Gov. Ned Lamont signaled Wednesday what was coming on Thursday. CTMIRROR.ORG
Gov. Ned Lamont at the Executive Residence in Hartford.

Gov. Ned Lamont filed papers Monday that legally make him a candidate for governor, a low-key and somewhat confusing kickoff to a campaign for reelection to a second term in 2022.

“I filed the paperwork today, which facilitates our getting into a political campaign,” Lamont said in Ansonia, where he and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz had a press conference on transportation infrastructure. “I’ve got to make up my mind formally in the months to come, but I figure let’s be prepared. Let’s file the paperwork. Let’s get this thing going.”

Lamont hesitated when asked if he had filed a candidate committee or an exploratory committee, but Bysiewicz quickly clarified: They are candidates for re-election. (A video of the exchange is on WTNH’s web site.)

“Clarity is important on these things,” Bysiewicz said. “We are not exploring.”

Hours later, Bysiewicz said in a telephone interview, “It’s clear the governor’s running for reelection, and I’m running for reelection.”

Lamont, who has been waging an undeclared campaign for months, tipped his hand in a more concrete way last week, just one day after the municipal elections, when he moved to install new leadership at the state Democratic Party, moving out one person to make way for a new executive director, Matthew Brokman.

Sources had said earlier Monday the governor would file his papers by day’s end and that Brokman, the chief of staff to the House majority leader, would move to the state party post. The governor then confirmed the filing at the public event in Ansonia.

Brokman will continue to work part-time as the chief of staff to House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, a potentially messy job-share. As chief of staff, he will be working for a legislative caucus whose members cannot raise money during the session; as executive director of the state party, fundraising will be an immediate task.

“I think there’s gonna be plenty of people who want to make a political problem out of it,” Rojas said. “A lot of staff work on campaigns all the time, and I don’t know that this is all that different.”

Rojas said Brokman would reduce his hours working for the legislature.

Brokman said he would follow “the letter and the spirit” of campaign finance laws.

It was unclear why Lamont chose an unrelated news event to confirm his candidacy, or why he thinks it a good idea for the state party’s executive director to have two jobs in a statewide election year.

Lamont’s campaign papers were entered into the State Elections Enforcement Commission web site at 4:42 p.m. Bysiewicz said her papers would be filed Tuesday.

Bob Stefanowski, the GOP’s 2018 nominee, is expected by many Republicans to follow suit in coming weeks, though Stefanowski has declined to comment on his intentions or timetable. 

Former House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, registered as a candidate in May but did not create a candidate committee. Her status allows her to spend her own funds but not raise money.

On Monday, Lamont welcomed Philip Morris International to Stamford, choosing to celebrate the move from New York to Connecticut of a company that ranks 101 on the Fortune 500, setting aside any concerns about standing with a company that still represents Big Tobacco, even as it transitions from cigarettes to smokeless tobacco products.

Lamont, Mayor-elect Caroline Simmons and other elected officials attended a press conference welcoming Philip Morris’ move to 677 Washington Blvd., an office complex that fell vacant after UBS vacated its trading floor and offices in the complex. World Wrestling Entertainment also is moving into the building, using the old trading floor for a digital production facility.

“This was almost empty three years ago,” Lamont said. “And there was a little sense of ‘Woe is us, will Connecticut ever get its mojo back?’ And I think you just heard that this building now is just about 100% leased up, and people are rediscovering what makes Stamford such an extraordinary place, what makes Connecticut such an extraordinary place.”

From Stamford, Lamont went to Ansonia to talk about commuter rail improvements that are tied to the federal infrastructure bill that recently cleared the House, giving President Joe Biden a much-needed legislative victory.

Lamont, 67, a wealthy businessman married to a successful venture capitalist, largely self-funded his successful 2018 campaign, as he did running for U.S. Senate in 2006 and governor in 2010. As a self-funder, he was was under no pressure to create a campaign committee, which allows the start of fundraising.

It does, however, allow him to immediately begin spending money.

Stefanowski was a hybrid candidate four years ago, self-funding his campaign through his primary victory, then turning to donors.

Lamont’s move comes as early polls show him favored over Stefanowski or Klarides and as Democrats try to analyze what last week’s close gubernatorial races in Democratic Virginia and New Jersey might mean in 2022. Republicans carried Virginia and came close in New Jersey.

In 2018, Lamont won with 49.37% of the vote to 46.21% for Stefanowski and 3.89% for a third-party candidate, Oz Griebel. Lamont’s unsuccessful push for highway tolls in 2019 left him one of the most unpopular governors in the U.S., but his standing in the polls rose as the public applauded his management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new Sacred Heart University poll  showed 50.5% approving Lamont’s overall performance, 27.8% disapproving and and 21.7% unsure. In April, the approval-disapproval split was 55.7% to 26.%. The survey of 1,000 people was conducted online and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.02%.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.