Its offices on the eighth floor of 129 Church Street may not be furnished yet, but New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s campaign for governor is well under way.
Following his official creation of a campaign committee last week, DeStefano said he has begun fund raising efforts and that he expected the first members of his paid campaign staff to begin work this month. While DeStefano announced his intention to run for governor last year, the creation of “DeStefano for Connecticut” marks the beginning of the mayor’s formal campaign for the 2006 Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
“The effort to raise the amount of money necessary to run a credible campaign is going to take a great deal of time,” DeStefano said. “I’m spending some time in the political community going out and expressing my intention to folks.”
In addition to his local staff, DeStefano said his campaign has hired Scott Gale, a Washington, D.C.-based Democratic fundraiser who has worked on numerous races across the country. With some state politicians predicting that it will take well over $5 million to run a successful gubernatorial race in 2006, the primary may be one of the most competitive in state history.
While the 2006 general election remains over two and a half years away, DeStefano is already facing a crowded field of candidates. Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy and Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz ’83 have both begun raising money for their gubernatorial races, while Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 and former U.S. Rep. James Maloney have also been mentioned as possible candidates.
Bysiewicz said the Democrats’ failure to marshal sufficient resources in recent gubernatorial races convinced her of the need to begin campaigning early. The secretary of state, who has raised over $500,000, said she believed her success in creating excitement around her candidacy has encouraged other Democrats to begin their campaigns.
“It’s my belief that Dan Malloy and John DeStefano took a look and saw that we were getting a lot of support among small contributors and Democratic voters,” Bysiewicz said. “I think they agreed with my assessment that you have to start early.”
Unlike Bysiewicz or Blumenthal, DeStefano has never run for statewide office and is little-known among voters outside of the New Haven region. But DeStefano said his recent position as chair of a statewide commission on property tax reform had provided him with an opportunity to speak with local leaders from across the state.
The electoral calendar will actually require DeStefano to run two campaigns at once, as he has long expressed an intent to run for a seventh term as mayor in 2005. But Ward 14 Alderman Joseph Jolly, who is serving as deputy treasurer for DeStefano’s campaign, said he thought the mayor would be able to fulfill his roles as both the city’s chief executive and a candidate for statewide office.
“That’s the reality of life when it takes three years to run for governor, and we have two-year terms here,” Jolly said. “But I don’t think he’s going to lose focus on the city during this process.”
Yet while DeStefano is not likely to begin his mayoral campaign for several months, he said the early start to his 2006 gubernatorial campaign was slowly attracting notice from Connecticut voters. Both DeStefano and Bysiewicz said the ethical questions surrounding Republican Gov. John G. Rowland have drawn increased attention to the governor’s race.
“Typically, [voters] wouldn’t have thought about the race,” DeStefano said. “But I think the governor’s ethical issues are affirming for people that sooner or later, there’s going to be another governor in the state.”
Rowland, who has admitted accepting gifts from state employees and contractors, is currently facing a federal investigation as well as an inquiry in the Connecticut General Assembly that could lead to his impeachment.