The woman who healed Hart­ford

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Opinion - KEN DIXON Ken Dixon, po­lit­i­cal edi­tor and colum­nist, can be reached at 860- 549- 4670 or at kdixon@ct­ Visit him at twit­ and on Face­book at kendixonct.hearst.

I didn’t go to the “job in­ter­views” the other night to watch four priv­i­leged guys in power ties pre­tend they have rich in­ner lives.

Spare me from Tim Herbst, the Repub­li­can wreck­ing ball, get­ting touchy- and- feely about bring­ing all- day kin­der­garten to Trum­bull dur­ing his stint as first se­lect­man.

I was afraid that Steve Ob­sit­nik, the West­port tech en­tre­pre­neur, would spill his guts about how, say, dur­ing the de­vel­op­ment of Siri, our ubiq­ui­tous elec­tronic ser­vant, he un­for­tu­nately lob­bied the en­gi­neers to use Hulk Ho­gan’s voice.

I was will­ing to beg Green­wich’s Ned La­mont to avoid re­call­ing the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of grow­ing up the great- great- grand­son of J. P. Mor­gan’s top ad­viser in the go- go years be­fore the sink­ing of The Ti­tanic, when old J. P. was the na­tion’s cen­tral bank.

And if Dan­bury Mayor Mark Boughton was go­ing to re­veal how he plays in sev­eral Brazil­ian vol­ley­ball leagues and live tweets un­der the nick­name of “Slam­min’ Sandy” nearly a dozen years af­ter the con­tro­ver­sial roundup of 11 day la­bor­ers by fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion agents, well, I’d rather lis­ten to Bridge­port Mayor Joe Ganim re­count all the toi­lets he cleaned dur­ing that seven- year prison stretch.

No, I was at the Univer­sity of Hart­ford’s Lin­coln The­ater to at­tend an event spon­sored by the school’s Gover­nor M. Jodi Rell Cen­ter for Pub­lic Ser­vice.

The pro­gram was a nearly re­laxed, tele­vised oneon- one be­tween Chris Ul­rich, a Washington- based “per­sonal and pro­fes­sional ad­viser” and the four can­di­dates for gover­nor who es­caped their re­cent con­ven­tions with vi­able cam­paigns head­ing for the Aug. 14 pri­mary: La­mont and the three Repub­li­cans.

Ganim made a lit­tle show out­side in the park­ing lot, pout­ing for re­porters about be­ing locked out of the event. He has a June 12 dead­line to present 15,458 valid sig­na­tures of reg­is­tered Democrats to reach the pri­mary. But af­ter walk­ing into the au­di­to­rium, he had a mo­ment with Rell, with whom he once de­bated along with the late Eu­nice Groark, when the three were vy­ing for lieu­tenant gover­nor, back in 1994.

“I thanked him for com­ing and I thanked him for un­der­stand­ing,” Rell said af­ter the hour- long event. “And he smiled and said ‘ I was just think­ing about the last time we did a state race to­gether.’ I had for­got­ten.”

We could all use a visit with the woman who brought us through the ug­li­ness and hang­overs of the first Row­land scan­dal. Rell brow­beat the Gen­eral As­sem­bly into bi­par­ti­san sub­mis­sion, cre­at­ing the land­mark pub­lic- fi­nanc­ing sys­tem for leg­isla­tive and top- of- the- ticket races.

Rell was so lik­able af­ter John Row­land’s pay- to- play smug­ness; the sweet­heart “de­sign- build” con­tracts for his bud­dies the To­masso Group in New Bri­tain; the ci­gar- stink­ing “poker games,” in which the gover­nor was al­lowed to win; the luxury char­ters to Florida and Las Ve­gas from Key Air, the Ox­ford air­line that co­in­ci­den­tally en­joyed mil­lion- dol­lar- a- year tax breaks un­der Johnny Gee.

Row­land I is not to be con­fused with Row­land II, when the now 61- year- old for­mer his­tory- re­vis­ing con­ser­va­tive- ra­dio shlock­en­spiel most re­cently com­pleted 30 months in fed­eral cus­tody for try­ing to ob­fus­cate his role in a failed con­gres­sional race.

Rell, 72 in a few days, is a wi­dow and a grand­mother, but in my mind’s eye, it’ll al­ways be July 2004 and she’s tak­ing that oath of of­fice at the State Capi­tol, restor­ing an aura of ethics that Con­necti­cut des­per­ately needed as the feds were cir­cling around her bleed­ing for­mer boss.

Sure, with a lot of help from Demo­cratic ma­jori­ties in the House and Se­nate and Row­land’s 20- year deal with union­ized work­ers, the state- bud­get deficit bal­looned into the bil­lions by the time she left of­fice. But the woman ev­ery­one called Jodi was loved and ap­pre­ci­ated at that mo­ment in his­tory.

Gov. Dan Mal­loy hacked away at the deficit and in­vested bil­lions in the un­der- funded pen­sions, and he is widely dis­liked at this mo­ment. But un­like Rell, Mal­loy was never a mem­ber of the Gen­eral As­sem­bly and he came to Hart­ford as a my- way- or­the- high­way smar­ty­pants.

Ear­lier in the day, the State Elec­tions En­force­ment Com­mis­sion, Rell’s le­gacy, turned down three of the four can­di­dates who were on stage that night: Boughton, Herbst and Ob­sit­nik, who say they’ve raised the $ 250,000 in small con­tri­bu­tions to make them el­i­gi­ble for the Ci­ti­zens Elec­tion Pro­gram. Maybe next week they’ll each get the $ 1.3 mil­lion to wage pri­mary cam­paigns.

Rell said she knew there was a holdup in the re­lease of cam­paign fund­ing, but did not know de­tails. “It’s work­ing and that’s what I think we wanted in the first place,” she said of the pub­lic fi­nanc­ing, ac­knowl­edg­ing that many of her fel­low Repub­li­cans want to ter­mi­nate the pro­gram. “We were a role model for the na­tion.”

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