La­mont pal Jepsen re­tir­ing, but will re­main a close ad­viser

The News-Times - - NEWS - By Kait­lyn Kras­selt Thought­ful and mea­sured The re­tired life kkras­[email protected]­medi­; 203-842-2563; @kait­lynkras­selt

As Gov. Ned La­mont thanked the re­tir­ing mem­bers of the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion dur­ing his State of the State ad­dress, one name stood out.

“Where’s Ge­orge Jepsen? I thought you were down here some­where,” La­mont joked, pre­tend­ing to look for the for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral who was seated just a few feet to his right on the raised dais in the his­toric House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

“Ge­orge, you’re just across the street from me now. You can run but you can’t hide,” La­mont said, ref­er­enc­ing Jepsen’s Prospect Av­enue ad­dress, op­po­site the Ex­ec­u­tive Res­i­dence.

The com­ment was an ob­vi­ous nod to Jepsen’s in­flu­ence over the past two years, and an in­di­ca­tion it won’t wane now that he is out of of­fice.

Jepsen, whose name pro­voked a stand­ing ova­tion from the packed House, played an in­te­gral part in many of La­mont’s de­ci­sions over the past two years, but they be­came close in 1990, dur­ing their cam­paigns to rep­re­sent ad­ja­cent state Se­nate dis­tricts in Green­wich and Stam­ford.

He en­cour­aged La­mont to run for gov­er­nor in the first place; made an early pub­lic en­dorse­ment of his cam­paign; was in the room with La­mont and his fam­ily dur­ing his re­sound­ing pri­mary and gen­eral elec­tion wins; and has co-chaired the La­mont tran­si­tion team. La­mont has often sought Jepsen’s coun­sel, both pub­licly and be­hind the scenes.

“For over 30 years, out­go­ing At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ge­orge Jepsen has been a close ad­viser to me but most of all he has been a friend,” La­mont said Thurs­day, adding Jepsen has been in­stru­men­tal through the years in help­ing de­velop his cam­paign strat­egy, go­ing back as far as La­mont’s 2006 run for U.S. Se­nate.

“The state is for­tu­nate to have had his decades of pub­lic ser­vice and I am es­pe­cially for­tu­nate that as gov­er­nor, I will still be able to seek his wis­dom and ad­vice,” he said.

Jepsen, a pop­u­lar Demo­crat known as a gifted po­lit­i­cal strate­gist, said he and La­mont talked often in the sum­mer of 2017 after now­former Gov. Dan­nel P. Mal­loy an­nounced his de­ci­sion not to seek a third term.

La­mont would call to say Jepsen should con­sider run­ning him­self. But Jepsen, who is con­sis­tently thought­ful and well-rea­soned be­fore he speaks, didn’t want the job and he truly be­lieved La­mont to be the bet­ter can­di­date, and often told him so. Jepsen isn’t one to of­fer un­so­licited ad­vice, but when asked for his opin­ion, he’s sure to give it.

“I try not to im­pose my­self on peo­ple, but if any­body asks my opin­ion, as he does not in­fre­quently, I’m al­ways happy to share it,” Jepsen said.

Jepsen was at the early meet­ings of the La­mont cam­paign, help­ing put it to­gether, and pub­licly en­dorsed La­mont in March of 2018. It was an un­usu­ally early en­dorse­ment from a prom­i­nent po­lit­i­cal fig­ure, but Jepsen, who had also de­cided not to seek re-elec­tion as at­tor­ney gen­eral, was free to speak his mind.

The en­dorse­ment, which came two months ahead of the party’s nom­i­nat­ing con­ven­tion, was huge for La­mont’s cam­paign. It set him apart as a fron­trun­ner, and can­di­dates quickly be­gan drop­ping from the Demo­cratic field un­til Su­san Bysiewicz, con­sid­ered the last se­ri­ous threat to La­mont be­fore the con­ven­tion, opted to be his run­ning mate in­stead. The sug­ges­tion to team up came from Jepsen.

“Smart peo­ple seek ad­vice from other smart peo­ple and Gov. La­mont is a smart per­son who looked to some­one like Ge­orge Jepsen to get solid po­lit­i­cal ad­vice,” said Duby McDow­ell, a com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant and for­mer re­porter who has known both La­mont and Jepsen for decades.

“I think next to Gov. La­mont him­self and the sup­port of his fam­ily, Ge­orge Jepsen was a piv­otal per­son both in en­cour­ag­ing Gov. La­mont to run and also in sup­port­ing that run. He was in­te­gral to the cam­paign and the vic­tory,” she added.

As for what’s next, Jepsen isn’t sure. He’s tak­ing a few weeks off — at the in­sis­tence of his wife, Diana, who kindly re­minded him he might not have that op­por­tu­nity again for a while — and then he’s con­sid­er­ing join­ing a law firm.

“In the­ory ev­ery­thing is on the ta­ble, but as a prac­ti­cal mat­ter, my wife and I like where we live and don’t want to move, so I think the most likely out­come is a law firm, but the ques­tion is the type of firm,” Jepsen said.

A self-de­scribed home­body who loves to cook and has am­bi­tions to spend more time in the gar­den, Jepsen,for­merly of Ridge­field, won’t be jet-set­ting around the globe or re­lo­cat­ing from Prospect Av­enue.

“I think I’ll re­main po­lit­i­cally ac­tive, but I can’t say for sure in what ways,” he said.

As for whether he’ll con­tinue to ad­vise La­mont, well: “I ex­pect we’ll re­main in com­mu­ni­ca­tion. We live kind of right across the street. He can bor­row a cup of sugar any­time he wants.”

Em­i­lie Mun­son / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia file photo

Last March, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ge­orge Jepsen, left, en­dorsed Demo­crat Ned La­mont for gov­er­nor.

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