Con­nolly en­ters race for gover­nor

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Chris­tine Stu­art

EAST HART­FORD — Af­ter step­ping down from his post as Con­necti­cut’s Com­mis­sioner of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs, Sean Con­nolly stood in the park­ing lot of Augie and Rays with about 200 of his clos­est friends, former grade-school teach­ers and sup­port­ers to an­nounce he’s ex­plor­ing a run for gover­nor.

“I’m Sean Con­nolly and I love Con­necti­cut,” he said as he opened his first speech for his in­au­gu­ral run for elected of­fice.

A pros­e­cu­tor and Brigade Le­gal Ad­viser with the 101st Air­borne Divi­sion at Fort Camp­bell, Ky. as well as in Kuwait and Iraq, Con­nolly served more than seven years on ac­tive duty dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom. He is still a lieu­tenant colonel in the U.S. Army Re­serve.

As an East Hart­ford na­tive it was only nat­u­ral for the 43-year-old to choose Augie and Ray’s Drive-In as the place where he would launch his cam­paign.

A sta­ple of East Hart­ford pol­i­tics the eatery serves up hot dogs and good con­ver­sa­tion. The restau­rant is sep­a­rated by a chained link fence from Pratt & Whit­ney where he worked as a Global Ethics and Com­pli­ance Of­fi­cer be­fore Gov. Dan­nel P. Mal­loy nom­i­nated him in 2015 to head the Con­necti­cut Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs.

Con­nolly, who now lives in He­bron with his wife and two sons, wove in pieces of his back­ground and mid­dle-class up­bring­ing to demon­strate the op­por­tu­ni­ties that brought his fa­ther and grand­fa­ther to East Hart­ford.

“It was in Con­necti­cut that my par­ents re­al­ized the Amer­i­can dream,” Con­nolly said.

He said he was also able to find op­por­tu­nity in Con­necti­cut, but he knows that’s get­ting harder and harder these days.

“Notwith­stand­ing our suc­cesses at Vet­er­ans Af­fairs, Con­necti­cut is strug­gling,” Con­nolly said. “Nowa­days too many peo­ple be­lieve that the op­por­tu­ni­ties my grand­par­ents en­joyed, the op­por­tu­ni­ties that my par­ents found and the op­por­tu­nity that my sis­ters, brothers and I ben­e­fit from all right here in Con­necti­cut don’t ex­ist any­more.”

He said the state’s eco­nomic growth is too slow, the pop­u­la­tion is de­clin­ing, and “our taxes are higher than other states and we are not as com­pet­i­tive as our neigh­bor­ing states. And peo­ple have lost faith in their gov­ern­ment.”

He said to­gether “we can do bet­ter.”

Con­nolly said af­ter the an­nounce­ment that his one big idea is to bring peo­ple to­gether to solve the prob­lems the state faces.

“There’s no magic bul­let,” Con­nolly said. “But if we bring peo­ple to the ta­ble in­stead of just point­ing fin­gers we can get to so­lu­tions.”

He said he doesn’t have all the an­swers, but he’s a leader who is able to put ser­vice over pol­i­tics and spe­cial in­ter­ests.

Rep. Ja­son Ro­jas, D-East Hart­ford, who was one of a hand­ful of state law­mak­ers and other elected of­fi­cials, said it’s too early to en­dorse any­one yet, but he likes that Con­nolly can mount a cam­paign as an out­sider.

The mil­i­tary back­ground is also at­trac­tive in a state where more vot­ers are not reg­is­tered with ei­ther party.

“I’ve never run for of­fice be­fore, but we need a dif­fer­ent style of lead­er­ship to change di­rec­tion,” Con­nolly said.

Mal­loy an­nounced in March he wouldn’t be seek­ing a third-term.

Since that time five Demo­cratic and 10 Repub­li­cans can­di­dates have an­nounced their in­ten­tion to ex­plore or run for gover­nor.

Con­nolly, who said he’s us­ing the state’s Cit­i­zens Elec­tion Pro­gram, will have to raise $250,000 in small do­na­tions be­fore May to qual­ify for a state grant for his cam­paign.

It’s not an easy task. Es­pe­cially, when his com­pe­ti­tion has been out there for months now talk­ing to town com­mit­tees and ask­ing for do­na­tions.

Con­nolly, like all the can­di­dates, will first have to com­pete with mem­bers of his party for the nom­i­na­tion and pos­si­bly the chance to pri­mary.

The com­pe­ti­tion on the Demo­cratic side, in­cludes Bridge­port Mayor Joe Ganim, Mid­dle­town Mayor Dan Drew, former Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Com­mis­sioner Jonathan Har­ris, former fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor Chris Mat­tei and Dita Bhar­gava of Green­wich. Lt. Gov. Nancy Wy­man has yet to say whether she will also seek the nom­i­na­tion.

Repub­li­can can­di­dates ex­plor­ing or declar­ing a run for gover­nor in­clude Trum­bull First Select­man Tim Herbst; Shel­ton Mayor Mark Lau­retti; Dave Walker, the former U.S. comptroller gen­eral; Prasad Srini­vasan, a state rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Glas­ton­bury; West­port busi­ness­man Steve Ob­sit­nik; Peter Lu­maj of Fair­field; Wil­ton state Sen. Toni Boucher; Michael Han­dler, the city of Stam­ford’s chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer; hedge fund man­ager David Ste­mer­man; Dan­bury Mayor Mark Boughton; and Bob Ste­fanowski, a Madi­son busi­ness­man and former UBS ex­ec­u­tive.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.