Call Him “Gov” For Now ... & Later?

Paul Bass PhotoConnecticut’s governor addressed the nation from Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, Connecticut’s governor took his wife out for dinner in New Haven. Without a security detail.

The first governor is Dannel P. Malloy. He has played a visible role this week at the Democratic National Convention crowning Hillary Clinton as the party’s presidential nominee. Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman has been at the convention, too.

That has left New Haven’s Martin Looney in the role of governor in their stead. Or, technically, “acting” governor. As president pro tempore of the State Senate, Looney fills in as governor when both Malloy and Wyman travel out of state.

Looney started filling in on Monday. He is scheduled to continue doing so until 1 p.m. Friday. Until this week, the longest he has filled in was two days.

Few if any people have noticed. Looney hasn’t found the need to sign any proclamations or run up to Hartford. Or take up the governor’s security detail on its offer to accompany him. He’s been in town defending clients in his private law practice, doing constituent service, and popping up at a support rally for an arrested Yale cafeteria worker. (He called “very suspect and disturbing” a gag provision Yale imposed on the worker upon rehiring him. “It’s something he should test.”)

Depending on the outcome of this November’s presidential election, Looney might find himself in a longer-standing executive role. If Democrat Hillary Clinton wins, the betting money is that she will appoint Gov. Malloy to a federal post. If so, Lt. Gov. Wyman would ascend to the governor’s mansion. And Looney would become lieutenant governor.

If Wyman chooses not to run for governor in 2018 in “her own right” (as Jodi Rell did after stepping into disgraced Gov. John Rowland’s shoes),  Looney said he would “certainly” consider seeking the post himself.

But those are a lot of “if"s. For starters, Acting Gov. Looney said in an interview Thursday on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven” program, people shouldn’t assume that Hillary Clinton will defeat Republican Donald Trump in November. “No one should ever underestimate Trump. He has exceeded expectations at every level so far. The core Democratic constituencies have to come together and work hard to get high voter turnout for Hillary this fall.”

And Democrats would have to hold onto control of the Senate for Looney to remain as president pro tem. He said that even if Trump does well in Connecticut, he expects Democrats, who currently hold a six-member Senate majority, to retain control in the chamber. Republicans won control of the state House in 1984 as part of Republican Ronald Regan’s presidential reelection landslide. But since the removal of the party lever from Connecticut voting precincts, Looney said, control of the legislature hasn’t swung with top-ticket elections the same way.

Gubernatorial or lieutenant gubernatorial speculation aside, Looney said he has a lot of work left to do in the Senate.

During the bruising budget-deficit-dominated legislative session, Looney still managed to accomplish two longstanding goals. He shepherded to approval a new “retirement for all” offering a pension plan to some 600,000 people in Connecticut whose employers don’t offer one. And he gained approval of a law to allow judges to order removal of firearms from subjects of temporary restraining orders in domestic violence cases.

This coming session, in addition to wrestling with another expected mammoth budget gap, Looney said, he hopes to tackle the growing cost of higher education and pass bail reform to spare poor people from pretrial detention.

You can hear more about that by clicking on the audio file of his radio interview at the bottom of the story. Meanwhile, following is an edited transcript of his comments about the governor’s office.

Name On A Sticky

What’s it been like being governor for a week?

It’s been great. It’s been relatively quiet.

You couldn’t wipe out the budget deficit while [Malloy and Wyman] were gone? Find money to restore mental health services?

I was looking around to see if there were any executive orders I could sign that wouldn’t be overturned once the governor got back.

What did you find?

Nothing really worth doing at this point.

More seriously, what’s is really like filling in? Are you still doing your day job as an attorney, doing your constituent work …

Oh yes. It’s being on call in case something came up that required action.

Where are the guys with earpieces checking out that this studio is safe before you came in?

I don’t know. I did get a call from the governor’s security detail over the weekend letting me know they were at my disposal during this week, from Monday until Friday noon.

[Did you take them up on it?]

No I didn’t. But I was thinking: What use could I make of them? I was taking my wife to dinner for her birthday on Tuesday. I was thinking of bringing them to Brazi’s and having them stand at the table for dinner. But she wasn’t too keen on it. So I didn’t do it.

Have you had to take any gubernatorial actions this week?

No I haven’t. There was one issue … regarding extradition of a prisoner. But it wasn’t time sensitive.

... One of my staff, the last time the governor was out of state, took a picture of those highway signs [reading] “Welcome to Connecticut — Dannel Malloy.” They took a picture of that sign and put a sticky on it with my name [and] “acting.”

You were making jokes before about executive orders. But being serious for a moment, you feel your role is not to step in and take any initiative. Your role is to just man the fort in case there’s an emergency.

Yes, that’s right.

Do you like it?

It’s something that goes with the position.

Would you like to be lieutenant governor [if Malloy goes to D.C.]? Would you rather stay as State Senate president?

It depends … I love being state senate president. I love working with my colleagues. We’ve been able to get a great deal done for the past couple of years. I loved being majority leader for 12 years before that.

… Lieutenant governor would be something new. It would somewhat depend on the working relationship with the governor. Nancy Wyman and I have had a great relationship and a great friendship … over the last 30 years.

So you’re ready to serve if called.

That’s right.

There’s an old Jimmy Durante song, a novelty song, [that came out] after a change in administration, when Truman left office … and Eisenhower came in. There was speculation about who would come in. He had this little novelty song:  “I’m ready if Washington calls, but not if they call me collect.”

Now, with cell phones, I think it would be free…. Is the betting money that Wyman would run for the next term? Is that something you’d be interested in?

It’s too early to speculate. But clearly I think she would be a strong candidate if she decided to run. Especially if she were already the incumbent.

What if she didn’t run? Is that an office you’ve ever thought about?


So you would consider running for governor if she didn’t?

If I were the sitting lieutenant governor at that point, yes.

What if she did run for governor?

I’d strongly support her.


Click on or download the above audio file to hear the full interview with Martin Looney on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven.”

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posted by: Renewhavener on July 28, 2016  4:16pm

Wyman could not find her way to Hartford without her driver, and frankly Looney as anything more than an “interim” gov might just be the last straw.  Am programming allied movers into my smartphone as we speak…

In fairness though, and speaking completely honestly as a Libertarian btw, if Trump were elected, I would turn in my passport.  Better program in one-way tickets to New Zealand while I’m at it… or plan to stow away the family in Ruth Ginsburg’s luggage.

posted by: Chucky_Dee on July 29, 2016  12:20pm

If he isn’t too busy there is a Baseball Stadium to finish up in Hartford! 

Oh!  He isn’t filling in for anyone useful? 

  Never Mind!

posted by: Renewhavener on July 29, 2016  2:02pm

@Chucky_Dee “If he isn’t too busy there is a Baseball Stadium to finish up in Hartford!”

Yes.  His fellow Dem Bronin the rescuer of our fair capital has six months or the team can walk.  Should have just let Centerplan finish the job and then sorted out who was responsible afterwards.  My instinct is that they were both at fault and Bronin was trying to use them as an air bag.  Foolish ill-timed politics: