Michael Jarjura is a conservative Democrat who has made as many headlines in recent years for his link to former Gov. John G. Rowland – a Republican forced to resign amid a corruption scandal – as for his election victories in Waterbury.
Jarjura has won the city’s biennial mayoral elections five consecutive times since 2001. After a bump in the road in 2005 – Jarjura lost the Democratic primary but still managed to win the general election as a write-in candidate – he won again in 2007 and 2009 as the Democratic Party’s nominee.
But Jarjura irked several of his fellow Democrats in 2006 when he backed U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman’s re-election bid. Lieberman, who lost the party primary to Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont as Democrats rejected Lieberman’s staunch support for the Iraq war, came back to win the general election as a petitioning candidate.
The Waterbury mayor continued to blaze his own trail in 2008 when he announced the hiring of Rowland as an economic development advisor to the city. Rowland, who ultimately served 10 months in a federal prison after admitting he accepted more than $100,000 in gifts from state contractors and subordinates, resigned in late June 2004 amid a legislative impeachment inquiry.
Now engaged in a primary against state Healthcare Advocate Kevin Lembo for the party nomination for comptroller, Jarjura started the year informally exploring a bid for governor before deciding against it. He entered the race for comptroller in mid-May, shortly after incumbent Democrat Nancy Wyman announced she would forego her bid for a fifth term to run instead for lieutenant governor.
The Lembo-Jarjura race heated up almost immediately. Lembo’s camp blasted Jarjura over the Rowland hiring, and for Jarjura’s membership in the Family Institute of Connecticut, a group best known for its fight against legalizing gay marriage in the state. Jarjura labeled Lembo, a “political hack” and charged that his opponent, a former assistant comptroller under Wyman, was responsible in part for “The mountain of debts, obligations and rapidly declining state credit rating” facing state government.
The winner of the Jarjura-Lembo primary will face Darien businessman Jack Orchulli, the Republican Party’s 2004 candidate for U.S. Senate.
Prior to serving as mayor, Jarjura represented the 74th Assembly District in the state House of Representatives for four terms. A lawyer, he worked in the state attorney general’s office before serving in elected office.