Mashantucket — In a photo finish, the Republican State Convention endorsed retired investment executive Thad Gray of Salisbury for state treasurer over state Sen. Art Linares of Westbrook by a razor-thin 14 votes.
Gray initially won the first ballot by just two votes when the convention began the normal procedure of allowing delegates to switch votes. Gray briefly lost his advantage until Fairfield’s delegation settled the contest, switching 11 votes from Linares to Gray.
Regardless of the tight final tally — 562 for Gray to 548 for Linares — the nomination is expected to be settled at a primary. Linares easily surpassed the 15 percent margin needed to qualify.
Also Saturday, the convention endorsed Seymour First Selectman Kurt Miller to run for comptroller by a wide margin, but this nomination also could hinge on a primary.
Litchfield businessman Mark Greenberg won 23 percent of the delegates, easily surpassing the 15-percent threshold. Greenberg was not available for comment immediately after the vote.
Fairfield delegate James Millington, who announced the 11-vote switch from his community, said both treasurer candidates had strongly impressed his delegation.
The Fairfield Town Committee vote to initially back Linares was narrow as well, 32 for the senator and 28 for Gray, Millington said.
But it was a Friday conversation that set the state for Saturday’s switch. “Our delegates spent a lot of time talking to Thad Gray yesterday,” Millington said, adding they decided then to back Gray if the contest became close.
“I really appreciate that we kept this fair and honest and avoided personal issues,” Gray said, congratulating Linares on his campaign.
Gray told the delegation that the Republican slate “will turn the state around. … I want to be part of the team that delivers Connecticut.”
Poor savings habits and investment mistakes have plagued the state’s pension funds for government employees, Gray said, adding he would bring three decades of experience in financial services to the treasurer’s office. “I will stop the digging and get the pension system back up,” he said.
He also made a special appeal to state employees, a longtime key component of the Democratic Party’s base. “The Democrats have failed you,” he said. “The Democrats have taken your votes and they have taken you for granted.”
Linares, whose campaign got a late start, said he was proud of all of the support his team mustered in a relatively short period of time.
“We were overwhelmed by the support that we had today,” he said. “We started very late, in January, and we had to hit the ground running. We have made a huge impact.”
Linares added that he expects to make a decision in the coming week on whether to force a primary. “We’re considering it, and I just need some time to sit down and talk with my family.”
Miller told The Mirror after the vote that his campaign will focus on “bringing back that fiscal responsibility to the state of Connecticut.”
Despite surging spring income tax receipts that exceeded projections by more than $1 billion, nonpartisan analysts project deficits topping $2 billion in each of the first two fiscal years after the election.
Miller kept the race for comptroller out of his acceptance speech, instead urging the delegates to focus on party unity and supporting the entire GOP slate. “There’s a lot of great candidates that we have today at our disposal to bring Connecticut back,” he said.
Miller won the delegate vote by wide margins in four of the state’s five congressional districts, and narrowly lost the 5th District to Greenberg by just eight votes.
Greenberg was the opening prosecution witness against John G. Rowland in 2014, when the former governor was tried on charges of conspiring with a congressional candidate to violate campaign finance laws.
In the final weeks of his 2014 campaign, Greenberg presented himself in testimony as a political novice who did the right thing in 2009 and 2010, when he says Rowland pressed him to break campaign finance laws during Greenberg’s first run for Congress
Rowland was convicted of secretly advising Lisa Wilson-Foley during her campaign for Congress in 2012 by accepting payment as a consultant to her husband’s nursing home chain.
Greenberg rejected Rowland’s overture to secretly consult for him in 2010.
Greenberg is the founder of MGRE, one of the largest real estate management firms in the New York metropolitan area.