One of New Haven’s hopes for statewide office called it quits Tuesday.
State Rep. Cam Staples (pictured) ended his quest for the Democratic nomination for attorney general. That leaves the field to Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz and former state party Chairman George Jepsen.
Staples said he believes he had enough delegate support to have earned a spot on a primary ballot. And he had raised over $40,000, on track for the $75,000 in small (under $100) donations needed to qualify for public matching funds.
But, as a first-time candidate for statewide office, he couldn’t overcome the long-term personal relationships his two Democratic opponents had developed over decades in state office and in statewide campaigns.
The Democrats hold their state party convention in two weeks.
“For me the question really was: What about the primary?” Staples said in a conversation Tuesday afternoon. “At the end of the day you go to the convention with a plan to win the primary. My analysis was winning the primary was going to be an uphill fight. It was not in the cards this year.”
Staples said that he enjoyed racing around the state to make his pitch to town committees, sometimes several in one night. He said he tried to go beyond just introducing himself, to focus on issues. He made the case that in addition to the “day job” of representing the state in legal actions, the attorney general can serve as a best, last resort for individuals who get shafted by big institutions on issues like health care access and the environment.
“I represent in my private [law] practice hundreds of doctors and their patients trying to get treatment approved by insurers,” Staples said. “I was planning to focus a lot of my attention in office on that issue, that insurers treated [people] fairly.
“There are certain ways the attorney general can be an advocate for people who don’t have anyplace else to turn when they’re leading with a large interest like a health insurer or a large environmental hazard like the liquid natural gas facility in the Sound. There’s really no other advocate that’s as well positioned as the attorney general to stand up for the broader community.”
The press focused on personalities and the horse race rather than issues in the attorney general race, Staples noted, “maybe because it was early in the campaign. Maybe when we get to the primary and we start having TV and we start getting radio and mass mailings,” a focus on issues will emerge.
George Jepsen called Staple’s departure from the race “clearly a boost for me.”
“He would have made a really good attorney general,” Jepsen said of Staples.
Staples has represented New Haven in the legislature since 1993. He co-chairs the powerful Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.
Staples said he won’t run for reelection to the legislature or for any other position. For now he’s not planning to endorse either of his erstwhile rivals for the attorney general slot.
At this point only one other New Haven politician is seeking statewide office: Gerry Garcia, who’s running for secretary of the state. However, some shuffling of candidacies and openings is still occurring in the lead-up to the convention.