While New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. has not officially announced his candidacy for governor, he said earlier this week that he and his staff continue to take preliminary steps for a run for statewide office.
DeStefano, a Democrat who began his sixth term as mayor earlier this month, said he has made calls to potential fund-raisers and concluded a poll intended to gauge his name recognition across the state. The mayor said although his staff in City Hall was helping him lay the groundwork for a run in the 2006 gubernatorial primary, he had not yet set a definite timetable for establishing an official campaign committee.
DeStefano said that while a potential run for governor had not changed his priorities as the mayor of New Haven, he recognized the need to build a campaign organization early if he is going to broaden his support from outside his hometown.
“It’s something that if I’m going to be successful at, I’m going to have to work at for a number of years,” DeStefano said.
As Republican Gov. John G. Rowland faces a federal investigation and a legislative inquiry into allegations of corruption, many Democrats across the state have expressed hope of winning their first race for governor since 1986. In addition to DeStefano, two statewide officials — Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 and Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz ’83 — as well as Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy have frequently been mentioned as possible contenders for the Democratic nomination.
Malloy, who has served as mayor of Stamford since 1995, said he did not think Rowland’s legal trouble would affect the decisions of Democrats considering a run for governor — although he said the investigations into Rowland’s behavior may weaken Republican Lt. Gov. Jodi Rell’s chances if she chooses to run for the state’s top office in 2006.
“The probable candidates are the same probable candidates you would have listed 12 months ago,” Malloy said.
While Blumenthal and Bysiewicz have won races for statewide office before, DeStefano and Malloy both acknowledged that they would need to extend their profile throughout Connecticut if they were to run competitive campaigns.
“Back in the fall, polling showed that I’m a competitive candidate and I have a lot of work I need to do. Some parts of the state know me and others don’t,” DeStefano said. “Like a national campaign, it’s something that takes time, so even though we are three years out, it’s something to be working at now.”
While the mayor’s staff remains primarily focused on issues affecting New Haven, DeStefano’s executive assistant Julio Gonzalez ’99 said a potential statewide campaign was a consideration in City Hall. Both DeStefano and Gonzalez said some staff members have been spending time after hours and on weekends aiding the mayor in his early efforts toward building a campaign.
“Obviously, when someone is thinking about running for public office, we have to take that into consideration in terms of how the mayor spends his time, what he is doing, what he is emphasizing,” Gonzalez said.
In DeStefano’s inaugural address earlier this month, the mayor asked the city’s residents to join him on a “statewide campaign of values.” In addition, Gonzalez and New Haven Democratic Town Chairwoman Suzie Voigt said DeStefano planned to speak with local Democrats about his plans for the future next month, which will also include another reelection campaign in 2005. DeStefano has said repeatedly he will run for another term as mayor regardless of his decisions concerning the governor’s race.