The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT)
Dems look to exorcise electoral demons
After sweeping their party’s endorsements Saturday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont and his running mate Susan Bysiewicz are looking to exorcise their electoral demons in order to pull off victories in the primary in August, then, they hope, in November.
Lamont affirmed in a joint interview alongside Bysiewicz Sunday that he would debate Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim in a primary race if Ganim collects enough signatures to qualify. A discussion of the Democrats’ urban agenda would be worthwhile, Lamont said.
Lamont and Bysiewicz have both lost in statewide races. Lamont fell to Joe Lieberman in a U.S. Senate race in 2006 after stealing the Democratic nomination out from under the incumbent in a victory that made his name in politics. Then, he fell to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in a 2010 primary for governor.
After serving as secretary of the state for 12 years, Bysiewicz dropped a 2010 bid for governor to run for attorney general, but was disqualified because she hadn’t worked as a lawyer for the requisite 10 years.
And in 2012, she lost in a primary to Sen. Chris Murphy for a U.S. Senate seat.
After watching flashback footage in a “Face the State” television interview Sunday morning, the two candidates, worn out from two days of political jockeying, said they are not thinking about their pasts, but are looking forward.
“In 2006, nobody knew me from Adam,” Lamont said. “In the Malloy race, we were still the outsiders ... the difference this time around — I think Susan and I both feel it — is this time the state is ready for real change.”
Both still face likely primary opponents in August. And yet, while adamant about the value of primaries, Lamont and Bysiewicz would say almost nothing specific about their challengers Sunday.
“I think we stick to the issues and not let it get mired into personalities — because sometimes if primaries get dragged down into the mosh pit, that is no help for anybody,” said Lamont, a Greenwich entrepreneur. “I will focus like a laser on November, in reminding people how important it is that we elect a Democrat, a Democrat who represents real change.”
Lamont is expected to face off with Ganim and lesser-known Greenwich retired executive Guy Smith in a Democratic primary — both candidates who are collecting signatures to get on the August ballot. Ganim failed to gain the 15 percent needed to force a primary at the convention Saturday; Smith did not participate.
When asked if Ganim, who served time for a felony corruption conviction, could put up a decent primary challenge, Lamont dodged the question.
“Depends what you mean by decent fight,” he quipped.
Lamont’s biggest primary challenger likely would have been the woman sitting at his side Sunday morning at a quiet Rocky Hill Sheraton hotel — where no one appeared to recognize the two statewide office hopefuls amid a small handful who passed them.
But Bysiewicz folded up her gubernatorial run on Tuesday in favor of party unity. She and Lamont seemed firmly in sync Sunday, except for one unscripted moment.
“That’s mine,” Lamont said, when Bysiewicz picked up his water bottle to drink from it. “Hey!”
Bysiewicz put the drink down and Lamont smoothed the moment over.
“Talk about teamwork — we are just inseparable!” he joked. Giggles broke out between the candidates and staff gathered.
For all the talk of unity, Bysiewicz and Lamont have separate races ahead in August, and Bysiewicz has a Democratic challenger of her own.
Eva Bermudez Zimmerman, a Newtown union organizer, pulled 40 percent to Bysiewicz’s 60 at the Democratic Convention. That’s way more than the 15 percent needed to qualify Bermudez Zimmerman for a place on the primary ballot.
The story the numbers do not tell is that of enthusiasm. Bermudez Zimmerman entered the race with the backing of many Democrats who wanted to see more diversity at the top of their party’s ticket. Both Lamont and Bysiewicz, who’s from Middletown, are white and not from the state’s larger cities.
At the convention over the weekend, supporters of Bermudez Zimmerman, a Latina candidate, were some of the most spirited present. One of her nominators, state Sen. Gary Winfield of New Haven, spoke of Bermudez Zimmerman with tears in his eyes.
When asked if she was concerned about the enthusiasm for Bermudez Zimmerman, Bysiewicz did not directly answer the question.
“Every time I have run for office, starting from state rep to secretary of the state to now, I have always been faced with a primary and I always think it is very good for the voters to have more choices,” she said. “I just have to say how proud I am to be part of the ‘row A’ team because with Ned and I and with (state Comptroller) Kevin Lembo, (Secretary of the State) Denise Merrill and now (attorney general nominee) William Tong and (treasurer nominee) Shawn Wooden, there’s a highly qualified and talented group of people.”
She added, “And there’s a lot of diversity,” referring to Tong, who is AsianAmerican, and Wooden, who is African-American.
Both Lamont and Bysiewicz promised to form a state government with diverse state agency heads, Judicial Branch apointees and commissioners. They are fired up to bring their message to residents all over the state, they said.