Rich guys shouldn’t fund their own campaigns for governor?
Susan Bysiewicz was no longer making that case Tuesday, as she publicly signed on as lieutenant governor running-mate with leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont.
Lamont and Bysiewicz announced their new ticket Tuesday morning before around 20 reporters and members of the Lamont campaign staff who had gathered for a press conference held in front of East Rock Community Magnet School on New Haven’s Nash Street, right across the street from the Lamont campaign’s East Rock headquarters in the Marlinworks building at 85 Willow St.
For the past five months, Lamont and Bysiewicz have duked it out as two of the leading candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor in a fractious field that has now whittled down to four: Lamont, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, former state Veterans Affairs Commissioner Sean Connolly, and retired liquor distribution executive Guy Smith. Smith and Ganim have announced that they will petition to appear on a Democratic primary ballot; Ganim and Connolly also seek to force a primary by winning support of at least 15 percent of the delegates at this coming weekend’s Democratic state party nominating convention.
Lamont, a Greenwich businessman who earned his millions in the telecommunications industry, ran competitive but unsuccessful campaigns for U.S. senator in 2006 and governor in 2010. Bysiewicz is a former state legislator and secretary of state, and ran unsuccessful campaigns for state attorney general and U.S. senator in 2012.
While still running for governor, Bysiewicz criticized Lamont during a New Haven gubernatorial forum last month for using his own wealth to fund his own campaign. She called on him to either participate in the state’s public financing program, known as the Citizens’ Election Program (CEP), or to limit his campaign spending to $1.2 million, which is the maximum doled out per candidate by the CEP.
Asked about that at Tuesday morning’s presser, Bysiewicz pivoted from her previous critique.
“I am committed to continuing to participate in public financing for my lieutenant governor campaign,” she said, “and the two of us are committed to supporting the clean elections program [or Citizens’ Election Program (CEP), Connecticut’s voluntary campaign public-financing system] because we think it’s important for the state.” She did not answer as to whether or not she would continue to pressure Lamont to limit his campaign spending to $1.2 million.
Bysiewicz said that she will continue to participate in the CEP as a lieutenant governor candidate.
“It’s a very different race now,” Lamont said. He said that the Republican Governors Association (RGA) has already begun pouring money into the election to support the Republican candidates; he argued that Democrats would need to counter that infusion of money with their own deep pockets. “We’re already thinking about November,” he continued. “So we’re going to do what it takes to win.” (Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who ran using public financing, and U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal all faced, and defeated, Republican opponents who far outspent them.)
Lamont called Bysiweicz’s previous criticism of him for not participating in the CEP a mere “speed bump” in a relationship otherwise defined by more agreement than disagreement.
Lamont and Bysiewicz pushed that theme again and again during the 15-minute presser, stressing that the Democrats need a unified ticket going into this weekend’s state party convention in Hartford, and that the two candidates have always shared more in common than not when it comes to the issues that Democratic voters care about.
“Ned and I are committed to passing a balanced budget,” Bysiewicz said, “to investing in infrastructure, to supporting small business, and to keeping our young people in our beautiful state. And it’s very critical that we go into our state convention united and that together, I know our team will win for Connecticut in November.” The two candidates have also come out in support of paid family leave and raising the minimum wage.
Lamont said the two campaigns only started talking seriously about joining up on the same ticket in the past few days.
When asked why Bysiewicz would be serving as the lieutenant governor candidate and Lamont as the gubernatorial candidate, and not the other way around, Bysiewicz said that they had indeed discussed that alternative. Lamont chimed in with a smile, “I asked her first.”
The announcement also comes just a few days after New Haven State Sen. Gary Winfield said he might be interested in running for lieutenant governor. When news of the Lamont-Bysiewicz ticket leaked on Monday afternoon, Winfield, who is black, expressed some concern about the Democrats fielding yet another ticket headed by two older white candidates.
On Tuesday morning, Lamont and Bysiewicz affirmed their commitment to running a diverse administration if elected.
“Our administration will be the most diverse administration in Connecticut history,” Lamont said. “It’s not a political calculation. You’ve got to make sure that you have a government that reflects the people of the state. They have to have someone they can believe in. They have to have someone they can identify with.”
He and Bysiewicz said they will prioritize appointing people of color to judgeships, commissioner positions, deputy commissioner positions, and other state boards.
“Our administration will be about the beautiful diversity of our state,” Bysiewicz said. “We are very committed to having qualified, competent people that show the diversity of our state.”
Lamont reaffirmed his commitment to implementing tolls on Connecticut highways, despite the failure of a toll bill to pass the legislature this session. He also signaled his reluctant support for the state to embrace sports betting now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned its previous prohibition on gambling on sports.
“It’s not the future of the state,” he said. “But it’s not something I’m going to stand in the way of.” He said that the reality is that people are already betting on sports everyday online, they’re just doing it illegally.
Lamont said he is not currently looking to bring his Democratic gubernatorial competitors Ganim, Smith or Connolly into his campaign. He said he welcomes a Democratic primary if any of those candidates feel that there is a significant ideological debate within the party that they want to debate before the general election.
“I’m no stranger to primaries,” Lamont said.
“Me neither,” Bysiewicz added.
Ganim’s campaign issued a release following the press conference restating its plans to wage a primary.
“Our diverse and inclusive grassroots campaign has never been about top-down endorsements by party insiders or having the most money, but it has been about the passionate support of tens of thousands of Connecticut citizens who want a new Connecticut economy that works for everyone, not just a few. It’s about fighting for working and middle class families who are struggling to keep their heads above water,” Ganim stated in the release.
Bysiewicz may face a primary for lieutenant governor from Newtown labor organizer Eva Bermudez. “By selecting Susan I understand as a candidate why he would go forward and make sure he has an easier path to victory,” Bermudez (at left in above photo) told CT News Junkie’s Christine Stuart. “But in my opinion it doesn’t give a clear path for people to have a voice in the process. So I’m in it to win it.” She said she’s confident she has enough delegate support to get on the ballot and looks forward to connecting with voters.
Click on the Facebook Live video below to watch the full press conference.