Another gubernatorial nominating convention takes place Tuesday — this one with a more predictable twist.
Unlike last weekend’s state Republican Party convention, unlike this coming weekend’s Democratic Party convention, this one has a preordained outcome: It will ritually nominate Hartford-area business advocate Richard Nelson “Oz” Griebel to run for governor this fall and Newtown lawyer and activist Monte Frank to run for lieutenant governor.
And they won’t face an August primary to get on the November general election ballot.
Tuesday night’s event is called a “No Parties No Politics Just Solutions Convention.” It begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Infinity Music Hall and Bistro at 32 Front St. in Hartford.
Besides ritually endorsing the two candidates, the convention will feature speeches by, among others, representatives of similar independent political efforts in the country such as the Serve America Movement (aka “SAM,” as in the Uncle).
“We’re not a party,” Griebel said during a pre-convention interview Tuesday on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven” program. “Monte and I are running on an independent ticket” aimed at the “radical center.”
“This is an entrepreneurial effort,” Griebel said. So far his campaign has drawn over 200 volunteers, who have collected signatures from over 9,000 voters on petitions to qualify for the November general election ballot. The campaign is aiming for between 10,000 and 11,000 to have a safe margin once town clerks check all the signatures against voting rolls; Griebel needs 7,500 verified signatures to make the ballot.
Echoing an argument advanced Tuesday in a David Brooks column in The New York Times, Griebel said that the majority of voters have soured on the major parties and are looking for a “centrist” philosophy that neither relies largely on government to solve problems or eschews government in tackling problems — but rather sees a limited, smart role for government to spur community-wide solutions to society’s challenges. (Unlike Brooks, he didn’t call himself a “Whig.”) Griebel’s convention also comes a week after his former colleague, Eunice Groark, died. Like Groark, Griebel has been active in Hartford’s corporate civic community, in his case as head of the MetroHartford Alliance. Groark also served as Gov. Lowell Weicker’s lieutenant governor the last time an independent ticket won a statewide election, in 1990. Griebel said that while he doesn’t agree with every decision Weicker and Groark made, he envisions governing the way they did, able to implement far-ranging policy as effective brokers with the two parties in the legislature.
Griebel is a Republican-turned-unaffiliated voter; Frank, a Democrat-turned-unaffiliated. In Tuesday’s interview, Griebel offered specific policy proposals that borrow from the two major parties’ playbooks:
• Privatize the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Economic and Community Development, and the Hartford busway.
• Institute electronic highways tolls, perhaps with an initial pilot on I-84’s high-occupancy-vehicle lanes near Hartford, including congestion mitigation pricing.
• Raise the gasoline tax by two cents a gallon for each of the next three years. (That proposal is reminiscent of one advanced by another Republican-turned-independent candidate, John Anderson, who ran for president in 1980 on a gas-tax-hike platform.)
• Dedicate state lottery revenues to strengthen the underfunded state pension plans.
• Instead of bailing out Hartford with state money, strengthen Hartford through sale-leaseback deals on state government office buildings (creating new local property tax revenues), combining the city government’s two information technology departments, privatizing its trash collection. “We cannot nibble around the edges,” he argued. “This bailout sends the wrong” signal.
Click on or download the above audio file or video below for the full interview with gubernatorial candidate Oz Griebel on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven.”