Connecticut’s governor-elect, Ned Lamont, is a Democrat who became a liberal anti-war icon during a U.S. Senate campaign a dozen years ago, but he made clear Thursday he also is a well-connected Greenwich businessman intent on using a network of high-level business contacts to help populate his administration.
The four co-chairs of his transition team include two close friends: Attorney General George Jepsen, one of the few establishment Democrats to back his run against U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman in 2006; and Garrett Moran of Greenwich, the former chief operating officer of the world’s largest alternative finance firm, The Blackstone Group.
The two others reflect his interest in higher education and workforce development, plus an acknowledgement of limited experience with legislative players: Elsa Nuñez, the president of Eastern Connecticut State University; and Rep. Toni Walker of New Haven, the co-chair of the Appropriations Committee and passionate advocate of juvenile justice reform.
The executive director of the team is Ryan Drajewicz, a former congressional staffer who has taken a leave of absence from Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund. He had been an aide to former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, who filmed a commercial endorsing Lamont after he defeated Lieberman in the Democratic primary.
Lamont and his running mate, Susan Bywsiewicz, introduced the transition leaders after the Lamonts met over lunch with the Malloys at the Executive Residence, the brick Georgian Colonial in Hartford’s West End that will become Lamont’s new home on Jan. 9.
“It was pretty nice, I’ve got to tell you,” Lamont said.
Malloy gave him detailed assessments of every department to prepare for the transition, he said. Lamont has made no statements on commissioners or other Malloy appointees he would retain.
In a news conference later on the east steps of the State Capitol, he promised to bring “a different group of experiences” to Hartford.
“I love Hartford. I love the folks who know how the game is played here and the eco-system here. And I believe in continuity,” Lamont said. “But as you know…I also really believe in big change. And I’m going to be bringing in folks that I know through the business world, that I know and Garrett knows from the not-for-profit world, who bring a very fresh perspective in terms of what we’ve got to do.”
For the past five years, Moran has been the president of Year Up, a nonprofit that provides technical and life skills training to low-income high school graduates who are not employed or enrolled in school.
Lamont said his approach will be to pair outsiders with people who know government, which he likened to his relationship with Bysiewicz, a former state legislator and secretary of the state.
“I’m the outsider who’s ready to come in and shake things up,” Lamont said.
Lamont is the founder of Campus Televideo, a company that competed with cable television giants by creating independent systems on college campuses. He no longer owns the company. In 2006, when no Democrat of any standing would challenge Lieberman over his support of George W. Bush and the war in Iraq, Lamont ran and won the Democratic nomination, only to see Lieberman prevail in the general as a petitioning candidate with Republican support.
In a financial statement filed during his Senate run, Lamont and his wife, Annie, a successful venture capitalist, had a net worth of between $90 million and $332 million. He largely self-funded campaigns for U.S. Senate, governor in 2010, and again this year, when he spent at least $12.1 million of his own funds.
On Thursday, he called his wife an unofficial member of the transition, his touchstone at the beginning and end of every day.
As first lady, Annie Lamont intends to continue managing Oak HC/FT, a health and technology fund she co-founded in Greenwich after stepping away from Oak Investment Partners. None of the startups she has financed ever sought economic-development assistance from the state, she said.
Ned Lamont was cross-endorsed by the Working Families Party, a labor offshoot that promotes progressive issues, including seeking greater taxation of hedge-fund managers and the wealthy, paid family and medical leave, and a $15 minimum wage.
Lindsay Farrell, the executive director of WFP in Connecticut, was circumspect about Lamont’s choices of transition leaders, as she was during the campaign when asked about Lamont’s wealth.
“Our response during the campaign was we don’t care where you come from, we care what you do,” Farrell said. “We still believe that we are going to accomplish some real policy victories for working families with this governor.”
A few recounts are expected, but Lamont is expected to take office with majorities of at least 23-13 in the Senate and 92-59 in the House. With bigger majorities come higher expectations from the Democratic base.
Lamont supported a $15 minimum wage during the campaign, as well as paid family and medical leave, two proposals opposed by business groups. But he declined to support the WFP’s call for higher taxes on the wealthy. Like Malloy, he is expected to resist tax policies that would make Connecticut less hospitable to what is the world’s largest hedge-fund industry outside New York City and London.
“I think your expectations should be — what did I run on, what did I win on,” Lamont said. “I’m here to represent all of Connecticut, and legislators on both sides of the aisle, Democratic legislators. I’m proud we’ve got a lot of new blood in there, a lot of new energy. But I’m the person who’s coming in to make the changes we need to get this state working again, and that’s what I mean to do, and I want to do it in year one.”