Enforcement Commission to pre-qualify them for public financing, assuming they make the primary ballot. They are: state Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, former U.S. Comptroller General Dave Walker, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti and Mike Handler, the chief financial officer of the city of Stamford.

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, former First Selectman Tim Herbst of Trumbull, Peter Lumaj and Steve Obsitnik all have reported raising more than $250,000 through exploratory and candidate committees. But none had filed their pre-qualification applications as of Tuesday.

New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, a late entrant in the race for the GOP nomination, reported Tuesday she has raised $105,999 — $35,752 in a brief exploratory campaign and $70,247 since declaring her candidacy on March 19.

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