Ned Lamont has millions of dollars ready to spend to try to stop the Koch Brothers from turning Connecticut red.
But he didn’t come to New Haven to talk about that.
He came to talk about how he’s seeking the Democratic nomination for governor this year in order to bring “truth” to Hartford about how to deliver balanced budgets through bold steps tailored to the “21st-century economy.”
He came to talk about how we need to institute highway tolls to pay for fixing the transportation system. How the sales tax covers only half of what we buy at stores — so it should now cover e-commerce as well.
He came to talk about how women should earn as much as men for comparable work. About raising the minimum wage. About preserving Connecticut’s immigrant-friendly “sanctuary” policies.
He came to talk about what a great job Mayor Toni Harp — whom several gubernatorial candidates are wooing as an endorser and running mate — is doing governing New Haven. How he hopes to spread New Haven’s secret sauce statewide.
“People know that in 2006 I took on my own party as well as the Republican Party. They know I’m not afraid to stand up and challenge,” Lamont said during an appearance Wednesday on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven” program. “When it comes to this budget, I am going to speak some truth, find a collaborate way of working with labor so we can move this state forward and have an honest and balanced budget.”
Lamont spoke of seeking to recapture the spirit of that run in 2006, when he challenged U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman. He beat Lieberman in a Democratic Party primary, energizing the grassroots and netroots in New Haven and nationwide, then lost to Lieberman (who ran as an independent) in the general election.
Lamont, a 64-year-old Greenwich millionaire who started and sold a company that built telecommunications and video systems for universities, failed to excite the grassroots again in 2010 when he ran an unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial primary campaign, headquartered in New Haven. Some of his most ardent supporters from 2006 sat out the 2010 primary instead of supporting him. Some — including the man who recruited him to run in 2006 and served as his campaign manager — said they were sitting out the 2010 primary in part because Lamont decided to self-fund his quest rather than participate in the public-financing system, a.k.a. the Citizens’ Election Program. (Read about that in this story.)
Self-financing didn’t bother them in 2006, they said, because Lamont’s opponent, Lieberman, was raking in millions of dollars in contributions from special interests. But it bothered them in 2010, when Lamont’s 2010 primary opponent, Dannel P. Malloy, participated in Connecticut’s public-financing system. Lamont outspent Malloy 3-1 in that race, and still lost (even in New Haven, where politicians from the mayor on down endorsed him).
Public-financing programs like the CEP are designed to broaden the pool of candidates competing in elections and prevent wealthy special interests or individuals from buying public office.
As 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidates compete for support in New Haven political circles, Lamont has sparked some initial interest, in part, some politicos say, because he has the money to run strong. (Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin has also been picking up support from some local politicos.)
In Wednesday’s WNHH interview, Lamont said he again plans to spend some of his own money in this year’s gubernatorial campaign. He wouldn’t say how much. He said he’ll need the money to counter the millions that, as in 2006, will flow in (in the general election) from conservative and plutocratic circles.
But he also said he fully supports the Citizens’ Election Program (CEP). He said he will run only on “clean donations.” And he vowed to reignite the spirit of 2006 to elicit a groundswell of small private donations.
Following are excerpts from the WNHH interview.
WNHH: Are you going to be running clean? Or are you going to self-finance this election?
Lamont: It’s going to be a clean campaign. I’m going to raise more small donations than anybody. I’m going to show, like the Lieberman campaign, this is grassroots, energized.
Are you going to get matching [public] funds?
I’m not going to take the taxpayer money on this. But I’m going to fight for CEP [Citizens’ Election Program —ed.] and make sure that everybody else who needs that to compete, we’re going to keep that going.
How much of your own money are you putting in?
Look. I found in the Lieberman campaign — I didn’t spend any more than him, but there was all this outside money coming in. I’m going to try to hold as close as I can to what everybody else is doing. But as soon as I see that outside money coming in again.… The Republican governors have already come after me. And I’ll be there to compete.
So in other words you’ll put your own money in to match whatever special interest money is coming in on the other side?
I’ll do enough to compete.
So would you put $2 million in? Do you have a cap what you would put in?
No, I don’t think about it that way. But I’m going to try and make sure that this is a grassroots campaign.
So then why not run in the public financing process? So why not swear off special interest money, not put your own money in and rely completely on the people?
I don’t take from PACs [political action committees]. I’m not doing lobbyists.
So you’re rejecting those contributions?
I am. I did last time.
So you will run by the rules of public financing? You just won’t accept public money, and you’ll put your own money in?
So why not believe in the people to carry you all the way there? Why do you need to put your own money in? To counter the special interest money you expect the Republicans are going to put in?
This is going to be a crossroads election. Let me tell you. The amount of red money coming in from Washington and RGA [Republican Governors Association], Koch Brothers, they want to turn Connecticut red. They really want to do it. They want this to be a state not of Connecticut values, but Trump values. And I’m going to stand up and make sure that never happens.
So you’re going to do a combination of small donations and your own, but not special interest money. How much of your own money did you have to put in in 2006 and 2010?
I can’t remember exactly.
We had to compete with Joe Lieberman dollar for dollar going in. Dan [Malloy] had public financing; he had some additional money coming in. I didn’t exactly have the state party working with me then. I’m not sure about now. So there were a lot of other factors.
So ballpark, how much did you put in? Linda MacMahon put $50 million in each [U.S. Senate] campaign [in 2010 and 2012].
Oh, I put in a small fraction of that total.
In the race for governor? Probably eight or nine.
Eight or nine million?
And how about Senate [in ‘06]
I don’t care. I care about the fact that we made people stand up. Democrats got proud. We opposed that war in Iraq. We elected a president named Barack Obama who ended our front-line role. I was proud of every moment of that campaign.
Click on the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below for the full interview with gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven.”
WNHH interviews with other gubernatorial candidates:
Click on the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below to hear the full “Dateline New Haven” interview with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Luke Bronin on WNHH FM. Click here to read an article about the interview.
Click on or download the above audio file or Facebook Live video below to listen to the full interview with Joe Ganim. Click here to read an article about the interview.
Click on or download the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below for an interview with Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Dita Bhargava on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven.”Click on or download the above audio file or on the Facebook Live video to below to hear an interview with GOP gubernatorial candidate Mike Handler on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven” program. Click here for a story about that interview.Click on or download the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below to hear an interview with GOP gubernatorial candidate Prasad Srinivasan on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven.” Click here to read a story about that interview.Click on the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below to hear a WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven” interview with GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Obsitnik. Click here to read a story about that interview.Click on or download the above audio file to hear a previous WNHH FM “Dateline New Haven” interview with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Ganim. Click here for a story about that interview.Click on or download the above audio file to a an interview with GOP gubernatorial candidate Mark Boughton on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven” program; and click here to read a story about that interview.Click on or download the above audio file to hear an interview with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Drew; and click here to read a story about the interview.