June 24, 2022

Crowded field as state political party conventions begin

Expect political fireworks as Democrats and Republicans in Connecticut gather tonight and Saturday for their state conventions. Thousands of party loyalists will back candidates for seven statewide positions.

On Friday night, Republicans nominated Bob Stefanowski as their gubernatorial candidate, along with state Rep. Laura Devlin of Fairfield as their running mate. Stefanowski was also Governor Ned Lamont’s opponent in 2018.

Democrats will also nominate Senator Richard Blumenthal for re-election. Lamont and Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz will be named the following day.

The real drama comes Saturday, as a packed field battles for other statewide seats.

Republicans:

Four candidates want to challenge Senator Richard Blumenthal. The race could partly hinge on abortion rights, just days after a leaked draft opinion suggested the Supreme Court was set to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The GOP frontrunner, former state Rep. Themis Klarides, is vocally pro-choice. His three opponents are not.

Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Ben Proto believes abortion will be a deal-breaker for some delegates, but not most.

“Delegates are no different from other voters — they look at candidates holistically, not myopically,” he said. “And they look wherever they are.”

Republicans also have three choices for Secretary of State:

Rep. of State Terrie Wood of Darien

Brock Weber, Assistant to Mayor Erin Stewart of New Britain

Dominic Rapini, former US Senate candidate

Democrats:

The hot race is a five-way competition to replace Secretary of State Denise Merrill, a key figure in state politics who is retiring:

State Senator Matt Lesser of Middletown

State Representative Hilda Santiago de Meriden

State Representative Stephanie Thomas of Norwalk

State Representative Josh Elliott of Hamden

Maritza Bond, New Haven Health Director

The race has turned sour over the past 48 hours, marred by accusations that Lesser tried to rig the order of the nomination votes and that Santiago falsely implied that Lamont supported her because she is Hispanic.

On Thursday, the governor insisted he was not supporting anyone.

“I don’t put my thumb on the scale,” he said. “Overall, I’ve always championed the most diverse team possible.”

Democratic delegates also have a choice of three candidates in the race for state treasurer:

Dita Bhargava of Greenwich

Erick Russell of Newtown

Karen Dubois Newtown

Regardless of who gets approved, some of those battles won’t be settled this weekend. Any candidate who receives 15% of the votes from convention delegates or later collects enough signatures from registered voters can force a primary on Aug. 9.